Imagine this. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Get married. Live in a happy married fantasy for 5 years going on adventures, traveling the world, and dreaming of the future. The couple decides they won’t be complete unless they create a piece of their love to walk the earth. One day the announcement is made that the couple are to have their own little bundle of joy…
And the bubble pops. All hell breaks loose as the world shifts on its axis and changes forever for the dreamy couple.
During the 9 months I was pregnant I lost a dear friendship, I experienced a divorce in my family, and learned that my unborn child had a life threatening birth defect. In the three years following my pregnancy, we experienced financial downfall including losing our house and having to start over from zero, much of it largely due to hospital bills and loss of income during our daughter’s first year. This created a challenging time in our lives, and naturally put a lot of stress on our marriage (as any normal first child experience would do anyways). I had been told “Everything changes when you have a child”, but I never imagined the road we were headed down and the irreversible changes that would happen.
Somehow we overcame those three crazy years, and in the midst of it I picked up a few tips on how to grow together instead of apart, and save our marriage from our kid.
Here are a few of those lessons…
1. Isolation is your Enemy
It’s so easy to become isolated as a first time parent. It’s an overwhelming learning curve trying to work out feeding and sleep schedules. You are lucky to get a chance to shower or find time to grab some groceries. The only problem is that the more your world turns inward, the more you think you are the only one having problems. Especially when facebook and social media showcase how great everyone else you know is coping with life. I found that connecting with moms like me, took off a huge amount of the pressure I felt to be perfect. Talking with other moms dealing with postpartum depression helped me realize I wasn’t a freak of nature for thinking some of the thoughts I had. In the same way, being a part of a married group gave us a chance to be honest about some of the most challenging and intimate details of our marriage, a place we could share in confidence. This safe environment was much like a peer led therapy session, allowing us a chance to vent and still feel support.
2. Make Date Night a Priority
I get it, having a family can dry up a budget. However, having fun with your mate cannot take a back seat to your lives. There are countless ways to make room for time as a couple alone. Remember that before baby, you took care of each other, and those needs have not gone away. Whether it’s a weekly escape, where grandma watches junior, or just a glass of wine by the fireplace, you must find time to keep intimacy alive in your relationship. Don’t forget to have fun! Laugh together, and keep that place in your day to remember you are still the same people you chose to be with. For us, training our daughter to have an early bedtime so we can have several hours in the evening together has made a big difference.
3. Never Leave a Man Down
Life can be intense. With kids it never stops, and the whirlwind of raising a family can at times wound us emotionally or physically. It’s important to have each other’s backs even when we don’t understand what’s going on. I love that my husband always reinforces that our daughter treat me with respect. Showing your children that you honor each other makes them feel safer. Handle your differences privately. Pointing the finger publicly only leads to resentment, and a healthy partnership can not exist in its midst.
4. Complacency Leads to Emptiness
“The key to happiness is to just get by”, said no one ever. Without hope we dry up inside. I find it extremely important to set goals together as a family, and as a couple. Where do you want to be a year from now? Five years from now? If you aim at nothing you hit it every time. Celebrating achievable goals together encourages bonding and builds valuable memories that may one day get you through an incredible obstacle. For instance, my husband and I climbed 14,000 foot Pikes Peak in 2008. Little did we know we would overcome the biggest obstacle of our lives two short years later when our daughter was born with a life threatening illness. Knowing we overcame Pikes Peak gave us strength we could summit one more.
5. Sometimes Being Selfish Isn’t Being Selfish
It’s important to schedule downtime for yourself. For my husband that is hopping on a bicycle and going sixty miles south. For me, it’s reading a work of fiction to free my mind. Occasionally this can lead to times when I have to absorb extra care of the little one when I would normally have his help. I won’t lie that it can be hard, but ultimately giving him space to alleviate his stress in a healthy way is a major benefit to us all, and something I couldn’t imagine taking away from him. In the same way, taking time to escape into a book, takes my mind off the pressure of the day and helps me sleep better at night.
I’m no life coach, but these are some healthy habits that have made a great impact on our lives. I want to raise our daughter in an environment where she knows her parents love each other as much as we love her.
I’d love to hear what glue holds you together with your mate. Feel free to share!