How Parenting Can Take a Toll on Partnering

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.


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:


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.

If You and Your Spouse Are Drifting…

It comes on slowly. It comes on gradually. But, if you’ve been married for any length of time, I’m guessing you have felt it.

The conversations have begun to fall off. The time you spend together in the car or at a restaurant is starting to feel as awkward as a first date. When you do talk, it’s mostly about the kids, or work, or what needs to be done around the house. There’s not as much joking, not as much affection, not as much sex. You’ve become more like business partners and roommates than life partners and adventurers.

This is marital drift. It’s a slow and gradual fade in the relationship. No one likes it, and we all say the fade won’t happen to us. But like your favorite shirt that has been washed too many times…It just happens.

If you’ve experienced it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you will.

It’s unrealistic to think that you will dodge the bullet of marital drift. So a better use of your time and energy is to prepare for it, so you’ll be ready when it happens.

Here are three steps that you can take when you find your relationship with your spouse drifting…

DON’T PANIC…accept it.

As I said, this is normal for marriage. The more demands and responsibilities a marriage accumulates, the easier it is for spouses to drift.

Marital drift is not a sign that your marriage is bad or over. Even great marriages will experience some drift from time to time. So don’t panic. When you panic over marital drift you begin to try too hard, or blame too much, or compare your marriage to others too often.

These things will make matters worse. So stay calm. Marital drift is normal from time to time.

DON’T IGNORE IT…address it.

Just because it’s normal for a marriage relationship to drift from time to time doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Ignoring it would be like ignoring the check engine light in your car. It may be minor when you see the light, but if you ignore it long enough it could lead to major damage.

First, pay attention to the ways and times in which you find yourself drifting from your spouse. Don’t beat yourself up or blame it on your spouse. Just take note of when and where you feel the drift.

Then, ask your spouse if they have felt any drifting in the relationship. Don’t be accusatory, and don’t get your feelings hurt if they haven’t noticed it…or if they blame it on something other than what you think. This just means their focus is different than yours. Still, asking will plant a seed for them to think about.

DON’T SIT ON IT…act on it.

If you recognize the drift but do nothing, it will continue and possibly get worse. Nothing changes without some effort. So here’s a plan…

Start with your contributions.

We all want to start with what our spouse is doing or not doing, but start with your own contributions. Maybe it’s become a habit for you to focus less on your spouse and more on other things. You could be giving more of your attention to the kids, the house, work, hobbies, or something else. Certainly, there will be times when these things need a little extra attention. But if it’s become a habit to focus more on these things than on your spouse, then start with that.

FYI…you may find that the more you focus on changing your contributions the more your spouse will drift back towards you.

Next, approach your spouse.

If addressing your contributions hasn’t produced sufficient change, then you may need to approach your spouse. But don’t approach them in a blaming or demanding way. This will cause them to drift further from you.

  • Find a good time for this. Don’t approach them when they’re burdened and stressed out about things. Find a time when they’re relaxed and feeling good. It could be when the two of you are out to dinner, but whenever it is, pick your time well.
  • Start by telling your spouse how much you appreciate them. Talk about the things you admire about them. But be sincere, and don’t lay it on too thick. Be genuine.
  • Tell them that you’ve got a problem you can’t seem to fix. DO NOT tell them “we” have a problem and “you” need to do something about it. Keep it focused on you. Let them know you would really love and appreciate their help with your problem. Then tell them one thing you really miss in your relationship. Don’t give them a laundry list. Just give them one thing. And make it a simple and easy thing to accomplish. Then, don’t expect them to hardily agree with you, don’t expect things to change immediately, and don’t keep bringing it up.

Give Them Space and Affirmation.

Give them space and time to think about it and make a move on their own. And when your spouse does something that makes you feel good and draws you closer to them, stop right then and there and tell them how much that means to you…even if it’s not the thing you asked for. You would be surprised at how much our spouses need affirmation, and how much that affirmation will motivate them.

The above steps are not a magical cure to marital drift. They are just a way to begin redirecting the drift. They will take effort and patience…but doesn’t everything in marriage?


Your relationship will never be everything it was when you were dating or first married. Things were different then. You were different then. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to keep drifting further and further apart. There are things you can do to reclaim and refit the marriage you have now.

So if you’re experiencing a drift in your relationship with your spouse, relax. Marital drift is often normal, but it should not be left to itself. To sum it up…

If your marriage is drifting…don’t panic…paddle!

Joshua 22 – It’s Really None of My Business

“It’s really none of my business. “Besides, what right do I have to say anything to them?”

Individualism and personal freedom dominant our world today. They sound like noble ideas, but they actually run counter to what Scripture teaches.

  • God implies that we are our brother’s keeper. (Genesis 4:9)
  • He encourages us to “interfere” in the lives of those involved in sin. (Galatians 6:1-3) (James 5:19-20).

God tells us that we weren’t created for individualistic isolation, but rather for caring community. (Gen. 2:18) (Ecc. 4:9-12).

In Joshua chapter 22, the Israelites on the west side of the Jordan river learn their brothers and sisters on the east side of the river have sinned. They don’t say, “What they do over there is their business. God will deal with them. It doesn’t really effect use anyway.” Instead, the people to the west go to those in the east, and seek their restoration. They even offer to bring their eastern brothers and sisters back home with them and share their land with them. The people of the west cared enough about their eastern brothers and sisters to be assertive and get involved.

This may feel like intruding, but we are our brother’s keeper. We are to get involved when others are drifting into sin, in hopes of restoring them to the community. As God’s people, we are not called to be a collection of individuals, but rather a community of care and concern for one another.

So, in love, gentleness, and humility, get involved in reaching out to your brother and sisters struggling with sin.

The Crowded Marriage.

Let’s start by stating the obvious…it’s been a little over 8 months since I have posted to Normal Marriage. I realized this when, on a trip back home, I ran into a niece who asked me if I had kicked her off my Normal Marriage mailing list, because she hadn’t gotten a new post in “forever.”

I could give you a lot of detailed reasons for why it’s been so long, but the long and the short of it is life crept in and crowded Normal Marriage out.

Ever had that happen? Ever had the demands of life crowd out your marriage? The demands of life come in all shapes and sizes…

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