Thursday, April 14, 2011

marriage and the mom of multiples

I remember before Eric and I married, my mom and I were talking about marriage and my mom said, "Getting married is the easy part, it's when you have kids that everything changes."

Well, that's an understatement.  When you have one baby at a time, everything changes.  All of a sudden, the focus shifts from spouse to baby.  Where the priority used to be on the marital relationship, it's now on the child.  And it takes a secure relationship to handle that.  You're tired, your life has changed in the blink of an eye, and nothing seems to be going the right way.  It's so easy to take your frustration out on your partner.  Spouses feel left out and unwanted.

Ok, and that's with one baby.  Now think about with two.  I won't say that it's twice the work, but it's certainly more work than with one.  At night, we both got up at every feeding, so we both got to be sleep-deprived.  Eric was very involved, but in the beginning, I had a lot of resentment toward him.  During the day, he would get up and go to work (in the basement, in this house!) and actually work.  There were moments where both boys would be crying, and I couldn't handle it, and he was still working.  I felt like I couldn't do it, and he was working.  I sat on the couch and cried with a crying baby on each side of me, and he worked.  I couldn't tell him exactly how helpless and inadequate I was feeling, so my frustration would come out in bits and pieces of anger and nastiness.

One day I realized we were constantly picking on each other.  I would walk around all day with a list of resentments in my head-- "I did this, he didn't do that, I had to do this other thing, and he didn't even THINK to help with that other thing..."and at night I would snap at him.  I remember telling him that I was angry with him, and that I knew he was angry with me, but that we had to get along.  That, really, we had no one but each other, and we had to remember we were on the same team.  At that point, I am not sure that we actually liked each other very much, but it broke the tension.  My anger and resentment has not been as strong since that point, and I make an effort to let Eric know when something is a problem before it builds up like that again.

Eric and I are both lucky enough to come from intact families; his parents have been married 36 years and mine have been married 34.  His living grandparents have been married over 60 years, and both sets of mine have been married over 65 years.  We have wonderful examples of how to handle conflict and be respectful in a relationship, and wonderful examples of how to be loving and show affection.  Eric and I are both educated (hell, I am a relationship therapist!), and had been together for 6 years, and married almost 4, when our boys were born.  We had a solid foundation in our relationship.  Yet, having infant twins put a great deal of stress on our relationship, and I know from my perspective, it was the toughest time we've ever had.  I know that for people who are less mature, have more money concerns, fewer communication skills, having twins (or more) can break a relationship.  Divorce rates in families of multiples can be two to three times higher than in families without.

Fortunately, I think Eric and I made it through the worst of it.  We are so lucky to have enough money to live comfortably, and family nearby for support, because I think that lightens the load.  We are also lucky to have two happy, healthy children who are very low-maintenance as far as toddlers go!  We are getting our rest, we eat well, and we make time to enjoy all that we can.  There are still certain parts of our marital relationship that get short shrift... but in general, we are faring better than in those early months.

It's yet another side effect of having twins-- along with a high-risk pregnancy, you have a high-risk marriage.  Just like the pregnancy requires extra care and check-ups, so does your marriage.  It is so easy to lose sight of the marital relationship after children arrive, but it's so necessary to remember that a loving relationship between spouses forms the foundation for a loving family.

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