There are generally two transitions in the life of a married couple that are inevitable….if that couple has children. The first transition is when the couple has a baby. The second transition is when the baby grows up and leaves the nest. These transitions can be life-altering, shaking the foundation of even the most solid relationship. It is important to be prepared for these transitions so that you will know how to deal with them.
When a couple has their first child, it is an exciting time. It doesn’t take long, however, for the couple to find out that having a baby is not always joyful. It is a huge, tiring responsibility that can manifest itself in several different ways. There is less sleep, which means that you are going to be tired and more irritable. You will be more prone to feel stress and lash out at one another. Whereas before the baby you were always ready to make love together, you may very well find that now you are craving a good night’s sleep rather than sex with your partner. Very often there is financial strain after the baby comes because one parent has chosen to quit a job and stay home with the baby. If not, there is still the cost of child care, diapers, formula, clothing, and visits to the pediatrician. Couples often delay going out on dates together because they are reluctant to leave their baby with a sitter.
The second transition comes years later when their children are grown and leave the nest. Suddenly, you are alone with each other again. Whereas this may be a moment you have been looking forward to, you may find yourself feeling as if you are living with a stranger. During the years when the kids are at home, couples’ lives often become very enmeshed in the lives of their children. In the process, both parents can easily lose a sense of who they are as individuals, and as a couple. Suddenly the couple is thrust back into the role of husband and wife whereas their main role has felt like mom and dad for so many years.
Bob and Carol W. of Charlotte talked to me about what a difficult transition it was for them when their last child went off to college. The house seemed empty and quiet. They both felt a pressure to fill up the silence by speaking, but found they had little to say to one another. The majority of their conversations had revolved around their children for so long, they felt almost as if they were strangers. Bob and Carol sought some pastoral counseling at their church and found this to be very helpful. They learned ways to help them to re-connect as a couple.
These transitions do not have to mean the end of your relationship. There are steps you can take to re-connect in both instances:
-Take the time to date one another throughout the course of your marriage. It is best to do it once a week if possible. Find a babysitter if you need one. There are plenty of quality sitting services out there. Your marriage is well worth the investment.
-Make yourself a priority during your marriage. Pursue your own individual interests. Take good care of yourself. This will help you know yourself better , and make you a more interesting partner.
-Take at least 10 minutes each day to sit down with each other and talk about something other than your children. Talk about your hopes and dreams. Talk about your goals for the future. Take time to build one another up.
-Communicate. Communication is so important in a marriage. Let your partner know how you are feeling. If you are sad or upset, share this with your partner. If you are excited or joyful about something, share this as well. When you communicate with one another on a daily basis, it will help you to stay connected.
If you follow the above tips, you will find these transitions will be much easier. Take the time to connect with your partner today, and it won’t be as difficult during these transition periods in your life.