Many couples fondly imagine that having a child will bring them closer. On one level, this is usually the case. On another, however, having a young child can drive an emotional wedge between parents.
The sleep deprivation, non-stop care and sheer domestic drudgery involved in looking after a small person can take a lot of the fun away from a couple’s life together. Parenthood also robs couples of the opportunity to be spontaneous in a way they could when it was just the two of them.
Perhaps the biggest problem for new parents is the lack of time they get on their own. According to a survey published this week, the average couple with young children manage a mere 15 minutes a day of “quality time” together – mainly in bed. Most are able to relax and chat for only five minutes before the youngsters wake up in the morning and ten minutes at night before going to sleep, according to Holiday Inn, which commissioned the study of 4,500 parents.
If you feel your marriage is suffering because of the pressures of having young children, you would be wise to address the situation before it gets out of hand and starts eating away at your relationship.
Finding time to be a partner and a lover rather than a parent is easier said than done, of course, especially if one or both of you work long hours as well as having to care for your offspring.
The survey found that a majority of parents get round the problem by setting aside one night in the year when they leave the children with relatives and stay overnight in a hotel. They also call on a babysitter once a month and go out to a pub or restaurant. “Getting away is clearly a really important treat,” says Holiday Inn spokesman Chris Hale.
Many people would argue it’s not just a treat but a necessity. Not only does an evening out or an overnight stay away from home provide couples with a chance to talk, it can also help rekindle the romantic side of the relationship, which often takes a battering after the arrival of children.
So if you are struggling to maintain a healthy marriage, my advice is that you and your partner work out a strategy to spend more time alone together. If you don’t have access to a regular babysitter or helpful relatives, it is still possible to enjoy a night “out” at home. Set aside an evening once a week when you and your spouse sit down to a special meal, share a good bottle of wine, and chat about subjects other than the kids!
Taking a bath together is another way to relax in each other’s company and get the passion going again. Even going to bed half an hour earlier than usual and reading a book, side by side, can help to restore a feeling of intimacy.
Few marital relationships escape unscathed from the rigours of parenthood, but how you manage the difficulties can make the difference between staying happily together and growing steadily apart.