It's no secret that having kids can make maintaining any romantic relationship more challenging. You have more demands on your time and energy, more responsibilities, and less money to spend on having fun and doing whatever you want. Still, there are a lot of ways that your relationship actually gets better after you have kids, if you have a healthy relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and love. Even though maintaining your relationship after having kids can be harder than raising the kids, your relationship can actually become stronger and more satisfying because of all the additional effort you have to put into making it work.
Sure, there will be moments where you don’t always do the ideal thing vis-à-vis your romantic relationship. We’re all imperfect; from time to time we all zone out with our phones when we should be making the most of our time with each other by communicating and connecting or, at the very least, listening. Yes, we all let our fatigue or frustrations get the better of us and, inevitably, we end up fighting at times we might not otherwise and about things that, usually, wouldn't warrant an argument.
Simultaneously, we're still people, and people almost always appreciate things that we have to work for more than things that come easily and with minimal effort. Humans are funny that way. If nothing else, parenthood really makes you work for your relationship, and helps us all develop better relationship skills instead of relying on affection and quality time to do the work for us. So, with that in mind, here are just a few ways becoming a parent actually makes your relationship stronger.
You Become More Intentional
When you can’t just take it for granted that you’ll have loads of time to devote to each other, you get a lot better at making the most of the time you do have together. You start scheduling time for each other, instead of just assuming you’ll have that time. You start making plans for what you’ll do with that time (have sex, watch your favorite show, whatever) instead of just letting whatever will happen, happen (which is a total set-up for disappointment).
You Get Better At Prioritizing
Parenthood makes you really good at eliminating lots of time, money and energy drains from your life, so you can have enough time, money, and energy to take care of yourself, your partner, and your children. Having kids really refocuses your attention on the strength of your family, and if the adults' relationship is the foundation of your household, then wanting to be the best possible family for them (and wanting to model what healthy, fulfilling relationships look like) can motivate you to make the most of your romantic partnership.
You Get More Creative/Attentive
Particularly if you have very young children or children who are especially challenging, you have to get really creative if you’re going to have any quality time. You figure out ways to engineer some alone time, whether it’s trading off playdates with other parents or calling on family and friends for extra help getting some alone time, and you find ways to pay more attention to each other while you’re with your kids.
You Get More Invested (If Your Partner Is Your Co-Parent)
I am definitely not an advocate of “staying together for the kids” if a relationship is in any way unhealthy. However, if your partner is your co-parent and you are both respectful, loving people who are committed to making your relationship work, having kids can definitely deepen your investment. I know in the past, I’ve definitely ended relationships for both serious and frivolous reasons. Now, when things get hard with my partner, I increasingly remind myself, “We’re on the same team and we love each other, what do we need to do to make this work?” versus reflexively asking myself if this person is worth the hassle, as I had in my previous relationships.
Figuring Out Parenting Challenges Helps You See New Sides Of Each Other…
Once, when our son was a few months old, he fell asleep at a friend’s house in a spare pack and play. This was huge for him; it was one of the first times he’d ever fallen asleep somewhere that wasn’t on or next to me, and my partner and I now had a chance to just hang out with our friends without having to wrangle him. However, this wasn’t our house, so we didn’t have a baby monitor on him. If one of us has to stay with him while the other socializes, that is going to absolutely suck, I thought.
I looked over at my partner, who clearly had wheels turning in his head. “Give me your phone,” he said excitedly. Before I realized what was going on, he FaceTimed me, muted his end, then positioned my phone near the pack and play so we could monitor our baby remotely while enjoying the company of friends we hadn’t seen in months. If we weren’t already married, I would have proposed to him right then and there.
...Which Can Make You Appreciate Each Other More
Parenting is a huge adventure full of challenges that bring out new capabilities and highlight character attributes you never realized you had. The same goes for your partner, and seeing them figure those things out can be a huge turn on and, as result, make you love them even more. Plus, challenges often deepen a great partnership, and parenthood is usually the kind of positive challenge that tests you just enough to make you fear what would happen if you failed, and appreciate life all the more when you succeed, together.
You Appreciate Your Alone Time More
Being alone together feels like such a treat when you’re so used to having your kids consume all of your focus and energy. The first time I felt well enough to sit at our dining room table and have dinner with my partner a week or so after giving birth, just sitting and eating together in our own house felt like a fancy date night because we’d been spending so much time keeping up with our demanding newborn, and so little time just being us.
Parenting Heightens Your Sense Of Being A Team
Whether it’s splitting up chores and responsibilities, or having to tag-team during especially tough bedtime or other battles, you definitely become more than a couple when you have kids. You become a team, united by your commitment to keeping your kids alive and happy (and honestly, sometimes, united against your kids’ best efforts to avoid sleeping and get into as much danger as possible.)
Parenthood Deepens Your Sense Of Vulnerability…
Nothing has ever made me feel as vulnerable as motherhood. It has made me so aware of how dangerous the world can be, and how random life is. I used to be able to pretend I had far more control over myself and my life than I did, whereas now I really have to acknowledge and find ways to deal with the fact that I constantly depend on others to keep myself and my child safe. That is incredibly scary and unnerving at times, but it has also forced me to pay more attention and become way more present in life. That attentiveness has made life much more satisfying.
...Which Helps You Embrace Vulnerability In Your Other Relationships
Actually allowing myself to be vulnerable has made my relationships so much more satisfying, especially my relationship with my partner. Now, instead of approaching conflicts as opportunities to maintain control and come out on top, I’m actually willing to admit when I’m feeling hurt or when I’m not getting something that I need. That inspires him to do the same, and we find ourselves affirming and supporting each other, instead of armoring ourselves and trying to win at the expense of our connection.