When you have a baby, you’re told about the sleepless nights, the crying, the teething and everything that relates to the baby but you’re not really told about the toll that it can take on your marriage. I’d heard my married friends complain about their husbands, their lack of interactions or changed sex life but I never made the direct correlation to these things becoming issues after having children until I had a child myself. When you watch TV, a running joke is that your sex life changes completely after having getting married, but it's not the marriage that changes everything, it’s the kids!
Before having a kid, I’d never ever in a million years thought that a time would come where I wanted to punch my husband in the face…often. Marriage isn’t easy, to begin with, and gets even more difficult when you take the frustrations, anxieties, and uncertainties that come with raising a baby, add in sleep deprivation and subtract out time and energy that you once had to commit to one another and if you’re like most new parents, you’re bound to see a change in the dynamic of your relationship as well as a disconnect. My husband and I were together for 6 years before having our daughter Sydney. While we both had our separate lives, the majority of our lives were integrated very deeply with each other. He was the person I talked to, saw and spent the most time with. We also had a lot of fun…A LOT. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel quite a bit and we went out on dates so many times a week that our last argument before finding out we were pregnant was that going out was so routine that it was no longer special. It was more of a necessity; we both needed to eat and didn’t feel like cooking so we’d meet up for dinner out.
On December 18th, 2016, Sydney was born and our lives and our lifestyle changed in ways that we could’ve never expected or prepared for. Our relationship was never perfect; we had our disagreements and fights just like any other normal couple, but the difference now after having Sydney was that we were both surviving on very minimal amounts of sleep, which meant less patience…and less time to work through issues as they arose. Before if we had it out, we could just drop everything else to work through whatever we were fighting over, have make-up sex and boom! Our relationship was back on track! Now “everything” was Sydney and she couldn’t just be “dropped” and sex in general, let alone make-up sex seemed like some sort of mythical creature. Or so I thought…
The idea of placing your spouse first was planted in my head prior to having a child by a friend and when he first told me, it went against everything I’d ever been taught about being a parent. The child was supposed to come first, right? The premise behind his train of thought was that the parents are the foundation of the family and by maintaining and nurturing your marriage, post-kids, you’re giving your kids a healthy foundation to stand on instead of a weak one, therefore by nurturing your marriage, you're indirectly nurturing the well-being of your children. So many marriages fail because kids come along and all of your focus is placed on taking care of the kids. You just cross your fingers and hope that when the kids move out of the house that you still have something in common and that your marriage survives. But why can’t you focus on both. Prior to having Sydney, I managed to maintain a relationship with friends, my family and my spouse, so why couldn’t we give her our focus but still make time to focus on one another?
In the beginning it wasn’t easy. I was exhausted and whenever Sydney was sleeping; there was a high probability that I was too. The sleep deprivation also made me highly irritable so being lovey-dovey just didn’t sound as enticing and the punching in the face did. Those early days, when I was in survival mode, maintaining our relationship was more about communicating than anything. I had to let him know why I didn’t want to be touched, why I’d rather sleep than watch a movie and why I had absolutely no interest in leaving the house to do anything but as she got older, less dependent on me, and a better sleeper, it got easier. Leaving her with a sitter for the first time was nerve-wracking and I’m pretty sure we both spent more time staring at her sleeping through the security camera in her room than we did enjoying our time away from her and with each other. But, like with anything, the more we did it, the easier it got. We don’t go out as often now as we used nor do we want to! There are many weekends where we don’t get out at all and date night means renting a movie, popping popcorn and opening a bottle of wine. Having a child changes your life permanently and it's unrealistic to think that you'll return to your pre-baby glory. The important thing is that you're aware of the changes that your relationship is going through, constantly trying to adapt to those changes and always prioritizing each other.