A couple’s lifestyle can quickly become hectic when kids enter the picture, and even the strongest relationships can be challenged by the responsibility. Whether it’s the consuming needs of a newborn, the full schedule of a school-aged child, or the challenges presented by tweens and teens, children leave a couple with less time and energy, fewer resources, and more stress; this can impact a relationship in several ways:
- Time: Parents often find themselves with less time together when they have kids to care for. Not only do kids leave less time to go out on dates, but the presence of children in a relationship leaves less time for more basic and important things like discussing the relationship or the events of the day.
- Energy: When getting up in the wee hours to care for a newborn, it’s understandable that new parents can become exhausted. However, things don’t always slow down, as activities like chasing a toddler, driving endless carpools, or staying up to monitor a teen’s activities also take energy. Tired parents don’t always have the energy for the romantic gestures, wild sex, or other activities that they might otherwise enjoy.
- Money: Children, though worth every penny, are expensive! Sometimes the financial strain of raising a family can put a strain on the parents’ relationship. Also, as one or both parents work longer hours to save for lessons, clothes and college, the couple may find themselves with even less time and energy!
With extra responsibilities and pressures, couples need to work harder to stay connected. Because of all the benefits of a supportive relationship and a strong family, making the effort to keep the relationship strong is more than worth the effort for parents. The following are important ideas for keeping a relationship strong:
- Schedule Date Nights: Having a date on a regular basis is a great way to remember who you are as a couple, and enjoy each other in your non-parenting roles.
- Keep Talking: Maintaining open lines of communication is important but sometimes difficult with parental responsibilities and busy schedules. Still, making a point of finding time to talk each day can keep you connected and can relieve stress, too.
- Maintain Hobbies: After a while it’s easy to fall into the habit of talking only about work and kids if parents aren’t careful. Joining a class together, keeping up on reading, or even seeing and discussing a movie can provide new topics of conversation and keep things fresh. (Here are some more ideas for hobbies to relieve stress.)
- Choose Your Battles: Sure, there may be little things that drive you crazy about your mate (a tendency to leave wet towels on the floor--or a tendency to nag about picking up wet towels from the floor, for example), anger and criticism can take a toll on any relationship. It’s important for everyone who’s part of a couple to thing long and hard about what’s worth accepting and what’s worth working on. Save your battles for the serious issues, and try to let the rest roll off of your back—and just enjoy your partner.
- Foster Romance: Little romantic gestures—leaving a love note on her pillow, picking up his favorite food at the store—can keep things fun, and fosters more positive feelings between partners. Even if you feel you don’t have the time or energy to do this stuff, it’s important to let one another know that you’re taking care of the relationship, and not just the kids. Get creative and have fun with it!
- Be a Team: Parents can relieve stress on their relationship and their kids if they regularly talk about their views and make sure they’re on the same page with parenting issues. Working as a team can keep the bond strong; going in separate directions with discipline, and contradicting one another’s rules can confuse the kids and cause frustration in the relationship.
- Don’t Forget Sex: Don’t underestimate the importance of regular physical intimacy; it can go a long way toward making couples feel connected, vital, and satisfied. (It can even be a great stress reliever!) If you find your libido waning, these simple suggestions can help you get in the mood when stressed.
See these pages for more resources for parents under stress and healthy relationships.