Will becoming a parent strengthen or weaken your marriage? Well, it depends. Becoming a parent carries a great deal of responsibility. It demands our time and our efforts. It occupies our mind 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s no wonder then, that the demanding responsibilities of becoming a parent can either strengthen or weaken our marriages. Why does it strengthen some and weaken others? What makes the difference? More importantly, how can we make sure that parenting will strengthen our marriages and not weaken them? Those are good questions. Here are five aspects of parenting that will determine whether becoming a parent strengthens or weakens your relationship to your spouse, the “love of your life.”
- Your ability to accept your differences. Let’s face it. No one marries a clone of themselves. (And really, who would want to?) You are different than our spouse. All that being said, you and your spouse will likely have some different ideas when it comes to parenting. You will have different ways of interacting with your children. For instance, men often tend to engage in more rough-and-tumble play while women often seem more nurturing and comforting. Sure, men comfort and women play, but generally speaking, men and women engage their children differently. And our children benefit from both types of interactions. Accept those differences.
- Your ability to compromise. You and your spouse have different backgrounds. You likely experienced different styles of parenting when you were growing up in your respective homes. Discuss those differences in parenting ideology. Share your ideas with one another. Then, compromise. Yes. Compromise. Pick the best of both styles of parenting and compromise. If you struggle to compromise, seek advice from a mentor or counselor.
- Your ability and determination to support one another. Becoming a parent can arouse every insecurity you ever had. You will likely second guess yourself and wonder if you’re doing the right thing or not. And sometimes you will make mistakes. (Fortunately love covers a multitude of mistakes.) When you have doubts, find a quiet place with your spouse and ask them for input. And if you disagree with something your spouse does as a parent, don’t disagree and fight about it in front of your children. Instead, find a quiet place where you can talk with your spouse one-on-one about what happened. Share ideas. Come up with a plan of how you can both respond “the next time” a similar situation arises. In other words, support one another. Invest as a couple 100% but agree that when one needs a rest, the other will “pick up the slack.” Work together. Compliment. Encourage. Support one another.
- Communicate. All three of the suggestions so far involve one thing: Communication. Learn to communicate with your spouse in a respectful, loving way. Approach with love. Speak gently and calmly. Listen intently and fully. Communication is the heart of a life-long marriage.
- Invest in your marriage. It is easy to get so caught up in raising children that your marriage “gets put on the back burner.” Don’t let that happen. One of the greatest gifts you can provide for your children is a happy marriage. Let them bear witness to your love. Allow them to see you give your spouse a simple hug and kiss…often. Let them hear you tell your spouse, “I love you” every day. Sure, they will say “Ewww.” But knowing you love one another will also provide them with a sense of security. So, plan regular date nights. Take time to encourage your children to “entertain themselves” while you and your spouse talk about the day. Let your children know that your spouse is your first love and will continue to be your love, even after they have “flown the coup.” Invest in your marriage.
Will becoming a parent strengthen or weaken your marriage? It depends on your intentional effort to accept your differences, compromise, support one another, communicate, and invest in your marriage. Practice wisely and give your children the precious gift of witnessing their parents in a stronger, healthier marriage.