You’re about to become parents. Congratulations! Now your marriage is going to be even stronger, and you’ll be happier—right? After all …“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
The effect of children on marital satisfaction
In a May 9, 2016 Fortune article, Matthew Johnson, professor of psychology and director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory at Binghamton University, reported his research into marital satisfaction. He surveyed thirty years of studies and found that on average marital satisfaction goes down during the first year of marriage for most couples. Further, he found that the decline in marital satisfaction is almost twice as steep for couples who have children as their childless counterparts.
Women gaze upon or cuddle children and burn to have their own. Men long to teach sons to be men or daughters to be treated right. It looks easy, and whatever mistakes we observe in others, we agree we will avoid them ourselves. We are sure we are prepared for parenthood.
But are you?
Newborns do little other than eat, sleep and mess diapers. That means no sleep for about three months. There is no downtime and no escape. With sleep deprivation come harsh words and judgment. Couple sweet talk disappears into a diaper bin.
It’s important to remember this is a short season. You will laugh about this later. Work together and communicate how you feel and how to make it better. This is a great opportunity for team building. Avoid scorekeeping at all costs.
God has given women a hormonally-driven focus on the child that lasts about three months. Doctors say it’s not good for women to get pregnant too soon. Be prepared for this ahead of time. Husbands, romance your wives in other ways, like helping lighten her load. And watch for post-partem depression.
Besides exhaustion and hormones, physical healing from the birthing process and resulting pain may reduce the desire to become sexually intimate again for a period. Talk to you OB/GYN about these issues. Six weeks is the normal time frame for healing. But even so, ease back into this area of your love life to avoid emotional damage. Don’t cause long-term damage over a short-term issue.
Marriage relationship takes a back seat
Often, men feel left out and unloved when baby comes home. The baby takes the love they used to get. It’s a necessity for the first few months. But be on guard that it does not become the pattern for your marriage. Hundreds of marriages head for divorce when couples forget they are married to one another and not their children.
Utilize grandparents and babysitters to have couple time. Get away to talk about something other than children. Dream together. Send each other funny or flirty texts daily. Fall in love again.
If you are having the first child of the next generation, expect grandparent excitement to overwhelm. Learn when to say “no” to their visits, but remember how helpful they will be when you need a sitter. Husbands, you may need to speak to your parents if they are imposing on your wife to protect her from their judgment.
With all the contraptions they have now for children, you can spend yourself into a hole. Set a budget ahead of time, especially if one of you is taking time off from work, meaning less income must go farther.
It’s easy to take your spouse for granted in all this. Kristen Shaw blogged this:
“I can see how a marriage, especially with children in the mix, might be confused with a junk drawer — unnoticed until it’s necessary to de-clutter. I can see how easy it is to walk by a loved one every day, not truly seeing that person from the inside out. Without looking into that person’s eyes and noticing what is going on in his heart. Letting various and sundry fragments of conversations and harsh words land where they may until it has become a tangled-up mess.” (Huffington Post, “Marriage after Kids: The Junk Drawer Effect 4/7/15)
Be sure to keep your marriage free from the junk of daily life. Declutter often.
Are children a gift from God?
From the beginning, God called man to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and train our children in his ways (Deuteronomy 6:4-7). We are God’s plan, not his afterthought. You are embracing his plan with each child you have.
Despite the sacrifices that we make for our children, there is no greater way to become like Jesus than in a marriage with children. God brings us face to face with our humanity and our need for him.
Johnson’s marital satisfaction study ended with this statement: “Despite the dismal picture of motherhood painted by researchers like me (sorry Mom), most mothers (and fathers) rate parenting as their greatest joy.” And so the Bible says …“I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth” (3 John 4).
May you embrace God’s plan for your part in his kingdom and find the great joy that follows.
Patricia Hartman, CPA is the owner of Patricia Hartman, CPA, PA. at www.PatriciaHartmanCPA.com. She is the author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com. She is the president of South Florida Word Weavers and a board member Living Water Christian Counseling.