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Oh, Come On, Babies Don't Destroy Marriages

First comes love, then comes marriage ...

No matter how you've organized your life, if you're married and have kids, you know one affects the other. How will having a baby affect your marriage? It's not all doom and gloom, and neither is it all perfect.

The truth is bigger, messier, harder and more wonderful than any one oversimplification pretends to capture. Having a baby and being married is all about peaks and valleys. Here are a few ways becoming parents has affected my own marriage:

1. We're a two-person team

More than ever, we were a team. In those first few months of new parenthood, one of us would take care the baby while the other slept. Then we'd switch. If one of us needed more support, the other would step up to the plate. Like in any team, you learn your shared strengths and make up for your weaknesses. We have a common goal.

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2. Sometimes, I miss my spouse

We used to spend nearly all our free time together, but now we barely have free time at all. Date nights have to be coordinated with childcare and we're busier. That means less time alone. Sometimes I miss my husband, even though I see him every day.

3. I fell in love all over again

I watched my husband become a dad, and it made me fall in love with him in a whole new way. When you're dating, you look for certain qualities in a person. I know that when we first met, I was drawn to how handsome, funny and ambitious he was. But now that he's a dad, I notice (and value) his other qualities: patience, wisdom and selflessness.

4. The pressures of family life

A parent has a lot on her plate: life, work, taking care of kids, doctors appointments, summer activities, school commitments, bills, etc. All this can put you on edge when you're with your spouse. The stress of family life can, in turn, lead to stress in your marriage. The best thing to do is stop, get on the same page and determine the best way to support each other through it.

Both people are tired, you get bruised and banged up, you might doubt yourself and, sometimes, a part of you wishes you could just give up. But you're there together, and you motivate each other to keep going.

5. A new kind of closeness

When I was in labor, I told him I didn't want him to look. I'm not sure why, but I feared it would changed the way he saw me. He saw it all. In retrospect, I admire him for it. Now that we've been through "some stuff" together, we're closer.

6. Having serious arguments about unimportant things

Parenting tests you. I've argued with my husband about parking spots at Target or poorly designed sippy cups. In the moment, you're in a parenting-induced fog of frustration. Only later do you realize: Hey, that was dumb. You know you're in a strong relationship if both people can apologize and move forward.

7. An uphill climb

Not too long ago, my husband and I went on a challenging morning hike. Being parents feels like climbing those steep hills. Both people are tired, you get bruised and banged up, you might doubt yourself and, sometimes, a part of you wishes you could just give up. But you're there together, and you motivate each other to keep going.

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8. Enjoying the incredible view

Together, we've witnessed her first laugh, her first roll, her first steps. Watching your child grow and become their own person is the sacred joy of being a parent. Hardly anyone else will know your hardest moments or your most wonderful. That's your inner life. These are the peaks and valleys that make a family.

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Image via Twenty20/beorn

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