Parenting is supposed to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. It’s supposed to bring spouses together. But without care and attention, just the opposite can happen. If you’re not careful, parenting can take a toll on your partnering.
LOSING YOUR PLAYMATE
When spouses come to me with problems in their marriage, I typically ask them when they feel the problems started. More often than not, they can trace it back to when they started having kids.
Prior to the kids, the couple would:
- Spend lots of time together.
- Go out on dates.
- Take trips.
- Have frequent and leisurely sex.
- Talk a lot
- Do fun things.
- (Fill in the blank)
In short, before the kids came, they were playmates.
But, from the time the couple finds out they’re pregnant, the child begins to change everything. Even before the child is born, parenting starts to trump partnering and playmates turn into roommates.
Though my kids are adults with kids of their own, I remember how it was for us. When my wife was pregnant, things started to change. Suddenly…
- I couldn’t make breakfast in the morning, because it nauseated my wife. So I had to start getting my breakfast at a drive-up window on the way to work.
- Instead of saving for things we wanted, we were now saving for things for the nursery and the baby.
- I had to trade in my compact pickup because there was no room for a car seat.
- Instead of satisfying late-night cravings for sex, now I was making late-night runs to satisfy her cravings for chocolate milkshakes.
- And instead of going and doing things like we use to, now our activity was restricted by her fatigue and discomfort.
And that was just during the pregnancy! Little did I know that pregnancy was just a preview of coming attractions.
After the child was born, life was all about the kid! This child controlled everything…
- Our sleep schedules (or lack thereof.)
- Our sex lives (or lack thereof.)
- If and when we went anywhere.
- What time we had to be home.
- How loud we could be in the house.
- The way we budgeted money.
- (Fill in the blank.)
But perhaps the biggest change was the change in our relationship. Parenting changed our partnering. Here’s how:
HOW PARTNERS DRIFT APART
Before our first child came into the picture, my wife and I were playmates. But after our child was born, my playmate became a mom, and moms are focused on the child. They responsibly give all her attention to tending to the needs of their child.
But, I missed my playmate. So I would attempt to get her back from time to time. But it rarely seemed to work. She was either too focused on taking care of our child, or too tired from the demands on her, or too distracted with mom stuff. Though she never said it, it often felt like I was getting the message, “You’re a big strong adult who can take care of yourself, but this child needs us.
When husbands lose their playmate, they have three options:
- They can keep trying to get their playmate back, (which tends to aggravate their wives.)
- They can find another playmate, (which always ends badly.)
- Or they can switch from being a playmate to being a dad. (And dads tend to focus on providing by working and keeping things up.)
And this is where the parenting starts to take its toll on partnering. As moms focus on children and dads focus on work, they begin to slowly drift apart. Gradually, they become more like roommates that only have one thing in common…the needs of the kids.
Depressed yet? Don’t be. This is normal. And the good news is, you can turn this around! We’ll get into how to do this in the next post. So be looking for it.