Can kids ruin marriage?
When Joseph & I were dating (all 1 & 1/2 weeks of our courtship–yeah, we were crazy), we agreed we were into big families.
We both came from rather large families (me–6 siblings, him–5 siblings), & we thought that 5-7 kids sounded good. After we had our first, we changed that to 6-8. For those of you who aren’t Mormon or Catholic, this seems like an INSANE number, I know.
It has been 12 years since Joseph & I got married.
Every August, as our anniversary comes & goes I tend to reflect on our union & I’m always in a bit of awe that it all happened & that it is still happening, better & stronger than ever, but not by chance. Our amazing marriage isn’t a matter of luck (read on).
We’ve lived in Utah, Washington, Texas, & now Okinawa, Japan.
Our current home sits about a minute from the ocean.
Every day I walk along the seawall & love looking out across the seemingly infinite waters. Of course I know the East China Sea isn’t infinite, but there is something about being surrounded by something much bigger than yourself. Those expansive waters are inspiring, humbling, & calming.
I’ve often thought that marital love is similar.
When we got married, I had the inside of Joseph’s wedding ring engraved, “Love you X’s infinity.” I think I could also say, “my love for you is as big as the oceans.”
I know many, many people are stuck in loveless marriages, or discouraged/dissatisfied with how married life has turned out to be for them. And yet, there is hope. There is. Marriage can & does get better, if both are willing to nurture it.
(And I realize not everyone is willing, in those cases, I say consult a professional &/or spiritual adviser & get some help.)
It makes me so very sad to know that some are not enjoying the amazing fruits of marriage–the kind of deep, fulfilling & satisfying love & connection that comes from being equally yoked to a partner, a best friend & lover in life.
Of course though, marriage is still winning, despite the divorces & many people who are eschewing marriage.
People continue to get married, continue to take that plunge into the unknown.
And the big question is…
Will parenthood, can parenthood ruin a marriage?
Can kids ruin marriage?
Yes, it can, if you let it.
BUT, it also can make a marriage flourish, grow, stretch.
Like the expansive oceans, love can grow & grow within a marriage & within a family when children are added.
I’m not just speaking anecdotally, I’ve lived this, I know this.
Joseph & I didn’t have much time before our oldest child joined our family. In fact, the first 8 years of marriage were a blur of undergraduate school, law school, various part-time jobs, pregnancies (4 of them!), & meager means.
The past few years have been less stressful in many ways, but at the same time, I’m glad we had so many opportunities to work & grow together, to HAVE to rely on each other our first young years of marriage so that in these later years as our kids are getting older & the demands of life seem to pile up, we have established routines of communication, connection, & renewal.
3 ways to prevent “parenting-creep”
You know what “parenting-creep” is–it’s the gradual encroachment of kid’s activities & demands that can adversely affect a marriage.
The effect of parenting creep is namely, spouses no longer have time or energy on a daily basis to connect with their spouse because of the demands of work & parenting. Not good.
Joseph has a demanding job–he travels a lot & works hard & sometimes long hours.
Both of us are knee deep in parenting duties, though I tend to shoulder more of those obligations for practical reasons–I’m the the stay-at-home-parent for now.
Nevertheless, when Joseph is around, he’s as involved, if not more than I am in parenting.
Here are 3 things we’ve found to be helpful to keep our spark alive.
We both love to talk, but even still, we have to work on carving out time during the day to talk.
We talk about big & little stuff, mundane & practical stuff, current events, relationships with friends & family, & everything in between.
We have a ritual of trying to connect first thing in the morning, before he leaves for work, throughout the day at least once over the phone (we don’t text or message, but talk LIVE over the phone–think of that!), after work, & we end the day together. We’ve always made it a priority to go to bed together at the same time, & that’s always been to our benefit.
All of these things help keep us on the same page & helps us keep those line of communication open. The secret to an amazing marriage, not just a good one, is that 90% of it is about effective & open communication.
Connection can happen in so many ways, but there are three main ways we all need to connect as a couple–emotionally, physically (yes, ahem, sex!), & spiritually. All three of these things require time & consistency.
The emotional connection can be ignited by practicing good communication (see #1).
The physical connection isn’t just about sex, but that’s an important part of it. Connecting physically includes small gestures–a kiss, a hug, a brush on the shoulder. DAILY small acts of physical affection add up to fill our love bank coffers.
Joseph & I are both active & practicing Mormons so the spiritual connection isn’t a difficult one for us as we both share the same religious perspective & approach to spirituality. We try to attend an LDS temple together at least a few times a year since living on the island (when we live in the states we go more frequently), we have couple prayer together each night, & try to make discussions of faith a daily part of our lives. We both share a practical, no-fuss devotion to matters of faith & God. Being on the same wave length spiritually helps us to support each other in our various roles & responsibilities.
Each spouse needs time to renew as an individual & as a couple.
Mini acts of renewal include daily exercise, personal meditation/prayer, & getting enough sleep. Each spouse needs to have opportunities on a regular basis to pursue healthy, decompressing activities–being a part of a sports team, hiking, golfing, book clubs, getting nails done, a massage, etc.
Point is, everyone needs a little something on the side that isn’t really practical or even requires a little sacrifice on behalf of the family so that that spouse can have some renewal time to just being an individual & renew mind, body, & spirit.
And now, my personal favorite–couple renewal time!
This happens for us on a weekly basis via our weekly date. We’ve morphed this practice over the years to fit our circumstances & means at the time, but the basic idea is just to get away from the kids for a few hours & do something together whether it’s going bowling (I’m a horrible bowler, but we get some good laughs out of it!), going to the library, dinner, for a walk, etc. We’re all about frugal dating, you can read more about it here.
We save up for an annual or semi-annual 1-3 day getaway. When I’ve had a nursing baby, I take them along, or if they’re old enough I pump & leave them with the babysitter. Every dime we’ve ever spent for babysitters & small getaways (usually an over-nighter at a hotel or bed & breakfast) has been absolutely worth it!! It’s a time to just focus on each other & relax. And the wonderful thing is, I’ve learned that my kids will be okay without me for a day or two. And the kids notice–they notice that we think it’s important to spend time with each other & this sets a great example for them to look to once they are married themselves.
Other bring joy posts you might want to check out: