Being a first-time parent is difficult, full stop. None of those ‘buts and howevers’ that come to your mind can make it any easier, and neither can unconditional love. The sweet struggles you’re facing now will be less so in a year – as children grow older, unprepared parents grow apart.
The good news is: it doesn’t have to be that way. Marital bliss takes plenty of work whether you’re blessed with little bundles of joy or not, but maintaining it despite the difficulties that parenthood implies requires a truly strenuous effort.
More than anything else, it requires patience and love.
Don’t Be Stingy with Love
Many parents make the mistake of putting the child first. True, it’s an instinct that only a few can resist, but it’s an instinct all the same. If not for your relationship, it should be tamed for the happiness of your child. After all, it directly depends on the happiness that the two of you share.
There’s no playing favourites in parenthood and marriage. The love you feel for your new-born is entirely different from the love you feel for your spouse, so it doesn’t have to bigger. The person you’re with is your lifetime partner, and lifetime partnership cannot thrive on spare emotions.
Remember to Stay on the Same Side
Anyone who says they love their spouse every second of the day lies. It’s impossible to keep warm cuddly feelings all the time, but that’s okay. As kids grow older, they demand more and more of your energy, the energy you’d otherwise put into mindless flirting and sleepless nights.
But kids will be kids and parents will fight – that’s how it goes. Don’t read too much into it, it’s only the stress getting the best of you. Instead of declaring the state of war every time it happens, stay calm and remember what matters the most: through good and bad, you’re always on the same side.
Keep the Dialogue Open
Here’s another thing to be watchful about. Family time leaves little room for open conversations, which means that most of your marital problems will have to be solved behind the closed doors. You’re mostly done with spontaneous outbursts of emotions, so pick your words with care.
When there’s no other way, agree to disagree. The worst thing you can do is keep all the resentment in and let it boil out, so always be open with emotions but smart with your wording. Since you’ll have less time and energy to explain your concerns, choose to be direct and constructive.
Never Keep Tabs on the Things You Do
For most people, parenthood is a constant struggle to keep the children satisfied and happy. You’ll find it incredibly difficult too, so why not establish some rules beforehand? Divvy up your roles, make equal contributions, and never put who’s done what on the counter.
Also, never forget that your spouse longs to be satisfied and happy as well. Marriage is not about keeping count, but about reaching a helpful hand. If you notice that your partner is under the weather, put your struggles aside and cheer them up. Soon enough, they’ll return the favour.
Keep Dating, Whenever, Wherever
How, you ask? It’s impossible without money and sitters, you say? Well, quality time spent alone is what keeps the relationship going, so you’ll have to figure it out together. After all, you don’t really need a fancy restaurant and an expensive meal to have fun, don’t you?
Whenever you feel less tired than usual, tuck your kids into bed and open a glass of wine. If you’re still too tired to talk, goof around. If all you want is to lay down, cuddle up on the carpet and put some jazz on. Reminisce about the past, fantasise about the future, and laugh to silly jokes, together.
Grow Together, Not Apart
Whatever you do, keep the conversation going. Be that in a car on your way from work or in the bedroom as you go to sleep, update each other on everything that’s going on. Tiny details from your separate lives will seem more insignificant with time, but it’s the little things that make life big.
Personal growth doesn’t stop with marriage and kids, and what you feel and experience along the way isn’t unimportant. Always share what you’ve learned with your spouse, and make time to listen to their feelings and experiences in return.
Protect the Intimacy
When the day is especially long and the kids are especially loud, a loving touch heals everything. Don’t just part your ways and collapse to bed each in their own time, but cherish the fact that you go to sleep together. Talk or hug, wrestle or make love, it’s entirely up to you, but keep the intimacy alive.
Also, don’t forget to kiss each other. For one reason or another, a lot of couples that share their lives for a long time grow less passionate and more cordial. When there’s not much room for sexy dates, one kiss a day may mean the difference between love and friendship.
Be Grateful and Kind
Never shy away from showing gratitude to your spouse. Also, never restrain from asking for help. The I’ll do it myself attitude won’t get you any far now that you’re a parent, for parenthood is a joint effort. Put your pride aside, ask nicely, and make sure they know how much you appreciate it.
Saying Thank you goes a long way in a marital life, especially when both partners are consumed by their own responsibilities. Saying I love you goes even further. Even if the task at hand is as little as dishwashing or house cleaning, an attitude of gratitude makes it all easier.
The key to successful marriage with kids is part play, part work. Remember to stay silly and excited when the times are good, but considerate and constructive when they are less so. The two of you make a powerful team, so cherish that enough to last it for a lifetime.
About The Author
Kolyanne Russ is a founder of Pinch of Attitude blog. It focuses on attitude-building, self-improvement, and lifestyle design to help people draw the right action plan and achieve a desirable balance between success and happiness. Her goal is to share her personal experiences as a guidance for others to learn from and build the life of their dreams and experience true happiness in every area of their life.
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Also published on Medium.