Do Children Destroy Romance?
Ask any parent this question, and they’ll probably laugh out loud. Do children destroy romance? Of course, they do! From the moment they’re born, these adorable little humans stash away shocking amounts of our time, energy, resources, and sanity. They’re masters of interruption with impeccably bad timing who require round-the-clock supervision and fill the house with strange new odors. Not exactly the stuff of fairy tales!
Before having kids, this was actually one of my greatest fears. I really liked my relationship with my husband, and I didn’t want anything jeopardizing it . . . including a screaming baby. Seven years and four children later, I’ve realized the answer to that question is more complicated than I once thought.
If you’re thinking about romance in the “fancy candlelit dinner” kind of way, then yes, one cranky toddler can shut that down in two minutes flat. But if you’re thinking about “I’ll love you for a lifetime” romance, children are actually one of our greatest assets.
How Children Enhance Romance
Children have the potential to knit husbands and wives together intimately. I remember sitting on the front steps outside our apartment with my husband shortly after our first child was born. “What are you doing?” friends would ask. “Oh, just waiting for our baby to stop crying,” we replied glumly. Shoulder to shoulder we sat, knowing one thing only—we may have no idea how to raise a baby, but we were in this thing together!
I remember when that same child was hospitalized six years later, and my husband held me as I sobbed. One gaze into his eyes told me he was the only person on earth who understood exactly how I felt. It was the same when she won the spelling bee and gave her life to Christ and cried because she was bullied and burst into our room to do a silly dance when she was supposed to be in bed. Every moment of our children’s lives is a moment my husband and I share together. Our love for them strengthens our love for one another. Our desire to raise them biblically unites us in purpose. Indeed, “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3).
Three Tips for Safeguarding Romance Through the Little Years
Of course, that doesn’t mean child-rearing is without its obstacles, particularly in the romance department. While children have the potential to deepen romance over the years, on a daily level they add numerous challenges. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at my husband over the din of crying toddlers and squabbling siblings and thought, I miss you! I miss us. So how do you nurture a healthy, romantic relationship with your spouse while raising little people?
1. Teach your children to respect boundaries.
Practice saying these two sentences: “This is Mommy and Daddy time. No kids allowed.” It may sound blunt, but if you’re ever going to finish a conversation, “Mommy and Daddy time” needs to become as routine as bath time. For instance, when your husband gets home from work, you can say, “We need ten minutes of Mommy and Daddy time. No kids allowed in the living room.” When you want to discuss something important (or just fun!) on a long road trip, tell your kids, “This is a conversation for Mommy and Daddy only. Talk amongst yourselves.”
It’s okay not to invite our children into every corner of our lives. In fact, it’s beneficial. By setting boundaries we teach our children that marriage is worth treasuring. We teach them that Mom and Dad are best friends who actually like being together. And we train them to anticipate the same special relationship with their own spouse one day.
2. Run away together . . . a lot!
It doesn’t take a PhD to realize it’s impossible to keep romance alive if you’re never alone together. Quality time is the lifeblood of a marriage. Unfortunately, time is the number one resource children consume. (Goldfish crackers is number two.) So here’s an idea. During the little years, why not skip anniversary gifts and invest your money in anniversary getaways instead? Or birthday getaways? Or really, any kind of getaway you can possibly get away with!
If you’re afraid to leave the kids, ask yourself why. Is it possible you idolize their well-being? Or perhaps you’re hiding behind them to avoid getting close to your spouse? Don’t be afraid to examine your heart before God. He will always lead us in the right way (Psalm 139:23-24).
3. Prioritize time in God’s Word.
This final suggestion may not sound very romantic, but it’s actually our greatest hope for cultivating a strong marriage. Many times I’ve sat down with God to complain about my husband, only to stand up more in love with him than ever. It’s the wildest thing! God is very “pro-Clint.” (That’s my husband’s name. Go ahead and fill in your husband’s name there.)
Even if he’s not a Christian, God is “pro-your husband” because God is pro-marriage. He will always draw your heart back to your spouse. When you’re resentfully tallying up who spent more hours rocking a baby in the middle of the night, God’s Word will humble you. When you look at your husband and think, I’ve been meeting needs all day long — take care of yourself, God’s Word will convict you.
Christ is the greatest advocate your marriage will ever know. He has good reason to be, for marriage is a reflection of His gospel (Ephesians 5:31-32). No one is as passionate about marriage as Jesus is, because a beautiful marriage reflects His beautiful love for the Church. In other words, Jesus isn’t just part of the believer’s marriage; He’s the strongest part of it. Are you tapping into His strength to keep your marriage alive? Or are you trying to build a healthy marriage all by yourself?
To Sum It All Up . . .
Contrary to popular thought, the birth of a baby doesn’t necessitate the death of romance. It just changes the way we must pursue it. It challenges and stretches us, often to the very end of ourselves . . . which is exactly where Jesus waits to meet us. Is romance difficult during the little years? Absolutely. Are marriage and parenthood costly, exhausting, and even painful? Without a doubt. But then again, the best things in life always are.
By Jeanne Harrison