You and your partner have likely been preparing for the arrival of your baby for months, if not years. You’ve rearranged the house, shifted your schedules, arranged for help and support, and you finally feel ready-and you probably are as ready as you can be. However, you are also probably going to experience many situations, emotions and complications that you couldn’t possibly prepare for.
One of the most important components of your new family will be maintaining marital satisfaction as a couple. Suddenly, this product of your love can also act as a huge distraction from your relationship with your partner. Where you once turned to each other, you are now often looking at your beloved through “baby”.
You are going to experience many situations, emotions and complications that you couldn’t possibly prepare for
With a needy, dependent, nonverbal human in the house, overnight, the needs of yourself and your partner seem trivial. Trivialize them for too long, however, and they get neglected. Neglect them for too long, and marital satisfaction is but a distant memory.
When you create a household and add a child, you and your partner are forced to function in three distinct roles. You have to be an executive, a parent, and an intimate partner. As an executive, you are tasked with dividing the responsibilities of running the household. It really does not matter what the divide looks like, only that it works for each of you. As an executive, you stand to lose a lot if you shirk your responsibilities. This is how you pay for your housing, plan for savings, pay taxes and bills and create a budget. It’s an essential role.
Then there’s your role as a parent. Again, this requires a thoughtful division of responsibilities and expectations. Who will do what and when? This can create a shift in work hours and sleeping patterns, and can certainly factor into your executive functioning. And like your executive role, your role as a parent can’t be put on hold.
Your role as a parent can’t be put on hold…your baby depends on you
Your baby depends on you, and however graceless it may be at times, you deliver. Your role as a parent, like your role as executive, is essential.
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Finally, in the trifecta of family functioning, your role as an intimate partner completes the trio. This is where your relationship with your partner started and, frankly, without careful attention, this can be where relationships end. Executive functioning and parenting provide infinite sets of mandatory tasks. They require planning, execution, constant attention and thoughtful review. They are stressful and often times unpredictable.
Acting as the executive and a parent can also fill in every blank of your day-to-day life, leaving little space for intimate connection with your partner. Money and babies can, if you are not attentive, suck all the humor, affection, intimacy and joy out of your marriage. Marital satisfaction becomes a vague and elusive concept — one you hope will return once your kids are in preschool, high school, college … Bottom line, it won’t return without attention and work.
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Sadly, lack of marital satisfaction can be a somewhat silent marriage killer. For the first few years after the children are born, the inundation of tasks and the overall pace of life seem like obvious reasons as to why a sex life has diminished, or for the desire to have date night watching Netflix – on separate screens in separate rooms. After all, you are doing your best to raise the kids, pay the bills and not end up in rehab. Romance and intimacy can seem like a cruel joke.
Now let’s fast forward 10 years or so. The kids are a little more self-reliant. Money is stable and predictable. Life is actually returning to a manageable pace. And yet, you are still watching Netflix and spontaneous sex is something you are likely experiencing on, well, Netflix.
If one of you has been the primary caretaker of the kids, you might be getting a little bored. For the other, who has been relegated to less important status than the kids, you may feel neglected. And now, as a couple battling boredom and neglect, with the potential for some underlying resentment, it’s really hard to find your way back to each other.
The bottom line is that marriages consist of three equal components that really need to be nurtured at all times. You are a couple first, then you add parenting, and hold it all together as cooperative executives. At times, one or two of your roles will reach crisis mode, and demand a little more, but this is not permission to ignore any of the other roles. Marital satisfaction takes commitment, dedication and work. It takes patience, forgiveness, persistence and the willingness to see each other in the best possible light as two people doing the best you can.
Much like you tend to your children and finances in order to make sure everything turns out okay in the end, so too does this apply to your life as a couple.
Nurturing your couple relationship is hard in that first decade of marriage. However, reclaiming it in the last few decades of your life is even harder. Much like you tend to your children and finances in order to make sure everything turns out okay in the end, so too does this apply to your life as a couple.
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A few moments of shared time, deliberate intimacy, time alone, and laughter is your insurance policy for enduring satisfaction. When you’ve gotten that last kid out the door and paid your final mortgage payment, it would certainly feel good to look forward to 10 days in Italy with the person who was by your side as you weathered the storm and came out the other end.
Carrie Rosenbloom is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and attorney mediator in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She specializes in helping individuals and families navigate the complexities of divorce. Carrie also works with family businesses, helping them manage transitions, create succession plans, resolve conflict, and integrate a cohesive culture throughout family owned businesses. More information can…
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