Will having kids really be doomsday for your relationship? Do romance and satisfaction die when crying and poopy diapers arrive? I have two young children and a husband and I know how life-changing children can be, amazing gifts of life for which I am so grateful, but also very challenging to my marriage. I set out to look at some research to find out what it says on the subject. Although much of the research points to the conclusion that having children results in a decline in relationship satisfaction, a newer study by Herbst and Ifcher looked at the more recent generations of parents (defined as anyone raising children, not necessarily biological) and non-parents and found that parents' happiness was increasing overall and they were happier than their non-parent counterparts (2015). Researchers in that study hypothesized that the increased happiness found among parents today may be related to those persons choosing to have children more intentionally and those persons being more social and connected to their communities due to having kids, preventing the ever growing trend toward isolation.
While I think those reasons are important, I think the answer of why parents often experience more happiness in spite of the challenges is tied to spirituality and a sense of meaning. I think this may explain why there is so much joy and satisfaction from being a parent and having a child, even though it is the most difficult, exhausting, consuming, heart-wrenching endeavor you will ever undertake. The importance of raising a human being, being responsible for giving them a healthy life and teaching them to love, learn and be responsible, productive, caring people is of the utmost importance - reaping consequences and benefits for generations to come.
Looking at a child or baby reminds us that the world is big and we are small, kicks in our parental instincts to nurture and protect our young, and connects us to a higher calling and meaning. We walk around forever with a purpose - and no light one at that. It’s important to recognize that this sense of meaning and purpose for a couple who are parents can be an incredibly powerful source of connection and shared meaning. The mutual goal towards raising healthy children can be a bridge that helps cover the gap when stress, lack of sleep, household duties, and balancing external and familial commitments feels overwhelming. The challenges and struggles are much more serious, yet the moments of joy and meaning are so fulfilling.
The array of feelings between you and your partner become much more complex after children. You now look at them as not only your best friend and lover, but the other half of your team when it comes to figuring out this parenting journey together. Sometimes you wonder if you will ever be the "same" or "how we used to be" as a couple again. The answer is no, probably not. You will never be the same as a couple or individuals- you have transformed and you are now parents. But there is the opportunity for an even deeper connection and love in your relationship than ever before because you are doing something incredibly hard and so rewarding together - hopefully, as teammates. Your partner is the one that you can both laugh and cry with, who makes those “up all nights” and dirty diapers easier to get through and silly faces and sweet moments even sweeter because they are sharing them alongside you. They can take your mind off being a parent and remind you that you are still a man, woman, lover, friend. At the end of the day, your relationship has the potential to be even stronger and deeper than ever before if you make it a priority. The most important gift parents can give their children is modeling and having a healthy relationship.
Although your relationship will change and be challenged as you shift into a new stage of life, remember that the two of you are on the same team and want to support each other. Find ways to keep your connection alive and know that Therapy With Heart is a resource for you!
To learn more about the team and service offering please visit, www.therapywithheart.com (480) 888-5380.
Hold Me Tight Workshop
This Couples Workshop utilizes principles from Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) and is facilitated by therapists who have advanced EFT training and experience. This workshop provides you with new relationship tools, opportunities to practice communicating in a new way, and assistance in getting stronger in your relationship. Cost: $595/couple (mention PVMOM for $45 off)
Visit http://therapywithheart.com/couples-therapy-packages to learn more and reserve a spot.
All workshops, except 6/23-24, are limited to four (4) couples, held at the TWH office and facilitated by a TWH Team Member.
*The June 23 - 24 workshop will be held off-site and facilitated by Rachel Thomas, MA, LMFT, Certified EFT Therapist and Owner.
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