For years, people believed that having children would greatly increase the chance of marital stability. Things have changed. According to Julia Stuart of the London Independent, children are now considered to improve the likelihood of divorce. Ever since the 1990s to where we are today, it has been said that each child adds to the risk by 37%.
It’s shocking to consider that things have swung from one side to the other, but the facts are there. I’m not going to try and not be too concerned with the statistics in this article. Instead, I’m going to look into why children change a marriage and provide some tips for ensuring that your marriage stays healthy even while you raise your children and build a family.
I read a good article by Laurel Barnet that split life into two sections: life before kids and life after kids.
Section one – life before kids included the following activities: making love late into the night, making out on Saturday mornings, wearing lingerie, smelling like perfume or cologne, and travelling around to visit bed and breakfasts.
The activities in section two – life after kids - were much different: staying up late to feed the baby, watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, wearing flannel PJs, smelling like baby spit-ups, and going to McDonalds for breakfast.
Children do change a marriage, but only the activities inside a marriage. Those activities, as well as other things, can lead to three main changes in your relationship:
Financial Pressures – By bringing children into the family, there are immediate needs concerning money. There’s another mouth to feed, another person to dress, and eventually another family member to entertain. While these financial pressures might not seem like a big deal to you right now, they do add up. Kids cost a lot of money. It doesn’t mean they’re not worth it...they are very worth it - but kids can get expensive and add unwanted financial stress.
Added Responsibility – When kids come, so does added responsibility. Mom and Dad can’t go out and party with friends like they used to. They can’t go camping for the weekend unless they are very prepared, and they even might have a tough time heading out for an evening to have a dinner date and a movie. Kids require a lot of time and dedication.
There is no doubt that you’ll love your little boy or girl, but there is also no doubt about whether your marriage relationship will change or not. Motherly instincts catch the father off-guard and fatherly instincts catch the mother off-guard.
Your available time changes too, in the face of responsibilities. A short visit to hang out with the guys becomes a distant memory for the father – and time for sex, let alone a quiet conversation, becomes hard to find. Mothers may find it hard to meet up with friends for some time together or struggle to juggle household responsibilities.
The marriage can either strengthen or fall apart when these changes come, but the main thing is that both parents need is to stay on the same page when it comes to your priorities and goals.
Identity Shift – Sometimes when kids come into the family, both parents have a tough time figuring out their new identity. One person typically stays home to take care of the kids while the other becomes the main provider. I’m not saying this is always the case, but it is certainly the traditional model. When this happens, the stay-at-home individual often struggles with newfound domestic duties.
The home worker typically turns into the boss of the house and the breadwinner finds added stress while juggling to provide for the family – and then tries to find a place in a home that functions all day without the parent's presence.
So you can see, children can add to the stress and pressures of a relationship – but that doesn’t mean that they need to change the foundation on which your marriage was built. Here are three ways to not let the statistics grab hold of your marriage and rip it apart:
Be Supportive of Each Other – With added responsibilities and pressures, the last thing a marriage needs is one partner blaming the other for something that went wrong. Instead of pointing the finger, hold the hand. Marriage is a journey, as is life. When you are building a family, you need to support each other and help overcome the stress and frustrations. There will always be difficult times, but it is much easier to deal with the pressure when you know that there is somebody supporting you every step of the way.
Love Each Other – With kids in the house, you don’t always get to spend the same amount of time one on one. But don’t let that get in the way of showing affection and letting your husband or wife know that you love him or her.
Sometimes love can be as simple as letting one go to sleep when the person is tired. Other times, it comes in the form of red roses or a nice dinner. Marriage isn’t always easy, but love can be - if you’re both willing to put in a little bit of effort.
Realize that Change is Normal – With or without kids, life changes. As people grow older, they tend to become more responsible, less spontaneous, and less adventurous. It’s not always the case, but it is certainly normal.
So, as you’re growing older and having kids, realize that these changes are just part of life. Don’t act like things need to go back to how they were before you had a family. Instead, find out how to adapt to the new rules of life and turn the situation into something positive. No, you won’t always have the same freedom that you used to have, but you can enjoy many exciting pleasures that you would never be able to have without a family, like seeing your kids grow into amazing individuals with spunk and personality.
By understanding that children change a marriage, you can make sure the evolving family relationship is a positive one. While it’s true that you will lose some things, you will also have the opportunity to gain many things that will make your life very exciting and full of reward.