Parenting changes your life. This revolution of the day-to-day comings and goings of your pre-child life can be a tidal wave of joy, confusion, shock, happiness, weariness, and fear. There are new moments everyday and so many “tricks of the trade” that you stumble upon. Not to mention there is this lovely little human being that you are holding and gazing at; getting to know. Parenting changes your life and in so many ways it is good.
Parenting also changes your partner relationship. You move from “just the two of us” to the “three of us,” and so much of what your relationship was, shifts. No longer is your partner’s attention devoted to you alone. The freedom of coming and going as you please is ruled now by nap time and nursing schedules. Sleep vanishes like a coin in a magician’s hands and your time together “hanging out” is overshadowed by just trying to finish the day and crawl into bed. Parenting changes your partner relationship and in many ways it can feel bad.
Couples frequently struggle to find one another in the midst of the parenting jungle. Here are three things to remember as parents that can help your couple relationship:
- Parenting is a transition and transitions are hard. Change, even if it is as wonderful as having kids, inherently brings with it loss. The loss is that what once was is no longer; your couple relationship was one way and now it is another. It is reasonable then that you as a couple will feel the growing pangs of dealing with this loss and growing into the newness of your family. The fact that you feel the pang of the loss does not mean you don’t love your kids, it means you are human. Talk about this feeling of loss with your partner. Normalize it and you’ll be surprised how this can help curb bitterness and resentment towards each other (and towards your kids).
- Parenting has not made your couple relationship worse; it has made it different. Couples forget that they have to keep growing and adapting to their ever changing context. Many times couples struggle because they are still trying to relate to one another as the couple they were without kids. This is not possible. You are a couple with kids. So, you have to approach sex differently, communication differently, etc. Maybe the best time to have sex is no longer after you have had a fun evening and a fancy dinner. Maybe sex happens in the wee hours of the morning after both of you have been woken up by a baby that needs a bottle. Maybe communication doesn’t just happen organically. Perhaps you will have to schedule times, like you would a work meeting, to sit down for an hour and just catch up. Different is not bad, it’s just different and your couple relationship has to adjust.
- You can find your partner in the jungle of parenting. Being in a couple relationship means you have to work at being in a relationship. Parenting simply changes your context and brings with it unique challenges. Work at finding your partner in the midst of these challenges and growing with your couple relationship just like your growing kids.
The challenge of parenting can easily make couples feel like their relationship has been placed on hold. This does not have to be the case. Parenting can be a unique context for you to explore new ways of being a couple that can strengthen your bond and make you love one another even more.