Trying To Be A Couple When You’re Parents

Just like a boxer landing a knock-out punch with his first blow, let me hit you with an uncomfortable home truth. Having a kid can be incredibly hard on your relationship with your partner. Babies create extra stresses and strains on your lives, which can manifest in different ways between you both as a couple – friction, conflict, arguments and more.

Everyone’s relationship is different so I’m not going to lump us all in the same boat – for starters, there’s not enough life rafts. However, you’d need an incredibly solid relationship for the additional responsibility and pressure of becoming a parent to not impact your marriage / partnership. Just think of the impact that a lack of sleep has on your sex lives as a starter!

In fact, research by Relationship Research Institute (reproduced in this Babble article) shows that two-thirds of couples thought that the quality of their relationship declined within three years of having a baby. That’s crazy! To put it another way, nearly seven in every 10 relationships are worse off after having a kid. Jeeees.

The same study showed that 13% of marriages ended in divorce within five years of the birth of a first child. Let that sink in a moment. We’re not talking about getting divorced during the rest of your life after you’ve had a kid – this is more than one in 10 marriages breaking up before your kid has even hit five years old. With stats like that, why would anyone even want a baby?!

The missus and I have been together for over 10 years now and I’d say the last two – since Toddler L was born – have been the most challenging. We’re not in trouble as a couple, but we argue more, get annoyed more, apologise more and spend less quality time together than pre-kid. It’s not nice admitting that, but that’s the truth. It’s hardly surprising that your relationship can suffer. A huge part of your attention and focus switches from your partner to a little human incapable of looking after itself.

Out on a very, very, very, very rare date afternoon (aka day release) with this foxy minx.

A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on

Since becoming parents, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve spent time together as just a couple. Three of these were to the cinema, one was for an experience day we were bought for Christmas – which we got around to doing the following September! – and the other was an overnight stay at a hotel in Yorkshire. Even though some of these were only a few hours long, it was nice to spend a bit of time together and remember what life was like before Toddler L.

We’d both love to do spend more time as a couple, but we struggle a bit. The main reason being lack of childcare. Both sets of grandparents live 3+ hours away, my brother is an hour away plus works random hours and we don’t have that many local friends who we could call on. That kind of leaves us stuck with a toddler and usually stuck in the house. The one time we dumped her in the garden, the cops were called as her crying disturbed the neighbours…

The last thing we want is for our relationship to suffer because we don’t get adequate couple time. Yes, we have evenings at home, but it’s not really the same as a ‘date night’. Therefore, if we want to have wild, child-free hours, we’re really left with one option – a babysitter. Although we haven’t bitten the bullet just yet, we’ve been thinking about this more and more.

We’ve seen teenagers advertising their services on local Facebook groups, but that doesn’t fill me with much confidence. I’m not sure I’d trust them with my TV, let alone my toddler. There’s then obviously a lot of qualified people who do childcare as a job, but it just makes me feel uneasy about going with someone we don’t know.

A weekend away with no toddler or dog. Shit’s going to get mental. Or we’ll sleep.

A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on

Whichever way we go about doing it, the fact remains that we need to start thinking about our relationship again. For the last two years, it’s been somewhat ‘on hold’ as Toddler L has taken priority. Now that she’s getting older – and less reliant – we can start to think about ourselves as a couple again. Parenting can be tough, eh? And that’s not just the parenting side of things!

What are your experiences of relationships ‘changing’ when you’ve had a kid? Have you found it a challenge or did you take it in your stride? How do you balance being a parent and being a couple?

  • Harriet Parkes

    Of all your blogs (and I have been following you for a while, having acquired my own appendage 19 months ago) this is the one that struck home the most. Alone time / couple time / time when we aren’t ‘parenting’ seems like a distant universe that will never be traversed again. I can count the times we have had a night free of Toddler C (sorry to plagiarism here!) and on all three occasions one or both of us was so exhausted that conversation lagged and shut eye was the only. The one night (ONE NIGHT) I have been out on my own in the last 19 months ended in near disaster for my OH, fortunately for me I was 30 miles away and had promised to be home by 11 or else I think i might have had a phone call that would have sounded like it came from a disaster movie. We have managed to grab a couple of daytime cinema trips thanks to my amazing mother but even then all the conversation has revolved around was the little one.
    Truly terrifying statistic about divorce, especially as another early morning has resulted in my OH going to work in a huff because I complained he had forgotten to do something and he claims that nothing he does is ever right. Where are we heading? I don’t think to the courts but certainly marriage counseling if we don’t watch out.
    A word of advice on – it is an excellent service and I have been a member for a while but bear in mind you might have to interview an awful lot of child carers before you find the right one, and even then they are only human.
    Sorry to rant (not really a ‘comment’ at all) all over your blog but this truly touched a nerve – thanks for letting me know that we are all in the same boat, and there are others going through the same process

  • It is so hard isn’t it – and I’m sad to say it only gets worse with the more children you have. With baby no1 for us it was VERY easy to find a babysitter – he was the first baby in the family and his grandparents were falling over to look after him.

    Now we have three kids which are *ahem* a handful and there are cousins ect……. I feel so guilty asking grandparents to babysit.

    I am lucky in a way as my husband works shifts and my three children are all at school now so we do get time together on his days off (we’re off out for lunch today – woohoo) but I do miss those nights when you could head to the cinema or even just the local pub for a beer and a chat without the pressures of home life taking over 🙁

  • Man vs Pink

    I wouldn’t say the quality of our relationship has deteriorated, but it has changed. Access to/cost of trustworthy babysitters was not something I thought much about until it came to it, and a night out together is certainly a luxury now.

  • john adams

    Of course things change. It is more difficult to spend time together as a couple. I think it is harder still if you’re a stay at home dad as mums tend to have bigger friendship networks to call upon for support. Anyway, I have heard of Childcare as it happens. We have a couple of reliable babysitters we can call upon but we do get stuck from time to time so who knows, I may go banging on their door.

  • RachelSwirl

    The relationship takes a back seat whilst the kids drive the car in my experience of relationships after children. You have to make time together x

  • Thank you for this! We have discussed this at length too. The baby takes priority but it’s time to get back on track!

  • Tom Briggs

    It’s so tricky getting to spend time together as a couple with kids – my wife and I recently went out for our wedding anniversary and it was only then that we realised that we hadn’t been out together since the same date two years beforehand! We’re good, but it would be nice to think that we can go out slightly more often than every couple of years. Think we need to make more time for each other – easier said than done with three kids though!

  • Matthew Welsh

    It’s times like these I’m thankful of the close proximity the grand parents are. But regardless, the relationship will always need to be put on hold when there’s another person in the mix. Especially one that can’t wipe their own ass

  • Bradley Taylor

    Both our mothers live near London as do our grown up siblings and both our Fathers live in the U.S. Living in Harrogate, we have almost zero chance of free childcare from within the family. Most of our close (and by close I mean nearby) friends can’t even look after their own livers let alone children. But to be honest we don’t particularly want them looking after the kids because they’re not involved enough to even remember the list of allergies the two kids have let alone the cues for potty needs or signs of hunger. We just make the most of any evenings off we have and make family time the priority especially with the eldest starting school in September. There’ll be plenty of time for us after they’re in school and we can go randomly go for lunch or a couples massage, but for now. We’re drinking in the little family things while we can.