Becoming new parents is one of the best things that has happened to us, but it almost cost us our marriage.
I’ve been in a romantic relationship with my wife since high school – that’s 14 years! I’ve never considered us a “model couple,” but we’ve always matched well. We laugh and have fun together, we’re very intimate (despite the number of years we’ve been together), we support each other and among many other things, I consider my wife to be my best friend.
However, becoming new parents changed things quite a bit and instead of being lovers and friends, we became co-parents more than anything else.
We were so overwhelmed with trying to be good parents for the majority of that first year that we didn’t even notice that we had wandered down a wrong path. Most days we were emotionlessly walking through our everyday life. It wasn’t always that bad – we had better days, but it still made me wonder how long it would take until we didn’t recognize the person next to us anymore.
Is it naive to think that we can remain intimate for years and even decades to come? Is this just a phase or is this the beginning of the end? Should we just carry on and put on a mask to show the world how great of a couple we still are and slowly become “depressively married”? These are the questions I pondered about four to five months ago.
We really didn’t notice these struggles early on. Naturally, I was nervous about becoming a dad, but mostly excited. For some reason I’ve always been told I would make a good dad. And because I didn’t have a solid father figure in my life, I wanted to become one and a good one at that.
Even before our little girl joined our family we had conversations about our relationship and we promised to put our relationship above our baby’s needs. However, once we became parents, we were in awe – we couldn’t keep our eyes off of our little progeny. Slowly but steadily our lives started circling around this tiny human being.
Although we did suffer from some sleep deprivation and the amount of chores became unfathomable, in general we were happy campers. We loved our new family and we enjoyed being new parents.
I wasn’t ecstatic about our sex life being on a prescribed 6-week hiatus, but honestly, I was so busy with adapting to my new role that I didn’t care. I didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that my wife wasn’t ready to “hop back in the saddle” after getting the green light from her doctor, either. Everyone moves at their own pace, right?!
Months four to nine into our new roles were the toughest. We were living overseas and I was putting in a lot of hours. Over these months my wife developed some symptoms of post-partum depression, but I just didn’t notice them back then. I was focused on my work and when I was off, my mind was with my family, but mostly with our lovely baby-girl.
Over time, the intimacy and spontaneity, and the humor and empathy in our relationship were slowly being replaced by calculated transactions, impatience and tediousness. The casual everyday talking points became all about diapers, baby food, and financial planning.
It wasn’t always that gloomy – we did have happy days as well. And to be honest, we were still pretty good parents. We spent a lot time with our little sweetie. We played with her, we laughed together, and we taught her new things. We just didn’t give each other the individual attention and time we were accustomed to and our sex-life remained sporadic at best. It’s pretty fair to say that for quite some time we lived our parallel lives and we didn’t put a lot of thought into improving our relationship.
I’m fortunate that we’ve always had fairly open lines of communication. We really weren’t satisfied with the state of our relationship and sooner or later it had to come up. Eventually, we talked about the shortcomings and we agreed that we needed to change something, but for some reason it just didn’t happen.
I still remember one night, when after another tough day, we laid in bed and just before falling asleep, my wife said: “I can’t wait for my husband to return!” This stung! I didn’t get much sleep that night. I realized that we had approached our situation the wrong way.
This wasn’t just a phase and we didn’t need to “wait it out” – we needed to adjust. I admitted that we couldn’t get back what we once had. The circumstances had changed and our relationship had to evolve and adapt. Otherwise we might end up like the dodo bird once did, and not survive.
The first steps
Nothing miraculously changed overnight, we still struggled through the next months, but we started to put more emphasis on our relationship. Inside and outside of the bedroom.
We started couple’s counselling. We started visiting more friends to get out of the house or entertaining them at our place. We reached out to friends and family and asked them to babysit the little rugrat, so we could have some alone time. We also started flirting with each other (again) and looking for opportunities to have time for ourselves – whether it was a full date-night or just one hour to step outside for a walk, we took it!
And finally, we put a higher priority on sex. It was difficult to protect the intimacy, because we are sharing our bedroom with our baby, but there are ways to get around this and other places around the house than the bedroom to “get it going” while the little one’s having a nap. Slowly, but surely we got back on track and I feel that I love my wife even more than before we became parents.
Where we stumbled and I learned from it
I truly think our biggest mistake was to want it all.
We expected to remain best friends, sustain our romance, and at the same time be 100% dedicated to our baby girl. And when we discovered that we couldn’t have it all, we unconsciously put our relationship on the back burner. We thought that we had this husband-wife thing figured out (after all, we had been together for almost 13 years by that time) and focused on learning our new roles. I would say that we were successful as parents, but we were failing as a couple.
I also learned that any weakness in the relationship will get exposed and also magnified by having a new baby in the equation. I can’t help but think what might have been if we hadn’t noticed the chasm between us getting deeper and wider and we hadn’t taken conscious action.
The reality is, that even now, we still don’t have everything figured out. We’re still learning and juggling with all the changes and it’s a lot of work – a lot of compromises and lot of sacrifices. And no one ever said it would be easy. What matters, is that we’re both happy with the direction we’re heading in as a couple and as a family.
If you are new parents and you feel that your relationship isn’t quite the same that it was before your little Champ made his/her grand debut… you’re probably right – it isn’t! Instead of pointing fingers, sit down with your spouse and get on the same page. Obviously, the actions that you’ve taken so far haven’t brought the desired results. So, come up with a new plan to revive your affection and intimacy and adapt to your new situation. It may not be easy, but it’s worth it!