You thought you had a good, happy marriage. You became each others’ best friends and enjoyed spending time together, whether that involved watching Netflix on the couch or going out to dinner and a show. You wanted to grow even closer, so you decided that you were ready to have kids.

Now it seems that you barely know each other. Both of you are frazzled most of the time. Between work, keeping after the house, and shuttling the kids to and from school and all those activities, you’re constantly in motion. And the kids … they’re just wearing you out. They don’t pay attention, they’re constantly fighting with one another, they won’t listen to reason, and yelling at them is just wasted effort. Wasn’t there supposed to be some fun in all this? Wasn’t this supposed to bring you closer together?

Being a parent is like that sometimes. And the rest of the time, it’s just plain tough. No matter how much advice you received from friends and how many parenting books you read, you’ve discovered that your kids are unique, and what works for one family isn’t working for you.

The good news is that it can and will get better. But no matter how crazy things get with the kids, the one thing you absolutely must do is protect your marriage. Having kids can bring a couple together, but the added stress and challenges can also drive them apart. When you’re both mentally and physically exhausted, it’s hard to find time for affection, but it’s so important. We’d all like to believe that marriages are magical and they can survive on love alone, but a successful marriage is actually a lot of hard work for both parties, with or without kids. You both need to make an effort to keep your marriage strong and healthy.

There are two reasons for that, and they’re both important. First, there will come a day when your little ones will leave the proverbial nest, and you’ll find that you’re back to a household of two. You don’t want to discover that you’ve become strangers. Second, your marriage is a model to your kids. When it comes time for them to find someone and start their own family, they’ll treat each other (and future spouses) based upon what they’ve seen in their own home.

So what can you do to protect your marriage? The main thing is to pay attention to and make time for each other. If you have to schedule time to spend together, do it. Go out on dates without the kids (they’ll probably enjoy the break, too). It’s okay to take vacations together while leaving the kids at Grandma’s. If you can’t break away for a whole week, spent the night at a nice hotel in a nearby city. Take walks together, find hobbies you both enjoy, and just spend quiet time sitting together.

You can’t always avoid the stress that’s associated with being a parent, but you can take steps to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on your relationship. And if you’re worried that you’re already growing apart, contact us. Our professionals can help you rediscover what made you fall in love in the first place.

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