My husband and I didn't spend a lot of our married lives kid-less. I found out I was expecting shortly after we returned from our honeymoon, and we welcomed our first child nine months and three days after we said "I do." In some ways, I think having a baby so quickly into our marriage was a good thing for us. After three-plus years of dating and a year of premarital counseling, we knew each other as well as two young-ish humans can, and we were communicating champions. Plus, the bigness of our impending parenthood made fighting about who would do the laundry or walk the dog in the morning seem silly. We were focused on bigger things (namely, my rapidly growing belly, shortly followed by our sleep-averse infant).
Six years and two kids into our marriage, I feel strongly that having kids was the best thing we did for our relationship — and the worst. Children complicate everything, especially the love between their parents. Here are three ways a baby will break down your relationship and three that will (hopefully) build it into something stronger.
1. The bad: Bye-bye, easy date nights.
Before kids, my husband and I went out to dinner multiple times a week, spent entire Sundays lounging around our apartment just hanging out, and traveled constantly. After our daughter was born, all those things went out the window overnight. These days, a night out requires lots of advance notice and $100 for babysitting, and trips away longer than one night might happen once or twice a year if we're lucky and ask our parents at least six months ahead of time. Bottom line: quality time together is limited, and that can definitely put a stress on a relationship.
2. The bad: It's harder to give when your personal needs aren't being met.
Marriage is all about giving to your partner, who in turn gives back to you. But giving time, affection, even a hot dinner can be tough when you're sleep deprived, overtouched, and covered in spit-up. Making your partner feel loved can feel like just another thing on an endless to-do list.
3. The bad: Communication gets a lot harder.
Ever tried to resolve a fight with your spouse with a 2- and 5-year-old in the room? I have, and it almost never works. Endless snack, toy, and "watch this" requests from my kids are more likely to heighten my anger and annoyance with my husband than anything, and by the time our tiny monsters go to sleep, I'm usually too tired to care about whatever it is we were fighting about in the first place. End result: simmering resentments, original origins unknown.
4. The good: You see each other in new ways.
Nothing says "I love you" like massaging a pregnant woman's swollen feet (thanks, edema!), helping your wife take her first post-C-section shower, or running to the store to buy more extralarge pads. Childbirth isn't sexy, but surviving it together can definitely deepen your love for each other.
5. The good: Nothing's hotter than a great dad with his kids.
These days, there's no time that I have more love for my husband than when he gets home from a long day of work, sends me to our room with a glass of wine, then proceeds to have a dance party/wrestle fest with our kids. Sometimes, I even come out of hiding just to watch (and get another glass of wine, of course). Great dad = hot husband.
6. The good: You have the greatest common bond ever.
No matter how annoyed I get with my husband ("I never thought about divorcing him, but I definitely thought about killing him a few times," was my grandma's quote after 65 years of marriage, and I totally get it), he's the only person in the world who loves our kids as much as I do. I know that we're both always going to put their best interests above everything else. That makes us a great team, and truly, that's what a good marriage is all about.