There's no getting around it Having children changes your relationship. It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard this, and you may have experienced it yourself. We often hear about the negatives – how you have so much less time and energy to focus on each other, how easy it is to become disconnected, how if you’re not careful you can end up like roommates instead of spouses. Yes, these things are a reality for many couples at some point, but fortunately, it’s not the whole story. There are a lot of positive ways that your relationship changes when you become parents, too. Let’s explore some of the ways it can bring you closer as a couple.
A shared purpose solidifies a team mindset. If you already felt like a team before kids and/or you understand the importance of acting as a team in parenting, then adding a new member to your family can strengthen that mentality even more. You’ll learn to synergize your efforts as you juggle the load of new responsibilities and adjust the old ones. On a deeper level, you might feel a strong sense of unity and purpose in nurturing, protecting, and raising your child(ren) to the very best of your ability. It’s a humbling, sometimes overwhelming realization, but it can also strengthen the bond between you and your spouse.
You’ll need to get on the same page. If there were some issues you didn’t see eye to eye on before kids, you may have been able to agree to disagree and leave it at that. But you’ll likely find that parenthood sort of forces you to get aligned, at least on the big issues. Whether it’s family boundaries, rules and discipline, spirituality, or where they’ll go to school, you’ll need to have conversations about the contentious topics you’d previously put off. In doing so, you might find that you’re actually more aligned than you thought. Or you may need to be creative in coming to a compromise, gaining a better understanding of each other’s perspectives in the process.
You’ll be vulnerable with each other. With your first child, you and your spouse are entering unfamiliar territory. You’ll face physical, mental, and emotional challenges both individually and as a couple. Maybe you’ve always been really independent, and now you find yourself needing more help; maybe you’re usually pretty stoic, and now you’re feeling all the feelings. You grow closer by allowing yourselves to be vulnerable with each other – giving yourself and your partner permission to break down, struggle, cry, or whatever you need to do. And it doesn’t end when you’re out of the hazy newborn stage. As your kids grow, you’ll both face new experiences alongside them – worrying like crazy when they break a bone, adjusting to their growing independence as teenagers, and eventually sending them out on their own. Staying open and honest with each other about your worries, fears, or anxieties about parenting keeps you connected throughout the journey. You’ll support each other in new ways. You’ve probably supported each other in many areas of life – through job searches, tough financial times, health issues, the list goes on. Parenting is another aspect of your relationship that thrives when you both feel supported by each other. However, it’s not always easy figuring out what that looks like when you’re both dealing with new physical and emotional demands. It will be a learning process, and you’ll need to be flexible, as you figure out what you need from each other in this new chapter of life.
You’ll get practice in communicating your needs and responding to your partner’s while adapting to change, which builds relationship resilience.
Becoming parents transforms your relationship, and that transformation is dynamic. You’ll experience ups and downs (even at the same time), and it can all seem a bit out of your control – but it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of awareness and intention, you and your spouse can ultimately strengthen your bond throughout the various stages of parenting (yes, even those sleep-deprived newborn days!)
~Pre-Pare Enrich Marriage Mentors & Facilitators
Dr.s Alton & Nicckay Natson