A lot of soon to be parents, and new parents don't realize it, but having a child will be the single greatest challenge, and threat to your relationship that you have ever faced together as a couple. I certainly did not anticipate this. Sure, I expected things were about to change. I would be changing diapers, the days of wasting hours on video games was about to be greatly reduced, and my free time was going to dwindle as I focused all of the energy I had to spare (and some I didn't), on building a beautiful new family. What I did not anticipate, was how this would adversely impact my relationship with my wife, and how it could (and very nearly did) destroy us as a couple.
It is counter-intuitive, really. On one hand, your entire life now revolves around your new family. You are a present father, changing diapers, cooking, carrying this tiny human around like a god among men. How could your relationship not just kick into immediate overdrive, right? I mean, after all, this is what the culmination of relationships are supposed to be, isn't it? Well, yes and no. You see, with all of the sleep deprivation, and the focus on keeping that tiny little life, well, alive, you find that you spend what little time you have just trying to rest and not lose your mind. This gauntlet in the first year or two has a funny and very real side effect, you spend less and less time alone with your partner, and almost no intimate moments to speak of.
Some people have family to help them out in these situations. A mother or mother in law will take the kid for a weekend here or there, and the shell-shocked couple can slink away to a weekend retreat, a bed and breakfast, or maybe just a dinner and a movie (GOD FORBID). And for the people who enjoy those support systems, hear me: this is a wonderful thing that should not be taken for granted. Truly, not everyone benefits from such support, and those of us that don't, our relationships with our significant others are at even more risk than our counterparts'. My wife and I were on our own, despite both of our families living in the same state and being totally able and capable (this caused an additional layer of frustration I won't even get into now, but inter-familial bashing became a thing and it is NOT a healthy way of dealing with this challenge). It wasn't until our little man was 18 months old that I started to understand what my wife had been trying to tell me for months, we were growing apart and our personal relationship with each other was on the rocks as a result of that.
So what is a stalwart couple to do? Well, to put it quite simply, you put up or shut up. You can say "I love you" all day long, and buy all of the flowers, chocolates, and pedicures in the world, none of it will mean anything if you don't make time for that special someone in your life. For us, that meant hiring a sitter to be there every other Saturday so that we could go out and just be two intimate adults who loved each other. It always means a nice dinner, but sometimes we follow it with a movie, an art crawl, or just wandering around town aimlessly BECAUSE WE CAN. It doesn't have to be huge. It doesn't have to be a vacation to some tropical destination in order to reclaim your lost love. It just has to be the two of you, alone, on some kind of consistent schedule so that the both of you can remember why you made a whole new life and started a family in the first place. Really, having a kid is not the epoch of familial relationships, it is just the beginning. Once you realize that, you will realize the importance of keeping that intimacy with your partner alive and healthy. If you don't, it can wreck your marriage as easily as indiscretion or money problems. Don't wait until it is too late, make time now, or you might just be making hotel reservations for one.