Marriage is widely recognised as the union of two people, this we know. What we also know is that children entering the couple mix can alter a relationship dynamic significantly. Partner roles shift, personalities change, energy levels nosedive, and lustful feelings can wax and wane. Such are the challenges (or some at least) of marriage after children. In contrast, children can also enhance and enrich a marriage partnership in so many unforeseeable and immeasurable ways, that it can be hard to imagine married life any other way!
In summary, no marriage is free of conflict, but on National Marriage Week, we wanted to look at what are the best ‘ingredients’ for a healthy, stable and loving relationship after children, and to shed light on some of the common threads that so often come under strain, but are less frequently revealed or discussed.
We asked Azra Gregor for her thoughts and experience on the subject...
‘I remember it vividly - the first time I mouthed the words “I hate you” and directed them at my husband. It’s such a stark memory for me because I considered our relationship extremely solid until that point. What had changed? I had recently given birth to our first child and was definitely harbouring resentment towards his freedom while making due with my new reality in “shackles”.
Four years later, and two children in, I’ve recognized what most seasoned parents do - kids make you change. Change is a process of transition and tends to be uncomfortable for most. If we’re lucky, we hold on tightly to that wild carousel that is marriage and sit in our discomfort to the point of breaking through our ignorance. If we’re very lucky, we have other couples around us who have already been through the trenches, giving us some gentle guidance on how to lower our egos for the sake of our relationship and children.
Marriage after kids is a project that, if you choose, you will continuously be working on because a finished, polished end result simply does not exist. Although you’ll be in awe of the adorable parenting your partner displays sometimes, you’ll be more at odds than anything - especially in the beginning.
Marriage after kids has a clever way of magnifying things about your husband or wife that you’ve probably not seen much of before. People turn into monster-like creatures after a few months of sleep deprivation and I’ll be the first to admit that it takes the patience of a saint to not just get up and board a jet plane far, far away sometimes.
But there is a lesson to be found in the tantrums - both your own and your toddlers. It’s that only practice makes perfect, and that a house full of children and a spouse navigating new territory provides the best playing field for it.
The next time you find yourself questioning your future because you can’t compromise with your spouse on how to parent, or can’t recall the last time you spent alone as a couple, do just one thing: gather your strength.
Connect with people you feel comfortable with and begin sharing your story. An amazing thing happens when people are direct, raw and unapologetic - other stories similar to yours come out of the woodwork. Although we all have different situations at home, there is a common thread that is only found in couples who have kids together. They are desperately seeking their new status quo and identity while shedding their old skin.
What’s the true key to surviving a marriage with kids, then? It’s to recognize that the problem typically does not lie in the other person. Marriage with kids beckons you to level up to your best self, which means working on your patience, intention setting and creating positive habits to make yourself happy, first and foremost.
So is the adage “happy wife, happy life” true? It definitely is - but don’t wait on him.
Get to work and turn the wheels to make it happen, and he will follow suit.
And best bonus of all: your children will notice too.’
Author credit: Azra Gregor