Type the words ‘baby, marriage, stress’ into Google and you will find an almost unlimited wealth of information and statistics around why starting a family may be the beginning of the end of your relationship. In fact, research carried out a number of years ago by the Wall Street Journal was even entitled, ‘Here Comes the Baby, There Goes the Marriage’.*
I’m sure that those of us who are parents can testify to both the joy and exhaustion growing a family can bring. When our minds are focused, perhaps even consumed, by nurturing a child – how on earth can we also be fully present in a relationship?
Here at the National Parenting Initiative, our vision is to see families flourish across the nation. While our primary focus is parenting, we recognise alongside this the important call to encourage parents in their relationship as a couple, outside of caring for children. When a couple are strong, the overall wellbeing of the family is likely to be higher. Indeed, Marriage Foundation research from 2017 found that in a study of over 10,000 families, “more than a third (36%) of children whose parents had split up reported poor mental health, compared to only a fifth (22%) with parents who were still together.”**
While we may agree that unity in parenting and making time to invest in our relationship is important, the day to day reality of this can be difficult, and let’s be honest, life can throw all kinds of pressures our way; anxiety about finances, job loss, bereavement or just plain exhaustion. The decision to see a marriage thrive doesn’t just happen – it takes commitment from both sides.
If you are reading this and it feels familiar, pull up a chair – you are not alone. Becoming a parent for the first time is life changing and it’s understandable, and entirely appropriate, that home life changes as a result.
In the midst of the joys of a first smile or the lows of sleep deprivation, the dynamic of your relationship with your partner may change too. Perhaps you’re not able to go out and do the things you used to enjoy together as much anymore, or maybe going on a date has become falling asleep next to each other on the sofa in front of Eastenders. While this may be the current reality, it is part of a bigger story within your relationship – that of raising a child together and being able to sow into that life all the gifts, joy and love your partnership uniquely brings.
While it may feel difficult to prioritise your relationship in the midst of raising a family – whatever stage you are at – we have put together some tips to help start the journey from surviving to thriving.