Relationships take even more work when your young family grows.

By Fran Sherman, LCSW

Does your growing family affect your relationship? You bet it does.

You started out as a couple, so in love and with so many hopes and dreams for the future, including having children. You had so much fun during the first years of your relationship, doing adventurous things, having friends to your home, having little weekend getaways. Life was great, and there was so much to look forward to.

Three years after you get married, you get pregnant, and along comes your first child.

You’re both so excited about this new life that you love more than anything, and you become wrapped up in being the best parents you can be. Two years later you have another child – now there’s a boy and a girl – and you have your perfect family.

Life couldn’t be any better. Or could it? What’s changed, and why do you have that ache in your heart?

Some of the changes are obvious: These little people demand your time and attention 24/7. At those rare times when they’re asleep, and there’s peace and quiet in the house, you’re both so exhausted that all you want to do is crash.

Day-in and day-out, parenting can be so tiring – physically, mentally and emotionally – that you’re too drained to put effort into your marriage. “Effort?” Yes, it takes increased work, and “effort,” to keep your relationship strong when it’s competing with the demands of parenting.

Think about your life before you became Mommy and Daddy.

You went out to eat and had “date nights” in the middle of the week. You went to the movies at the spur of the moment, and strolled through art fairs without pushing a stroller (or two). Now you’re eating leftovers after the kids have been fed, and struggling to stay up late enough to watch the recorded TV shows that you never see in prime time any more.

You’ve lost the “us” in your relationship. That little word is the glue that holds relationships together. Having children and raising a family are wonderful, magical times in your lives, but you shouldn’t let them push out the other special times, the “us” times that you need to spend with each other.

How do you balance the demands of raising a family with the critically important “effort” it takes to keep your marriage strong and your relationship alive?

  • Commit to “us” time. Make a plan to make time for yourselves. Even if it’s a quiet dinner at 10 p.m., once the children finally are asleep, it’s important to have that time to look forward to.
  • Get out of the house. Ask your parents, another close relative or a trusted neighbor to babysit, if only for a couple of hours. Go out to dinner (casual is just fine) or grab a movie. You’ll find it a great way to reconnect, without the commotion of home.
  • Do nice things, say nice things. A kind word, a compliment a thoughtful gesture – every day – goes a long way. There’s never time? Make the time.

Keeping your relationship vibrant, when there’s so much competing for your energies, indeed takes “effort.” But marriage takes work. And if you make that commitment, it’s worth the effort.

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