As a twin parenting expert I'm fascinated by this scary statistic: The rate of divorce amongst parents of multiples is higher than the national average? Yup. Thanks to the amazing amounts of stress from pregnancy, financial strain and sheer lack of sleep, parents of multiples often turn to the dark side and can't get themselves back to the light. Problems in marriage after a baby aren't isolated to just the multiple birth community though! In my book What To Do When You're Having Two my final chapter is all about marriage (titled "Batman and Chocolate Milk" which is a code for my husband and I) and I feel is the most important link in parenting.
No matter if you have multiples or singletons (what we call babies who hatch one at a time), making sure that your marriage is solid should be your first priority. Many folks are surprised that I say that. Many think that the babies are the priority, but in the big picture, your marriage is critical to their development so I put the emphasis on that. Hear me out.
I'm sure you have taken the time to carefully pick out the crib your baby will sleep in. I'm sure you have thoughtfully researched the right stroller and car seat. I'm sure you've had in-depth discussions about organic mattresses vs. conventional, but have you taken a moment to think about how your relationship will change? How will adding a new addition effect your roles as husband and wife? This needs to be an open discussion before your third trimester. You need to reevaluate your roles as man and woman and make sure that they will still work after the babies are here.
Maybe you have a marriage that resembles something out of 1942 (like mine) and your hubby might need some coaching on how to help out since you've carried the heavy lifting since the day you said "I do." Perhaps you have a spouse who has been more on the disconnected end of the universe and needs to be a bit more tapped in. Maybe you even have a high maintenance spouse who needs to make adjustments to their shopping budget so you can afford diapers. Any and all issues need to be put on the table before anyone says, "Congratulations it's a girl (or boy)."
If you find yourself losing your way, here are some tips to bring you back from the darkside:
1. Are you the person that you want your kids to marry? When it's 2 AM and you are fighting over a crib because you say she was supposed to pick up formula but she insists that he was supposed to do this, stop. Step away, take three deep breaths and ask yourself, is this ok? What am I doing? Am I proud of the way that I am behaving? How would you feel if your child (whom you are literally fighting above) married someone just like you at this very moment? Sometimes this will snap you right back into the moment and the argument will end.
2. Love and respect. It's as easy as that. After conducting a poll of married couples within Twiniversity, we found that men just want to feel respected and women just want to feel loved. Sounds so simple, no? Yet, why do we have such a hard time with it? Think about ways that you used to show each other these key elements of humanity. Did you used to buy her flowers? Did you used to consult him more before making big decisions? Go back to a moment in your marriage when you were both the happiest. Think about things you did then and try to reinvent new ways to recreate those old moments.
3. Never forget that all eyes are on you! You are the one that is setting the example of what a good husband or wife should be. Lead by example. If you taught your child nothing more than to be a gentle, loving, patient, understanding and flexible person, you've succeeded at being a great parent. If you are bitter, snippy and constantly defensive, what lesson are you teaching there? If you constantly bicker with your spouse over tiny insignificant things, what lesson are you teaching? Always remember that even the tiniest of eyes are always upon you and you need to set a good example.
4. Turn the lights down and snuggle (or more). Intimacy is a critical element of marriage. After a good roll in the hay, men will feel like the king of their kingdom again and women will be floating on cloud 9 if for nothing more than that intimate connection. The chemistry of lovemaking is healthy on so many levels that this article can't contain the words. When your doctor gives you the green light to jump back in the saddle, do it. Take it slow at first and especially if you had a vaginal delivery, be prepared for things to be a bit different down below. Arm yourself with some good lubricant and plenty of patience and you'll be back to your old tricks in no time.
5. And finally I leave you with: Don't lose prospective. The baby(ies) won't stay small forever and soon will grow and have spouses of their own. Make sure that a priority of yours stays your spouse. When your tiny tot grows up and moves out, be sure that you are sitting on that porch swing together entering your twilight years hand in hand.
For more tips on marriage pick up my book What To Do When You're Having Two which covers topics through the first year of your babies lives.
Good Luck and never forget... love and respect... keys to a happy life and marriage!