Mar 21, 2017

Love is hard work. And it's normal.

This photo was taken in Santander in September 2014, I was a couple months pregnant with Oliver.

Today, after leaving the house upset at Alex for the second morning in a row, I started thinking how our relationship has changed for the worse since we became parents. As my parents are divorced, sometimes I find myself wondering if this is a sign that something is really wrong. But as soon as I started writing about all that has changed and its causes, I realised something that we might sometimes forget when we’re angry, tired and frustrated: this is all normal.

We get on each other’s nerves a lot lately.

It’s normal when you go from being a solid couple who talks everything out and never goes to bed angry at each other, to being parents of two babies and losing almost all our couple time.

We really push each other’s buttons, and we are not as patient, understanding and tolerant towards each other as we used to be.

It’s normal when you go from using all your patience to make the couple work, to using it all (and more) to survive the day with a two-year-old and a two-month-old.

We rarely have an adult conversation.

It’s normal that after putting the kids to sleep, if we don’t have work to do at our computers, we just feel like enjoying the silence by being on our phones or reading a book. It’s also normal that when we do have an adult conversation, we most likely talk about our kids.

Sometimes we don’t even eat dinner at the same time.

It’s normal when dinner time together is spent trying to get some food down while talking Oliver into eating something, and making funny noises and faces for Emily not to get bored. Dinner has become more of an intake of nutrients than a family reunion.

We often feel like single parents, and this, too, is normal.

Alex leaves to the office in the morning and comes home in the late afternoon. He then takes the kids and cooks dinner so I can have some me time (and I do know that real single parents don’t have this privilege). Then we take one kid each and we put them to sleep. At night, Oliver is Alex’s and Emily is mine.

Sometimes I wonder how we’re going to survive this as a couple.

And I think the answer is a simple one this time: by knowing and reminding ourselves constantly that this is all normal. IT’S. ALL. NORMAL.

I think many couples don’t know/think about this: they have this romantic idea that somehow it’ll be different for them, that they won’t fight, struggle, feel like the couple is drowning. That love will always be as strong as the first years. That their heart will always feel in love. That you’ll always bring out the best of each other. That it’ll always feel easy to love each other and stand by each other’s side.

It’s really not like that.

A marriage is hard work. Love is hard work. You have to work extremely hard and non-stop to make a couple work—and you have to be more rational and less emotional.

You won’t always feel in love—but there will be moments when you’ll remember why you fell in love (like last night when I put my head on Alex’s chest and he stroked my hair while we talked, or the other day when he made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes). Love and passion will turn into something else sooner than you think, they’ll turn into trust, respect, affection, partnership—and if you accept it, you’ll see how it’s so much more rewarding and reassuring than just love. You’ll have to learn to compromise every step of the way—but eventually it’ll come natural and it will shape you as a couple and as individuals, for the better. You won’t always have sex: especially when kids come, sex will feel like a long lost memory for quite a while—but if you don’t let the guilt overcome you, and learn to laugh and joke about it (instead of making it into a tabu), eventually it’ll come back and it’ll feel as good and natural.

And even if you rationally know all this, doubting it all is also normal.

When you fight a lot; when you’re tired and don’t feel like spending time with each other after a long day; when kids take over the couple and the adults who were once partners disappear; when every little gesture and word of the other drive you nuts; when passion seems lost forever. Doubting is normal.

But I strongly believe that if love feels like hard work, we’re on the right path—because it means we’re willing to work hard to make it work. And I also believe that if Alex and I got to this point, after ten years together, a dog and two kids, none of this is a sign that something is wrong. It’s a phase.

And it’s normal.

Have you ever felt this way about your husband/partner? How have kids changed your relationship? I’d love to hear about it :-)

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Educating for the long term, Montessori, multilingualism, and full-time traveling life.