For many, parenting can be tough on a marriage. For around 30 years, researchers have studied how having children affects a marriage, and the results are conclusive: the relationship between spouses suffers once kids come along.
And why shouldn’t it? We stop saying and doing the little things that connect us as a couple.
From the moment we become parents, sexual intimacy is greatly impacted. At every stage, kids and their needs are constantly changing, requiring something new every day. We are also married to someone who was raised, at least to some degree, differently from us.
Add all of the above to the fact we are different from our spouse in so many ways and there is no wonder parenting plus marriage can often equal tension. Bottom line, our marriages need protecting from our parenting. How?
Put your marriage before your kids
We live in a kid-centric world. I have three kids of my own who I adore, yet who keep my wife and I quite busy. But my relationship with their mom is one of the most important parts of their development, more important than many of the other things in their lives.
That means, we have conversations that our kids aren’t a part of . . . just because we want to. That means we can send them out the room to watch a movie together. That means we may miss a baseball game to go somewhere just the two of us.
That means they can’t be involved in everything they want to do because it puts too much stress on us. When you feel connected in your marriage, you are more connected as parents.
Leverage your different parenting styles and views
When it comes to parenting, on good days I’m grace and she is truth. On bad days, I’m denial and she is critical. We used to struggle a lot with how to parent our kids. I was more of the softy and she laid down the law. I thought I was right. She thought she was right. But the older our kids get the less right I feel.
The older they get, the more I think I’m just not sure how to handle this situation. Nancie feels the same way. Our uncertainty has made us better listeners because we are searching for balance and wisdom in both our viewpoints.
While that sounds lovely and flowing, it’s not. The process can be frustrating and still we never really know it we are doing the exact right thing. But two really is better than one when we listen and value each other.
Hide in the bathroom and get on the same page
Discuss important parenting decisions in private so you can get on the same page. Kids need to see a united front. But your marriage needs to avoid parental battle of wills in front of your kids. So, while hiding somewhere in your house where the kids can’t hear you, come to a united decision of how you want to handle the situation.
Nancie and I are usually pretty great about this until we weren’t. I had told our sixteen-year-old “no.” She told him “yes.” I didn’t know she hadn’t heard my no. And around and around we went, in front our son. It was not good. Don’t do it. Get on the same page.
Parenting doesn’t have to hurt your marriage. You can decide to live in a way that is great for your marriage, which is always great for your kids.
Ted Lowe is an author, speaker, and the director of MarriedPeople—the marriage division at Orange. Ted is the author of two books—one for marriage ministry leaders (Married People: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last) and one for married couples (Your Best US: Marriage Is Easier Than You Think). He served for almost 10 years as the director of MarriedLife at North Point Community Church. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with his four favorite people: his wife, Nancie, and their three children.
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