Last week I asked a few single friends about their views on marriage. Specifically I asked them to share what they most commonly heard about marriage and companionship. I wanted to know if they thought married couples enjoyed being married.
Both shared how most married couples they knew seemed happy but didn’t necessarily enjoy the relationship as much as they did when they were dating or engaged.
There are several reasons why couples don’t enjoy their relationship like they used to: the newness wears off and reality sets in, kids, unresolved conflict, kids, financial challenges, and kids (who lead to financial challenges!).
In general, couples do a great job of growing their friendship and companionship on the premarried side. Then they get married, pay bills, raise kids, and stop working on building their friendship. Justin Buzzard captures this tension so well in his book Date Your Wife.
You can read more about companionship and what I believe is the most underrated aspect of marriage here.
In fact it’s well documented that many couples start with high marital satisfaction. Then they have kids and those kids become teenagers and the satisfaction continues to drop until the kids leave the home. At this point many couples get divorced, or if they make it through the teenage years, then satisfaction often increases as the nest is empty.
We certainly experienced these satisfaction issues along the way at times. While we do believe children are a blessing and gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), we wholeheartedly agree that life was much simpler before kids. I’m not saying we want to go back, but we had so much more money, time, and margin. I hate to admit it, but on many days in the toddler years I wished the days and years away and longed for the simple days.
But it doesn’t need to be this way! Yes, marriage changes over the years and the way couples define fun changes, but your satisfaction doesn’t need to plummet. In fact Kristen and I committed to not allowing our marriage to follow the trend that most couples face. We certainly don’t have it all figured out, but our marital satisfaction continues to increase even with teenagers in the home.
What are some ways to buck the trend and enjoy marriage?
1. Change your definition of fun.
Sure, when we were newly married we had more freedom, time, and money. We ran together, tried new restaurants, and traveled. It was much simpler back in the day. But just because we have four kids and life is busier than ever doesn’t mean we have to be an old, boring, married couple. We have learned to change our definition of fun.
Candidly I’d rather hang with my wife and kids than any other people on the face of this planet. Fun looks different than it used to, but life is still a joy.
2. Stop using your kids as an excuse.
I’m guilty of this one. I blame our kids for all our problems! If we had less kids, we’d have more money, time, and freedom. And while this is true, I watch other couples with more kids, less money, and less margin still grow their marriage and have more fun than we do. I need to quit using kids as an excuse and instead create and look for fun.
You and I need to be intentional and can’t just sit back and blame others.
3. Date each other and don’t center your lives around your children.
Child-centered homes crush marriages. Yes, there are seasons that are more demanding and your kids are the priority. But it should be a season, not a lifetime. We’ve always made date nights a high priority and created a line item in our budget for dates and babysitters.
Click here to read how you can date your spouse according to the five love languages.
4. Choose to be different than the pattern of the world (Romans 12:2).
Just because the world says your marriage goes downhill after you have kids, acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t need to resign ourselves to being a statistic just because many other families struggle.
In fact, as followers of Christ, we better be different than the average family. We have all we need to pursue a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
5. Be intentional about how you spend time as a family.
Some good friends of ours are now in the empty nest season of life. When they had kids at home they put together a family vision, mission, core values, and family goals. Now that the nest is empty they’ve revised it all so that they can still be intentional with their time, home, and adult children. This family plan has allowed them to not be child-centered and self-centered, but mission-driven as a family and couple.
Patrick Lencioni has some great suggestions and ideas for how to do this well in this book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family.
6. You know each other more, so intimacy and trust should be greater.
Kristen and I are approaching 18 years of marriage, and with 18 years come almost two decades of shared memories as a couple. We have 18 years of conflict, service, ministry together, intimacy, and much more. As each month goes by, we solidify our marriage. I don’t wake up in fear of disappointing my wife. Rather, I am sad to leave her in the morning and can’t wait to see her after work. This takes years and years of effort to get there, but it can be done!
Celebrate each year knowing it takes hard work to make a marriage work. As you pursue the Lord together, your marriage bond should grow. I need this reminder in the midst of life and parenting challenges.
We certainly struggled in this area of our marriage at different seasons. In fact, we still do! Our kids are busier than ever and we spend a lot of our weekend and evenings car pooling and shuttling our kids around. We don’t date as consistently as we used to or as much as we’d like. But, we’re working hard to fight against the trends. I’ve seen too many couples choose divorce after the kids leave the home. I understand how and why it happens, but I don’t want this to be your story or my story.
What do you and your spouse do to fight against the trend of diminishing marital satisfaction? Please share so we can learn from each other.