A Sage reader asks:
“How does having children affect a marriage? In what ways does it make it happier? Unhappier?”
TAKE THE CHALLENGE
As a colleague often says, “If you have kids, you miss half of life — and if you don’t, you miss half of life.” As couples go from being husband and wife to father and mother, they need to switch back and forth between those roles with good communication and flexibility. The gift of parenthood is the shared experience of the unique child. That can only come from the two of you, and the love, protection and awe that is felt. The challenges are sleep deprivation, diminished desire and opportunity for sex, and the constancy of care that is required.
Children can be an impetus to work on a marriage rather than leave it as problems arise in the shift from couplehood to parenthood. Do not hesitate to seek help as most problems around this transition can be solved if dealt with sooner than later. Good communication, role flexibility and conflict negotiation skills are keys to success!
• Carol MacHendrie has worked with couples for 36 years as a licensed independent social worker, 30 of them in Santa Fe.
TEND THE SOIL
Having kids is like planting a garden — if the soil is untended, the flowers will be weak and pale. Having kids can help strengthen a solid relationship or drive a wedge into a shaky relationship.
Think of your marriage as the soil. The way you and your partner deal with the stages and transitions of children will determine the happiness of your marriage.
Remember this: You were a couple before you had children, and you will still be a couple long after you have children.
• Kelly Chicas is a licensed professional clinical counselor and a certified relationship specialist with Albuquerque Family Counseling.
A UNITED FRONT
To maintain a strong “couplehood” when the focus in your house tends to be “parenthood,” practice active listening, take time to connect for date night (at least once a month) and strive to create a united front.
You may be thinking, “who has time for this?” Try it for one month and you may find that focusing on your relationship has a way of reducing arguments and frustrations.
Plus, having a strong relationship while parenting means happier parents and remember, having children see what a healthy marriage looks like is one of the best gifts you can give your child.
• Hillary A. Bravo is director of Healthy Marriages, a program of Samaritan Counseling Center in Albuquerque.
A SOLID FOUNDATION
In and of themselves, children don’t have the ability to bring happiness or unhappiness to a marriage.
It’s the parents’ relationships — with themselves, with each other and with the children — that is important.
If two people don’t have a solid foundation, both individually and as a unit, then having children will amplify that weakness and increase unhappiness.
But when a strong foundation is present, raising children then can provide deep feelings of worth and satisfaction.
• Tamara Auger is a licensed professional clinical mental health counselor and a certified master therapist in Albuquerque.
Children are a “dangerous opportunity.” That means there is always a risk/reward in having children. The “opportunity” is that we always have a choice in how we respond to the challenges and blessings of parenting.
When they are little, they can bring you multiple opportunities to experience deep joy and delight. Their coos and hugs can overwhelm you with a profound sense of awe.
Adolescence, on the other hand, can be a very dangerous time that can bring fear and dread as children make the shift from childhood to become emerging adults.
The key to managing this “dangerous opportunity” is to develop long-term, hopebased vision, one that has a great support network tied to it.
• John Thurman is a licensed clinical mental health counselor, speaker and writer in Albuquerque. He serves on the board of The Family Lifeline and New Mexico Marriages First Project.