Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Does having children take the romance out of marriage?

Are you or your partner hesitant to have children because of the effect it would have on your marriage?

I'm reading this book called Marriage Confidential: Love in the Post-Romantic Age by Pamela Haag. It's not about childlessness, but about marriage. It's very interesting, and it makes me feel about a hundred years old. Apparently things have changed since I got married in the last century.

In Haag's view, marriages alter irrevocably with the arrival of children. Instead of focusing on each other, the mother and father turn all their attention to the children. They become sexless partners in the business of raising children. One of my favorite lines is: "As far as erotic charge goes, one day you're sleeping with a lover-husband, and the next you might as well be in bed with a toaster." In this age of two-income families and "helicopter parenting," Haag suggests, there is no time or energy left for each other, or for a social life outside the family.The romance goes away.

I think back on my marriage to Fred. We acted like newlyweds for over 25 years. If we had had children, would that romantic feeling have been destroyed? Is that part of what happened to his first marriage? I'll never know. I do know that when I was raising my two puppies, everything was about the dogs, and I sometimes made their needs a higher priority than Fred's needs. Would it have been even worse with children? I don't know. Maybe this is just how it's supposed to be; you have children and marriage morphs into something different--but not necessarily something bad.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced this or worried about it happening? Is this why your partner doesn't want to have children?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kids or no kids, is a conscious choice. Even if its an ooops, the act was done by choice. If a wedlock couple cant, and adopt, its a choice. We have to live with our choices, and look forward not back. If we choose childless, the obvious is that romance will likely be more prominant. The key is, is balance. One must choose to counter the choice, whatever choice it is. I suggest that its how we balance are conscious choices with either more romance or more donated time to an activity that has children involved. This way, no matter what we choose the outcome, as we grow, will be thoughtful and meaningful at worst, and fulfilling at best. As a young person, this is how I find peace. I know any choice I make can be counterbalanced with a positive spin. That's my take away.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous kids are a conscious choice. They did not ask to be born. It is true that priorities change but it doesn't stay that way forever. Kids eventually grow up and leave the nest. I can honestly say that seeing your child when their eyes light up when you walk into a room is definitely more fulfilling than being on an endless honeymoon.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

I agree, Anonymous June 28. It is a conscious choice. You can also consciously choose to keep your marriage alive even with kids. So many people who don't want children seem to forget that they aren't children forever. Eventually they do grow up and leave the nest.

Professor said...

Meh... I have to disagree with the comment that seeing your child's eyes light up when you walk into a room is more fulfilling than an endless honeymoon. My stepkids and I adore one another, and they certainly light up when I walk in the room. But their fawning over me will never be more fulfilling than sneaking away and soaking in private moments with my hubby. Kids grow and our relationship with them changes. Our oldest is now 14, and the "crush" she had on me when I came into her life at 7 years old has morphed into more of a loving, adult friendship. My relationship with my husband, however, has never lost its honeymoon-ness. I believe it was Andrew Carnegie who said that it is imperative that a child understands that his parents love each other more than they love their children. Since we eloped many years ago, my husband and I have honeymooned in every home we've ever owned. And that will never change; should one of us end up in a nursing home, that room will also be our honeymoon suite. This is the gift of our lives. And kids aren't always a conscious choice (even "the act" might not have been done by choice), just as being childless isn't always a conscious choice. I agree, Sue, that you can - indeed, must - choose to keep your marriage alive if kids do become a part of that marriage. Because if priorities change - if the child becomes more important than the spouse - even for a short time (if you can call 18 years a short time), the chances of them getting back to where they once were could be a failing prospect, and 18 years of hurt feelings could be impossible to overthrow.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Ah Professor, your comments are always such a breath of fresh air.

Ellen said...

I think keeping the romance alive in your marriage is a continual conscious choice - regardless of whether you have kids or not. We don't have kids and I still have to work at maintaining a happy marriage. It doesn't just happen accidently.