Like anything in life relationships need to be constantly worked at, if you neglect yours it will fall apart, it's not always going to be chocolate & roses and realistically it would be boring if it was but there are a few things I have learnt over the past years about living with someone else, building a home and a family whilst still keeping your own individual identities.
John and I met each other in our twenties, we both had previous relationships which had ended and initially even though we got on really well neither of us wanted to settle down, I still wanted to do more solo travel and John had recently moved into his first home and was in the process of renovating it. We spent the first two years building up our friendship first, speaking weekly even when I was overseas then one day at the end of a great summer, when I was living in a van in Cornwall, I headed back home for Johns birthday and he asked me to stay, not leave again and I said yes and well here we are with two wonderful children and home together.
As with most people our relationship it's not perfect and has had it's fair amount of ups and downs but we have made a commitment to each other, have always been open and realistic about things but one of the main positive key points is trust, we trust each other and living with someone you know you can trust is a huge relief as I have been in relationships before when trust has been broken and it's simply never the same after that.
So how does having children effect a relationship? Well let's just say it's pretty much like a bomb going off in the middle of your living room, it destroys that comfortable and calm space you had before and turns it into absolute chaos causing extremes of emotions and feelings. On one end you will feel a love and a purpose to life you have never felt before whilst also being flung head first into exhaustion and sleep deprivation which makes even the most placid person irritable and at times irrational which is often taken out on your equally exhausted other half.
So what can you do to make sure your relationship survives such a tsunami of change?
1. Never Ever (and I mean never) have a child to *fix* a relationship. If your currently on the rocks a child is not going to mend it. You need to be really solid to begin with as like I said the change to your life is massive and you need someone you can trust to ride the wave with you.
2. Communication is key - there will be lots of times when I am sure you won't see eye to eye when it comes to various elements within the household such as parenting, work, the home, planning holidays etc but the main thing is to communicate with each other, explain where your coming from and try to meet in the middle rather than just having a huff because he doesn't understand your point of view (they really cannot read our minds so explaining things is key), here is an article on 5 easy ways to effectively communicate - simple but very useful
3. Solidarity - especially in the early days of parenting. I have breast fed both of my children but even so John gets up when the baby wakes in the night, if he is wet he will change him before passing him over to me. Even though this is not a big thing it makes me like I am not alone in this broken sleep.
4. Make time for each other - it's important to make sure you get some one to one time, even if it's just an early morning cup of coffee and then once you have recovered from having a child and feel ready you also need to work on regaining some kind of intimacy. It may not be the most comfortable of subject matters to discuss but it's a very important factor to a relationship. As with all relationships things can get a bit..dare I say...predictable and boring it may be worth just trying something new while staying safe with Durex - I mean do you really want 6 kids, maybe you do and thats cool too.
5. Be a team player - to make a relationship work you need to be a team, even when you don't always agree with each other it doesn't mean you cannot be a pillar of support. Parenting is hard but very rewarding and it can cause a considerable amount of stress on your relationship but only if you let it. Laugh a lot and learnt to relax and everything will be okay in the end.
It can be a hard slog as human nature means we won't always see eye to eye but thats okay, we embrace each other's differences and accept each others quirks but as long as your committed to each other, make time, put in the effort and want to make it work you really can.
This is an associated post