Recently, one of my friends posted an anniversary update to Facebook: “Four years of married bliss!” I chuckled and said out loud, to my computer, “Yeah, because you don’t have kids. Of course you’re blissful.”
This may seem negative but it’s a very real thing. Adding children to a marriage is pretty much the end of the “bliss” period. Kids change everything in a way that most people can’t really prepare themselves for.
All of a sudden you’re literally in a different relationship — one that has other people in it, too. Very high-maintenance people.
After our first baby arrived, the most work we did on ourselves as a couple was to not go screaming into the night leaving the other to raise the infant alone. So, you know, really healthy, solid relationship work being done there.
As our kids got older we realized we were the same two people who started out this journey together, but we were in a completely different place now.
We had to start from scratch to start becoming who it is we wanted to be: as a family, as parents, as a couple, and as individuals for the long haul. (I hope this new place has an unlimited caffeine source, and perhaps a babysitter on staff.)
No matter how hard a couple tries, some partnerships don’t survive this time, and I can see why that happens. You come out of the haze of having babies and you realize that, not only has your situation changed dramatically from when you started out this relationship, but you’ve changed as well.
Maybe you’ve each changed in ways that don’t seem to go together anymore. Or maybe you spent so much energy focusing on the kids that you completely forgot to focus on your relationship, and things have gotten to a point where the two of you are so far away from each other that there’s no getting back.
But before you throw in the towel I have a few suggestions for how you can turn things around.
1. Accept that things are& hard, and will be for a long time.
I’ll save you all a lot of trouble by telling it to you straight: The stress and exhaustion and frustration you feel every day? That isn’t a unique feeling.
There’s no family out there who sits around at night and thinks, “Man, that was an easy day! I’m so incredibly good at this parenting thing, and my partner and I have nurtured our relationship so well that Oprah is going to create an entire show around us for Super Soul Sunday!”
So cut yourself some slack, and accept that good parenting and good relationships are hard. There aren’t perfect families out there who are unaffected by lack of sleep, excess stress, and far too few hours in the day.
We’re all miserable!
2. Remember to have fun and laugh.
Between trying to balance work and kids and friends and family, I feel like I spend my days barely keeping all my balls in the air. Or, I guess it would be more accurate to say I spend my days deciding which balls are going to be dropped.
But as hard as it is and as tired as I am, I still try to find the fun in all this craziness.
We try to make date nights a priority, which is nice, but even a little bit of laughter can go a long way on a particularly crappy day. We regularly have random dance parties, just because. Or we’ll make a bowling alley out of our hallway. Often at dinnertime we’ll randomly break out in song, much to the kids’ delight.
Sometimes people think “fun” has to be packaged in expensive vacations or elaborately planned birthday parties, but laughter is free and kids are usually an easy audience, so just be silly every once in a while and let it knock the dust off your soul a bit.
3. Find time to get away from it all, even for a night.
In addition to date nights and fun times together with the kids, we’ve also started allowing each other to take a night or afternoon away from the family on a regular basis. That couple hours or even a night away seems to rejuvenate each of us much more than date nights do.
Coming back home a little refreshed can go a long way in preserving all of our sanity.
So yes, I’m essentially recommending you spend more time away from your partner in order to nurture your relationship. Why I don’t have a daytime talk show is a mystery to everyone, I’m sure.
Yes, marital bliss has changed a lot since becoming parents, but it’s still there.
You just have to look a little harder for it. And sometimes you have to work a little harder for it. But I promise that it, and you, are worth taking the time to find it.
Dawn Dais is a freelance writer, designer, and filmmaker from Sacramento, CA. Her two previous books, The Sh!t No One Tells You and The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women, were published by Seal Press, have topped Amazon.com best-seller lists, and have been featured by countless TV and print media sources.
This article was originally published at The Sh!t No One Tells You About Toddlers. Reprinted with permission from the author.