I don't feel like anyone tells you about what happens to your marriage when kids come along. Most people's advice is often centered around tips for taking care of your new baby but neglects to address how to take care of your marriage. So when I realized that our marriage had taken a backseat after the birth of our daughter, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I panicked and asked myself really hard questions. "What does this mean?" "Are we still in love?" "Are we roommates or partners?" "How do other couples avoid this?" "How did this happen?" I dated Tyler for 5 years before we got married, and waited another 2.5 years before bringing a baby home. This wasn't supposed to happen to us. "How did this happen?"
Our complete focus shifted to Madison. For the past year, all of our time together was spent caring for her and playing with her. In the evenings after she'd gone to bed, we sat on opposite sides of the living room and watched TV. On the weekends, we'd take turns sleeping and run errands around town. The only trips outside of Memphis were to visit family. I can count the number of date nights on one hand since Madison was born. Plus, everyone knows your sex life changes drastically post-baby.
For a while, I blamed Tyler. Not only had the "big" things (trips and dates) come to an end, but I felt like the "little" things had, too. It was him that stopped hugging and kissing me when he comes home from work. It was him that never brought home flowers. It was him that stopped surprising me with my favorite Muddy's cupcake after I'd had a challenging day. It was him that sat in his leather chair instead of cuddling with me on the couch during TV time. It was all him. When things got tough--when our relationship changed--the first thing I did was look for things that he was doing wrong, and complain about them. I'm not proud of that. I remember calling one of my best friends following a particularly ugly fight, after which I'd ended up leaving the house for some air and alone time. As I sat in my car crying and blaming everything on Tyler, my friend asked me, "When was the last time you did something out of the ordinary for him? Can you remember the last time you initiated any sort of romance? When was the last time you did something he wanted to do, even if you didn't? Have you intentionally planned out a date or activity for you to enjoy together?"
I didn't have any answers. I began to cry more, but this time out of shame. Why was I so quick to place all the blame on him? Why was it always his turn to do something sweet for me? I realized that I had absolutely no room to complain about the downfalls of our relationship when I wasn't doing my part to improve it.
I thought about the things I was frustrated about: It was him that stopped hugging and kissing me when he comes home from work. It was me that stopped meeting him at the door. It was him that never brought home flowers. It was me that always told him to come straight home and help with the baby. It was him that stopped surprising me with my favorite Muddy's cupcake after I'd had a challenging day. It was me that also neglected surprising him with little things. It was him that sat in his leather chair instead of cuddling with me on the couch during TV time. It was me that didn't invite him to come sit with me.
The truth is, children or not, marriage is hard work. It requires both parties to make the relationship a priority, maintain clear lines of communication, and be intentional about making your spouse feel loved and appreciated. It's a never-ending circle: when your spouse makes you feel loved, loving them back comes naturally.
And when you do have children, it's inevitable... Your relationship changes. It gets even harder. Your focus is split. There aren't enough hours in the day. Sometimes you're just so tired. It becomes near impossible to get away for weekend trips or even date nights, especially if you're in our boat with no family nearby.
The little things become the big things.
Show love to your husband and do your part to strengthen your marriage by doing these "little" things:
- Stay lip-locked for a full 5-10 seconds each morning instead of your usual peck.
- Offer him a relaxing back massage before bed.
- Write a thoughtful note to slip into his briefcase or pants pocket.
- Email him while he's at work just to say how much you love him.
- Make him feel extra appreciated by thanking him for doing chores that often go unnoticed, such as taking out the trash.
- Take the kids on a walk after dinner so he has time alone to wind down.
- Get up with the kids on Saturday and let him sleep in.
- Have dinner ready and greet him with a kiss (see #1) upon his arrival home from work.
- Surprise him by stocking the fridge with his favorite beer.
- Include your kids in making him a card-- just because.