I love my children. I’m so grateful I had them.
But I’d be lying if I said they didn’t make things difficult.
It’s harder to find time alone. It’s harder to want to be intimate when one or both of my husband and I have recently changed a poopy diaper or are covered with some other malodorous body fluid. The sleepless nights. The fatigue.
Romance can be harder to attain, and my husband and I are not alone in this.
Studies found that having children leads to a steep decline in relationship happiness.
It’s important to note that a decline in relationship happiness often leads also to a steep decline in general happiness since the biggest predictor of overall life satisfaction is one’s satisfaction with their partner. These impacts can be even greater if the parents experience an unplanned pregnancy.
While not the case in my relationship, studies show that straight women, often bear the brunt of being parents. Not only do they have to carry the children and go through all of the physical and psychological changes involved with that process, women often have to deal with gender-stereotypical ways of parenting.
Even if both partners have a full-time job, the woman is more likely to be the one who gets up in the middle of the night or has to take off work to pick up a sick child from school.
She’s also more likely to handle a greater percentage of the household chores and parenting at home, while the man might spend more time and energy on working to provide financially for their household.
Having children will change your relationship, and it will be mostly in not good ways.
Knowing these dismal conclusions upfront is actually important if you want to make strides to bettering your relationship when you’ve got evil romance-blockers in your midsts.
Here are specific things that are helpful to know:
1. Whatever problems you had as a childless/childfree couple will be exacerbated once you have kids.
If you already struggled communicating your needs and how you were really feeling or resolving fights before you had kids, expect those issues to become even worse.
Often questions about your day will be replaced by questions about who is going to make the kids’ lunches or when little Bobby is going to soccer practice and who is going to take him there.
There will need to be more negotiation, and if you want to connect with your partner about your day or your feelings, that will need to be scheduled around the time that it takes to handle the business of raising kids first.
Proper conflict resolution becomes even more important too because you will be dealing with a greater amount of stress and lots and lots of disrupted sleep.
Attending couples counseling or coaching can be incredibly helpful, especially if you’ve gotten mired in unhealthy ways of relating. Couples counseling or coaching can help you learn how to communicate what you need to as well as learn how to handle conflict in a way that works for both of you.
2. Romance will be harder.
Romance can be easy to give up when you’re exhausted from parenting or don’t feel all that connected to your partner.
It can be so much easier to send your partner a text like, “Can you pick up the groceries?” instead of “You looked really cute today.” Couples often can become more like business partners.
On top of that, many women experience a lot of physical changes following a pregnancy.
Their bodies change. It can be harder to lose that dreaded “baby weight” when they barely have time to shower, let alone eat right and go to the gym. Their self-esteem can drop as well. They also may be far from feeling attractive when they’ve barely been sleeping and have spent most of the day up to their elbows in poop.
Physical intimacy also may be painful for a while following a hard delivery, and then women might feel fearful about experiencing that pain again.
Some women completely lose their libidos after having children, and their partners might be confused and frustrated that they can’t be intimate with their wife anymore.
Actively choosing to be romantic becomes important.
It seems counterintuitive to schedule romance, but you have to in a relationship with kids! This could be planning just ten to fifteen minutes every night to check in with each other, making an effort to not just be “business” partners, but romantic partners.
This can also look like scheduling regular dates: once a week or however often you can get away, where you aren’t allowed to talk about the kids.
Some couples even schedule when they’ll be physically intimate regularly just to keep it on the table since it’s so easy to put off, or they might see a therapist to help with issues following having children.
You can also “schedule” romance by remembering to appreciate each other: telling your partner they look hot today or thanking them for taking out the garbage. These little things add up.
Again, it doesn’t feel romantic when these things are being scheduled, but it shows that you’re making your romantic relationship a priority and not allowing it to be subsumed by your children and their needs.
While this all paints a dismal picture of parenthood, most parents rate parenting as their greatest joy.
The important thing is understanding that it will be tough, BUT there are things you can do to help.
All great relationships take work, and unfortunately, you are just going to have to work harder once you have kids.
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