There’s no doubt that a child changes everything when he or she bursts onto the scene. Sometimes these changes are planned for, and others aren’t.
“One third of all pregnancies in marriage are unplanned. That means a lot of couples who weren’t sure how they felt about kids are sent headlong into parenting without a lot of vision or preparation. These parents often end up like people who are ‘taught’ to swim by being thrown into the water; fear and desperation can work wonders. But learning to swim that way is all about survival —there’s little, if any, enjoyment. Not surprisingly, we see a lot more flailing among parents today and a lot less visionary parenting.” (From Focus on Family article, Preparing to Start a Family)
Are you there; or have you been there? We sure have! There was a lot of “flailing” going on trying to figure out how to do this and that. And there was very little “visionary” parenting going on when we first had our children. Both of our sons came as heavenly surprises to us. And needless to say both are very loved. But balancing marriage and parenting isn’t easy. A child changes a lot of the dynamics of our marital relationships.
Child Changes the Marital Dynamics
Once children come on the “scene” it’s difficult not to center our lives around them. After all, their demands or “needs” cry out so much louder than ours. Our needs as a married couple, to continually grow closer together, are put on the back burner—usually for years. And that can be problematic in so many ways.
“Children can bring significant challenges for couples who married with the hope of spending their lives enjoying a soulmate connection. ‘Most Americans today don’t marry in order to have children,’ writes author and researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. ‘They marry in order to have an enduring relationship of love, friendship and emotional intimacy.’ But therein lies the rub.” (From Focus on Family article, Kids Can Be Good for Marriage, Really)
Even though our children weren’t planned (by us), there were many times when we could relate to what author Tony Ranking wrote:
“Most couples make a joint decision to create the very gift that can separate them. Together they plan and dream about the child and his future.”
Healthy Children, Yet an Unhealthy Marriage
But then those dreams backfire as the marriage becomes child-centered. It’s then that the marital relationship takes a back burner. The problem is, many child-centered marriages burn out before or shortly after the children are grown. The reason is because both spouses forgot to grow their own relationship along with raising their children.
That’s what author Jill Savage realized. Her marriage was almost destroyed because they gave so much to their children. They had totally neglected their own relationship. In a Marriage Partnership Magazine article titled, “A Child Centered Life” she wrote:
“Our life had been revolving around our children —a huge factor in our marriage mess. It was throwing us off balance. Mark and I had begun to let our children run things at home, including how much time we spent together as a couple. We didn’t want to leave the kids because they’d have ‘separation anxiety.’ We both feared that something might happen to them if we left them in the care of someone else. We didn’t live near family, so childcare was always a problem.
“We’d become so child-centered that we didn’t have time for each other. And our marriage was deteriorating because of it. We didn’t realize the very thing we desired to give our children —a secure home environment —would happen only when our children knew they lived with a mom and a dad who loved each other. This knowledge would provide the stability for which they longed.” (Jill Savage)
Wisdom Needed When a Child Changes Everything
Here’s some wise advice Tony Ranking gives to help combat this problem:
“Love your spouse more and differently than you do your child. Think about the instructions a flight attendant gives before take off. She reminds you to place an oxygen mask on your face before you place one on your child. You are of little benefit to your child if you’re not vibrant and full of life. The same is true of your child and his relationship to your marriage. Your parenting will be more desirable and immensely more effective if you first (and continually) breathe vibrancy into your marriage relationship.”
To learn more about these child changes to marriage, read:
The Balancing Act
But how do you invest in growing your marriage relationship when the demands of your children are always before you? There’s no doubt that it’s a continual balancing act. If you aren’t careful, taking care in raising your children can consume most of your time. The demands can shove you and your marriage “partner” away from each other.
And yet, have you ever thought about what that does to the children’s out-look in life? What does it do to them emotionally when they appear to be the continual center of attention?
And have you thought about what does it do to your marriage? What happens when you keep shoving aside the needs of your marital “partner”?
“If you are always pushing your spouse aside for time with the children, you may want to consider just what you’re teaching your children. By the way you treat your spouse, are you modeling for your children how you hope they will treat their future spouses? Probably not. Spending time with your spouse not only draws the two of you closer together, but it also teaches your children that the marital relationship has to be our number one human relationship.” (Dr. Debbie L. Cherry)
Is your spouse simply a partner in producing and parenting a child? Or is he or she your partner in every aspect of your life?
What About Later?
Someday (if both of you and your marriage is still alive) you’ll end up together —just the two of you. What have you done to plan for that? Here’s some great advice to prayerfully consider:
“Don’t put your marriage on hold while you’re raising your kids or else you’ll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage.” (Dave Willis)
So, below are some articles I encourage you to read to help you to grow your marriage even though a child changes everything. How I wish my husband and I would have had them when we were raising our sons. We had to struggle through to get to a better place. Fortunately, our marriage survived. Many don’t. But why do that when you can learn from others that can guide you onto an easier path?
So first, here is an article that was recommended by two friends. They both found it very insightful. The author starts out talking about some of the mixed feelings spouses can experience before pregnancy. She then gives tips for new parents and those who are a bit more “experienced” but could use even more insights.
Concerning child changes, read:
• HOW BECOMING PARENTS CAN AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP
And then below is something Whitney Hopler wrote on how a child changes their parent’s relationship. It is featured on the CrossWalk.com web site. In this article Whitney writes about what happens after a child enters into the marriage. She then gives tips you can use during this exciting and yet challenging times. Please read:
• KEEP YOUR MARRIAGE ALIVE WHILE CARING FOR A NEWBORN
In this next article, author Jill Savage confesses something that sadly, too many parents find relatable:
“Seven years into our marriage we found ourselves sitting in a counselor’s office acting as if we took a wedding vow that said we would love, honor, and cherish each other until ‘children do us part.’ What we found out is that we had become so focused on the children that we didn’t have time for each other. And our marriage was deteriorating because of it.”
But through this experience Jill and her husband learned some things that you may find helpful. Please read through this Crosswalk.com article and glean from it what you can use:
• REDISCOVER ROMANCE AFTER PARENTING
Navigating Child Changes
An article posted on the web site for Family Life Today discusses how children can dominate your marriage if you don’t find creative ways to make that less so. This article will help you to discover some of those creative ways: Please read:
• THOSE LITTLE “FOXES” THAT ROB MARRIAGE OF ROMANCE
And finally, there is a lot of controversy about having your children sleep in your marriage bed overnight, but one thing for sure, if your marriage isn’t nurtured (as well as your children) the marriage may not survive, and then the children as well as both of you lose out BIG TIME!
Please prayerfully consider what author Dave Boehi writes in the following Family Life Today linked article:
In closing, below is something that Dr Debbie Cherry wrote in her book, “Child Proofing Your Marriage.” I hope you will read and prayerfully consider the wisdom given.
Dr Cherry writes:
“One of the best things any of us can do for our children is to provide them with a strong marital model. Children need to know that their parents love not only them, but each other. The child’s sense of security grows as he/she sees parents loving each other. To put your marriage on hold for 18 or more years while you raise the children is not only detrimental to the marriage, it’s devastating to the children. We must learn to ‘childproof’ our marriages during those parenting years. If we don’t we’ll learn that the marriage withers and dies.
“When the parental team breaks down and begins to disintegrate, the children become the biggest losers. They lose their family unit, which is where they build their sense of security. When children don’t feel secure, their whole world seems to unravel. No amount of baseball, dance, piano lessons, or toys can make up for that kind of loss.”
We have a lot more articles throughout this web site that can help you with other aspects of growing your marriage. But please know that what has been written in this article is up to you in how you respond. It’s something that sure needs a lot of prayer and marital teamwork!
If you have additional tips concerning how to navigate marriage as a child changes it, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Childrens Effect on Marriage
5 responses to “A Child Changes the Dynamics of Your Married Life”
(ZAR) Just out of curiosity, the order of marriage before children, is it stated anywhere in the bible or is it just some reaserach work? If it’s research work how accurate is it? Is it fair to use reasoning such as what happens after thge kids leave home?
Look at it this way we should work to strive a balance between marrriage and kids the one does not take presidence over the other. I and I personally donot know of any biblical verse saying husband befor children and visa versa. What I do know is it if u in anyway neglect ure children for ure spouses needs fact u will be destroying ure own children, their self esteem,the way the interact with others and in some cases the relationship they have with God.Fact u can’t put ure husabd first because as the article says what happens when the kids leave home, what happens if your husband should leave u and you have being neglecting ure kids what happens then you are alone and old and u have neglected ure kids so much that they dine want to come visit u lonely in that old age home?You choose to have kids they didn’t choose to come,u chose for them.
Next husbands who ever make a women choose between the kids and them are not real men.They are his kids to and to avaoid many stories he must just participate in the childrens upbringing then he won’t have time to think of such.
Who ever lies to them selve especially a wife saying she loves her kids more than the husband has a true problem you grew that child inside u there is no way just no way that can be true.
Bottom line is parents should find a balance between the marriage and kids because if u have tough kids that are running around smoking drugs in the streets because of ure choice of putting them behind the marriage problem is ure marriage will go through even a more difficult time then.
If putting ure spouse first constantly before ure kids, what are u teaching them? That they aren’t important that they aren’t loved? U kids will grow up with anger which they will then use in their relationships against their spouses. Please I want to see that verse saying marriage is more imprtant than ure kids?
I would say that the first scripture that comes to mind is husband’s love your wives as Christ loves the church even as He gave himself for it. This scripture alone establishes that God intended for marriage to be the first priority after himself. No one is talking about neglecting your children by not feeding them or taking care of them. However, your children should not hold a position of priority over your spouse. What type of message does that send to them? That the world revolves around them and that you will sacrifice everyone, including your spouse to allow the world to continue to revolve around them?
And, what happens when they leave your house, they come to the harsh reality that the world does not revolve around them. That they can’t always have their way and that there are other things that are more important than what they want. For instance, you may want to sit home all day and watch tv, but unfortunately in order to eat and take care of yourself you have to go to work. The Bible says that when you get married, the two become one flesh and that not loving your spouse is not loving yourself. How can you effectively love your children in a healthy and balanced way without loving yourself? You can’t.
You mentioned loving your children more than your spouse because you carried your child for nine months as if that is an accomplishment a woman acheives all by herself. First and foremost, children are a heritage from the Lord, and they are His reward. You are just given the privilege of bringing them up in a way that honors God and are essentially responsible for presenting them back to Him. It also took your spouse to help create that child and your child is not just a representation of you, your child is a physical representation of you and your spouse, but somehow it’s okay to put your spouse and partner on the back burner and elevate your child over your spouse?
The Bible also commands children to honor their parents, that should include honoring your parents marriage because in the eyes of God. Married parents are not two separate entities, they’re one. The Bible doesn’t say that when you have a child the two of you become one. In fact, the Bible says that one day the child should leave mother and father and cleave into his wife.
Wow I love this!! Will be using this!!
Having my daughter definitely changed my marriage…for the better. She was the best thing that has ever happened in my life. She’s one of a handful of tangible reminders that at least a few times in my life, I’ve actually done something right. It didn’t do anything to help my wretched, sexless marriage; in fact my closeness with my daughter and the joy I felt at fatherhood actually made my wife resent me and my daughter. I felt needed. I had a purpose. I was good at something, for once.
Now that she’s grown and out of the house, living in another state with a career and a boyfriend, I’m back to feeling seemingly at loose ends. I briefly entertained the fantasy that once the “nest was empty,” we would be able to rekindle the spark. I was forgetting that the “spark” never existed in the first place; she is more consumed with “busy-ness” now than she ever was. I’m lonely, sexually frustrated, tired, resentful and sad. But this is my life. It is what it is. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, except wait to die.
Please don’t lose hope. God is a restorer and there is nothing too lost He cannot recover for you. The fact that you chose your wife to marry, out of all of the women you saw, shows that there was once a spark.
The solution to your problem is to pray to God about this issue effectually and fervently. Also, ask the Holy Spirit to show you your character flaws in case you have any. Sometimes we as humans have character flaws we are not aware of that sabotage our marriages. Keep praying and fasting fervently and God will restore your marriage. Please don’t give up. There is always light at the end of every tunnel.