With 1 in 3 marriage lasting 12.1 years we wanted to dig deeper on why some relationships don’t make the distance. One of the most stressful times for a relationship is during the parenting years. With only so many hours in the day, it’s easy to prioritise the kids and neglect your partner. We want you to have a thriving life – not just as a parent, but as a human in a romantic relationship too. But how do you do both and why does your relationship with your partner need to come first? We asked relationship experts Allan and Barbara Pease some questions to help us out with this very important topic.
Should the relationship with our partner come first?
“Becoming a parent is the single greatest gift in my life”, says Barbara – mother of three, stepmother of three and grandmother of eight. “But there is no question that being a parent is hard work. While children bring new and urgent demands, the couple should remain the overall priority or resentment, anger and feelings of being neglected can build. Without a strong ‘couple relationship’, separation and divorce can rear its head.”
“At the beginning of a relationship, you are lovers and friends. Hormones are keeping you ‘in love’, but it doesn’t last forever. From about six months on, most couples enter a new phase where their relationship shifts as hormones return to their default levels. There is less hormone-driven passion and the bonding-partnership phase begins ”, says Allan.
“When children come along, several things happen – you lose sleep, you focus most of your attention on your child and whatever is left over is spread thinly between other priorities.”
“All of a sudden, you’re not a Husband or Wife or a sexy lover, you’re a Mum or Dad facing the demands of little people who vomit over you. That can make intimacy difficult to maintain if you stop making an effort with your partner and it’s easy for a partner to feel neglected. What worked in the beginning may not now work as kids grow. You have to be prepared to adapt. It’s also important to have regular relationship check-ins with each other”.
“That’s why it’s so important to carve out time for the two of you, right from day one. Create an opportunity to laugh and reconnect with your partner. Keep a sense of humour about nappies and night-time duties, school runs and snotty noses – each phase has its end”, says Barbara. “And prioritise sex – it builds intimacy and is good for your mood!”
Why is it so important to invest in your relationship with your partner after having children?
“Two is a couple – three is a crowd. You’ve gone from being a sexy, selfish, loving couple to being in 2nd place (or even 3rd place if you have a pet). If this goes unchecked, resentment and anger can grow”, says Allan. “Having children is exciting and rewarding. But separation and divorce rates spike in the 18-month period after the birth of a first child. Make your relationship a priority at all times.”
Here are some daily tips:
Make time every day to chat with your partner and tell them about your day. Even if it is only 10 minutes…make a cup of tea and go to a quiet space and focus 100% on them.
Make intimate contact every day, whether it’s hugging, holding hands or caressing. For men – this is not necessarily the cue to having sex every night but a chance to connect in a loving way.
Create a ‘you’ time either weekly or monthly where you go for a walk on the beach, have dinner, go to the movies or just sit on the couch and cuddle up.
Have a book that you write in each day about what you loved about each other that day… no negatives just positives and share it once a week.
Have fun together like you used to before you became a Mum and Dad…watch a funny show, go out and just laugh.
How does my relationship with my partner affect my children?
“Without intimacy, a relationship can easily become victim to the stresses of raising children”, says Barbara. “It’s so important to put your relationship first, because without it, you are heading for a very rocky ride.”
“You are a relationship role model for your children – show them that love between parents is a natural and important part of a happy family life. Children will mimic the behaviour of their parents, so you pass on great habits to your future generation. Honest and frequent communication between partners is a key to a long-lasting relationship. It generates understanding so there are less arguments and it means you’re sharing your life with one another, so you’re less likely to grow apart and seek a new relationship. Children find comfort and security in their parents’ healthy relationship, so nurturing it is important. Partners need to come first, but with the understanding that there will be times when children will be your top priority. It comes down to communicating with each other and finding that happy place and letting your partner know that they will always be number one, above everything and everybody.”
If my connection with my partner has been lost, how can I find it again/ rekindle it?
“To create a strong and long-lasting relationship, communication must come first” says Allan.
“But you won’t do it if it’s not enjoyable, so create a fun little ritual for the two of you” says Barbara. “Allan and I have a coffee and work out in the gym together daily. This is our time to connect and at night we are always watching funny movies together. Every Sunday we walk to our favourite coffee shop and it is our time to reflect and be a couple, without the interruption of children.”
The couple add these tips for better intimacy and a happier family life:
Be upfront and open about what you want in your relationship.
Aim for balance – spend some time apart and some time together.
Accept that children will change your relationship, but that with communication you can solve any problem together.
Make time for each other. In the long run, your children will admire happy parents who support and love each other.
If one parent needs time out from the world then this needs to happen….it may be that the Dad needs to go fishing for the weekend or the Mum needs some girl time with her friends. You will come back relaxed and happy to reconnect to your family.
“Remember the reasons you fell in love with your partner and that they are still your soul mate, lover and best friend and not the enemy when times get tough. Your relationship will be the model and guide for your children when they have a relationship and intimacy. Children absorb everything that they learn through our behaviours. They learn about gender roles, respect, boundaries, intimacy and love. When a child watches his father love and respect his mother, he will do the same to his partner. When a child watches his Mother have a strong sense of self-worth, unconditional love and respect, that child will pass this onto the next generation. Handling conflict together so that you are coming from the same page is what the children need to see and learn from. Your children will pass this onto their children. Making your partner number one at all times ensures that your bond is strong and that your emotional connection is resilient, helping your relationship last a lifetime”.
About Barbara and Allan
Barbara & Allan Pease are the most successful relationship authors in the business. They have written 18 bestsellers – including 10 number ones – and travelled the world extensively giving seminars in 70 countries. Visit their website HERE.
Read ‘How to Fight Fairly In Your Relationship’ with Julia Nowland, from Whole Heart Relationships, HERE.