Does Having Kids Lower The Quality of A Marriage?

Does Having Kids Lower The Quality of A Marriage?

Really good piece sent to me by my assistant, Cindy, which is coincidentally written by a journalist friend, Elise. It begins by citing a pretty comprehensive study of 5000 couples in the UK. Here’s what they found:

“Childless couples ranked the quality of their relationships higher, felt more valued by their partners, and (shocker) spent more time maintaining their relationships, going on dates, and having intimate conversations – undoubtedly easier to do when you’re not racing through dinner to relieve the sitter or halting that crazy-deep conversation when the baby starts crying. Yet, there was also a fascinating gender divide: Mothers were happier than married women without children, but the opposite was true for men – fathers were slightly less content than their childless counterparts.”

So there you have it, people. Don’t have kids!

Makes perfect sense to me for all the reasons enumerated above. Listen, I’m a relationship expert with an incredibly even-tempered mature wife, lots of part time child care, a big house, a good amount of disposable income, considerable communication skills, and a realistic outlook on what a healthy marriage looks like. And I’ll be the first to admit that the parental life (at least with a 1 and 3 year old) is not as “fun” as being free to travel on a whim, make love whenever you want, and focus all of your energies on your relationship rather than the kids.

So there you have it, people. Don’t have kids!

Yeah, it’s not quite that simple. “All couples, whether they have children or not, experience the same declining levels of happiness as the years go by – feeling under-appreciated, lack of sex, decreased communication skills, financial issues. Having kids just accelerates the speed at which those problems occur,” family and relationship expert Laurie Puhn, author of “Fight Less, Love More,” tells Yahoo Shine. In fact, one landmark study showed that couples are unhappier after the first year of parenting than before having children, but that couples without kids become equally unhappy after seven years of marriage.”

So there you have it, people. Don’t get married!

Of course, that’s not true either, since most studies report that married people are, in fact, happier.

Moral of the story is that if you’re a happy single person, you may be happier when you’re married.

Moral of the story is that if you’re a happy single person, you may be happier when you’re married. If you want kids, have kids, but realize that while you’ll enjoy your children, you’ll have less time to focus on the relationship. And don’t be surprised when the luster of new love wears off; it’s how you enjoy life AFTER it does that determines whether you’ll be happily married or not.

Share this on your Facebook page and watch both your friends with and without kids defend their worldview… 🙂

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  1. 1
    soul sister

    This blog is kind of similar to the last one, in that it highlights what happens after a relationship goes stale.   Whether from kids, or from time….what is it in our human nature that does not allow us the energy to really work at a relationship, even after the first bloom is off?   Karl R mention in the last post, most relationships end up being roommates/friends….and maybe I am a romantic, but I want SO much more out of one of the most important relationships of my life.  
    Why don’t we cherish it more?   If my husband enjoys a nice massage with candles and oil (whether it ends in sex or not), why WOULDN’T I want to make time to do that at least once every week or so?   Is there really any TV show,  or book, or scrap booking night with the girls, more important than taking that half hour or so to make him feel cherished?   If I want to have a nice dinner, music, candles, romance and great sex once a week or so, why is that such a hard request?   Surely my need for romantic connection is more important than watching a sporting event and drinking beer with the guys?  
    I know everyone is busy and life is busy….but really, what is more important at the end of your life, than to have your partner say “thank you for loving me”…or “thank you for doing the dishes and the chores so I could play more golf”….I don’t know, maybe I am unrealistic.   But I was a roommate/friend for 22 years, and all I really got out of it (besides my two beautiful children of course!) was a decent financial situation (that I equally contributed to)  and lots of help with chores.   I pray that I will meet a like-minded man, who believes that a fantastic, loving, engaged relationship can be a sustained reality, not a fantasy, if you are just willing to keep your priorities straight and work as hard on your relationship as you do trying to get a good review from your boss.   Seriously, who matters more, your boss or your spouse?   If you are too busy for love, maybe you can consider not having a partner or children.   There is no garden more important to tend to than your relationships with people you love, and the man who can do that for me is going to have a woman who will do everything in her power to make him feel cherished.   And it does take two.   It needs to be reciprocated.   Maybe not one for one, but overall, both parties are responsible for holding up their end of the relationship.   No roommates need apply…I can have one of those any day I want, with no obligations to them beyond paying my share of the rent.   And when they get too annoying, you just move out.

  2. 2

    I have very little relationship experience but have always wondered how relationships work with kids in the picture. How on earth are you in the mood for sex or romance when you were just on the floor playing with Legos with your toddler and making baby talk? It wouldn’t appear that the two go naturally together. I say this as someone who wants a joyous marriage as well as kids. I also disagree with the practice by a number of women to involve a guy in every aspect of their lives. How on earth does that sustain any kind of attraction? I don’t want a guy cooking and  cleaning the house,  that’s something I can do better – he can shovel the snow and get the oil changed. And I don’t need my husband and two kids to be the only three people I see 24/7 – that’s way too much pressure on everyone.

  3. 3

    It requires time and effort.   You have to model for your children that your relationship with your spouse is the most important in your life.   That is a gift to them for when the leave and cleave.   I mean, can we not have date nights, or carve out time of an evening where the kids have to entertain themselves or after they go to bed?   Go figure.

  4. 4

    My kids are 11 and 7 years old, compared to yours who are 3 and 1, I can tell you this – it will get worse before it gets better. But, in my expeirience,   ever since the younger one turned 4, i.e. from the moment I can leave the two of them unattended in the other room without fear that one will strangle the other, I have my life back! As children grow to the point that they can dress themselves and feed themselves, and protect themselves from their siblings, parents, little by little, recover the relationship with each other. You just have to survive the very early years.
    Otherwise, I think a lot of the fathers’ dissatisfaction comes from the fact that many  women, around childbearing and for at least about an year after that, lose interest in sex.   I think it is the change in hormones, but also your body feeling generally so out of shape, that sex just drops out of the agenda for women.   Obviously, for men it does not.
    I see the posters before me talk about the importance of making time for each other, doing things for each other, etc. From my modest marriage experience (13 years) and from looking at other couples around me,   this idea of making each other cherished is a theoretical concept we all subscribe to, but for one reason or another, does not work out.
    The good marriages I have seen (including my own) are the ones where the wife continues to be hot, takes great care of her body, and has lots of interests beyond her husband and kids.  
    As a special advice to fathers – you need to help/allow your wife to have the time to care for herself – exercise, eat well and generally do whatever she needs to do in order to be in great shape. When she is out of shape and tired, there is very little energy left for the kids, who nature has intented to come first in the mind of the mother, and practically zero, for the husband.

    1. 4.1
      soul sister

      Hi Kiki, I appreciate your comment, and I can see at this point in your life (with the ages of your kids), that being in good shape, having energy, and having lots of interests outside the house feels like it is working. I was that woman.   And over time, as we both pursued our other interests, we became more disconnected.   One day, when the kids were in their late teens, we looked at each other and said “hey roomie, who the hell are you anymore?”.   We were both in good shape, “hot” for our ages, had the beautiful home and the cabin, and had good kids.   But we never made time for us.   We did not find activities we could pursue together.   We did not make time to cherish each other.   The men, who typically do not have as much need for connection, think things are going fine….and the lonely, still attractive wife says “there has got to be a more fulfilling life than this one” and   off she goes. In my circle, upper middle class, it was happening like crazy…every woman I know who made decent money and had felt she spent her whole life doing for the kids and the husband, decided maybe it was time to connect with someone again.   Unfortunately, that was not usually her husband. Too much water under the bridge.
      So I do agree, I probably have some goofy idea that we can have a relationship that doesn’t break down into  chores and doing my own thing.   I am not sure what that is yet, but I know what I had was not enough.   There has to be something fun and positive that ties the couple together mentally and emotionally.   Maybe it is a shared passion, I have a couple friends who LOVE to play Texas Hold’em..they are always planning their next trip to Vegas, she wears hot tight dresses you can only get away with in Vegas, and they are wild about each other.     But they spend as much time as possible on their passion, and I am pretty sure a fun night at the cards table turns into a fun night in the bedroom too…not one saying to the other “sorry dear, I am SO TIRED…can we do it another time?”
      You cannot afford to NOT cherish each other, however that looks for the couple, when the kids are young and life is hectic, because when it slows down, you don’t have anything left as a couple.   The woman either leaves if she can take care of herself, or someone has an affair.   Because we are not meant to be just roommates and parents, our hearts will always yearn for more.
      So I agree, it is a theoretical concept that we can have a relationship where the two people cherish each other, but I am going to find him or be single and trying.   Maybe I only have a 5% chance of having a really great, connected relationship, with a man who is my best friend and lover.   I will have outside interests and networks, but I want him to be my top priority, and I want to be his.   I want to be one of those little old couples walking down the beach holding hands and talking because they actually LIKE being together.

    2. 4.2

      “The good marriages I have seen (including my own) are the ones where the wife continues to be hot, takes great care of her body, and has lots of interests beyond her husband and kids.”
      This is interesting.   What happens as women age?   Are they in serious danger of being in a bad marriage because they are no longer “hot”?   Such a small percentage of women over 40 are hot (by society’s standards) that it seems women should avoid marriage altogether because they will, invariably, no longer be hot at some point down the road.   Maybe there is something else that kept those happy elderly couples together for so many years?
      While having many interests can certainly help with being a happier person, and happier people tend to make better partners, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman claim that her unilateral love for scrapbooking is what saved her marriage.   I just think there has to be something else going on there.   What do you think?
      “As a special advice to fathers — you need to help/allow your wife to have the time to care for herself — exercise, eat well and generally do whatever she needs to do in order to be in great shape. When she is out of shape and tired, there is very little energy left for the kids, who nature has intented to come first in the mind of the mother, and practically zero, for the husband.”
      Are women in your country only capable of doing what their husbands help/allow them to do?   If so, I am sorry to hear that.   What advice do you have for men that live in countries where women do what they want?   Another thing to keep in mind is that any hint or suggestion by the husband for the wife to make some lifestyle changes in order to get into better shape can be met with quite an unpleasant response.   Given this, how would you suggest that these men approach the situation?   I’m wondering if your advice could also be helpful for mothers since, ultimately, they are the ones who have the power to change.

      1. 4.2.1

        You are neitger a husband nor a father, so you really can not relate.
        Besides, given the history of the misogynist comments from you, I really do not care what you think. Kindly respond with the same level of indifference to me, and find someone/something else to bite.

        1. Chance

          You have a very broad definition of misogyny, then, if you think my comments are misogynistic.   I believe in equal rights and equal responsibilities for all people, and I want women to be as successful as possible in finding a mate.   However, I find the constant blaming of men, and expecting men to change, to be counterproductive.
          I’ll ask one last time:   what are women to do once they are over 40 when most  people  (men and women) aren’t “hot” after that?   What can women do to help men help them change?   We all have the same goal here.

        2. julia

          The way a husband can help a wife have time to herself is to take care of children on his own once in awhile. And alarming amount of my friends are married men who WILL NOT care for their children on their own. So my friends have little time to get away from their children and take care of themselves. I’ve even seen couples where the father won’t even change a diaper. So a husband can help a wife by helping with parenting. I think men like you understand that, not all do.

      2. 4.2.2

        Chance said “ Are they in serious danger of being in a bad marriage because they are no longer “hot”?   Such a small percentage of women over 40 are hot (by society’s standards) that it seems women should avoid marriage altogether because they will, invariably, no longer be hot at some point down the road.
        It’s not how hot the woman is.   I think what matters is how hot she is compared to other women her age versus to how desirable her husband is compared to men his age.   If the 40 year old woman looks bad, but her husband looks even worse (and doesn’t have any other desirable qualities), he’s probably still not going to leave her.   Because he knows he can’t do any better, as bad as he thinks she is.  
        you also said “Maybe there is something else that kept those happy elderly couples together for so many years?
        Yep, I agree.   The less cynical world view is that when two people have so many shared memories and built so much life together, it is enough to sustain their love even if both of them become (objectively) ugly with age.   That’s what I’m hoping for.  

      3. 4.2.3

        @Chance, women still do the vast majority of childcare work. Even if a woman has a full time job she is still likely to come home to the “second shift” and end up taking care of the kids more than the husband does. This is not true in all marriages, but it is still statistically true on the whole. In recent years (the last 10-20) men have been participating more in childcare/household chores, but many studies have shown that even when men participate they tend to choose the fun jobs, i.e. playing with junior rather than changing his dirty diaper. If a man doesn’t lift a finger to help with the kids then there will be much less time for the woman to work on herself/exercise/etc. It is not an issue of whether he “gives permission” it is an issue of whether or not he steps in to do his share.

  5. 5

    I personally don’t think having kids lowers the quality of marriage, if changes it, that’s for sure!   My kids enriched my life.   Yes, hard work, exhausting and overwhelming at times, but the feeling of pride, watching them grow and become adults over the years makes be well up.   My kids are my best friends.   Can’t wait for the grand children!!   

  6. 6

    Soul sister,
    I fully, fully understand you. To the point, that your post sounds to me as if I personally wrote it, on a bad day :-).  
    I have moments when I ask myself, really, is this what I subscribed for? I wish he would really take the time to have quality time with me, romance me and court me… And I am fully aware that my kids are old enough to leave the house, we might have not much in common.
    Still, I am grateful every day, to God and to my husband, for the amazing children, and for the fact that he is a fantastic father. And for the financial stability that we share. So many people around me do not have one or both, i can not help but feel blessed.  
    I have thought a lot about what kills love and what kills the excitement for each other that new relationships have. I read this book, Mating in Captivity, but I do not remember if I got any answers there.
    For the moment, I have sort of compartentalized things, and my premise is that marriage is the best form for raising children. Two parents, a good mother and a good father. When they leave, I will probably have to redefine the meaning of the partnership with my husband, or allow him and myself to seek a better matched partner.  
    On a very pragmatic note, because you ask the question, why can’t we do for each other things to make each other cherished, my very simple answer is, because we want very different things. I am the one who wants, and is willing to give, candlelight massages and romantic dinners. He is the one who wants to be left alone to watch the game on TV, play tennis and golf for ages, get sex on demand and receive constant ego stoking. Sometimes I am willing to oblige, and sometimes I am not.  
    I do think hard some times, did I marry the wrong man, am I not doing the right things, or is marriage just wrong as a framework for a fulfilling relationship with a man? For the moment I am focusing on the things within my control, that is my behavior.
    Please let me know if you manage to meet the true soul mate.  

    1. 6.1
      soul sister

      Hi again Kiki, you sound exactly like I did back then…..he’s a good father, we are financially stable, it is best for the kids, I can endure this, I will stay until the youngest is 18 and during that time I will try my hardest and if I am not happy then  I will leave…..2 weeks after my youngest turned 18 I walked out the door.   While I have lost  much financially and have not had relationship success, I have never regretted leaving.   I think I do regret staying so long.   My kids are fine, both parents love them.  
      He was not a bad guy, but every time he said no to me when I wanted to do something with him, every time we included the kids in every vacation, every time I pushed him away for sex because there was no romance leading up to it, was what Maya Angelou calls “death by a thousand duck bites”   If something comes at you aggressively, we know how to fight back.   But when a duck bites you, you hardly even feel it so you don’t notice it.   But if they bite you a thousand times, there will eventually be nothing left of you.   Putting that in the context of a marriage, all those little rejections and no effort to cherish each other becomes a duck bite.     One day you wake up and there is nothing left.   I did tell him a million times I wasn’t happy, I asked him to read Dr. Phil with me, the 5 Love Languages, but he said no.   He thought if it wasn’t bad enough for him to leave, I probably wouldn’t either.   He was wrong.   Note to husbands out there everywhere: if she tells you she is not happy, you really, really need to listen unless you don’t care if she is not there!
      I don’t think the key is so much to find a “soul mate”.   I think that can be one of a million men out there.   IMO, I think it comes down to a few things:
      1).   Do you have a shared passion or interest that can give you mutual excitement
      2).   Do both people believe in continual spiritual growth (whether that is through religion or through Dr. Phil/Gary Zukav type spiritual growth)
      3).   Do  BOTH people feel accountable for the emotional  health and well being of the relationship.
      While I do think it is more rare in men to seek that kind of self improvement, I do believe it exists.   We  see men on this dating blog, they are interested in being  better partners, in learning how women think, in listening to what Evan says.    While  they may  be few and far between, there are men who also want to live an amazing life with a partner and not  just “endure” for the sake of the kids or a nice house or someone to help with the chores.
      That is the true soul mate I will be looking for…the one who says “hey, have you read  The 5 Love Languages?   What is  YOUR language”…add  some attraction in there and    I will have found my soul mate….

      1. 6.1.1

        Soul sister,
        From all the men I know today in real life, not a single one has read, or would ever read out of his free will, The Five Love Languages.  
        I fully understand you, and I wish you with all my heart to find a man with similar relationship values, but I am afraid you might be setting yourself for disappointment, by setting the standard too high.
        I have been thinking about shared passion – now wouldn’t it be great? Among all our friends only one has a shared passion, golf, and based on that, my husband is constantly bugging me to learn to play ( he does).   By the way, he does not make me unhappy. A bit bored sometimes, but he definitely is trying to please me and make me happy, sometimes he is somewhat clumsy. But I am under the impression that this is just how men are.  

        1. soul sister

          Kiki, I do know men who are willing to read books like The 5 Love Languages, but they are usually older men who are also seeking a different type of relationship.   Later in life, there are certain women and men both who start questioning if there is a better way and they (like me) become seekers.   We do not want to just exist, we want to create as great existence as possible.   We are done “enduring”…I personally know a few very alpha men who are on great spiritual journeys with their wives, and I have watched their relationships become much higher level.   Their wives are lucky women indeed.  
          I also know older men (usually 40+, but sometimes there are younger ones too) who have attended self help  workshops, women are not the only ones reading Depak and Wayne Dwyer, and are learning to become more self aware.   Granted, it is a small part of the male population, but it does exist.   That small population is the one I believe I can tap into…I have absolutely zero need to be with a man  who does not have interest in a higher level relationship.   I am way past child bearing years, earn an excellent income, have a wide social network.   While I love being in a relationship, I do not have a desperate need for one.   I am not high maintenance nor do I have super high expectations, but of all the people I know, only a small few have really enviable relationships.   And those have both partners dedicated to the happiness of themselves and each other.   If I seek that, I will find it.   I just have to put myself in the places where they are most likely to show up, and I am pretty sure that is not the neighborhood bar.   Yes, he will be a unique man, but he is not a unicorn. He does exist, I just have to find him 🙂
          I would love to hear what some of the men have to say about this topic?   If she is the woman you say you love, if she is the mother of your children and her happiness is important to you, why would you   NOT want to feed the relationship and make equal efforts to please and be pleased?   Why would you not want to ask her “baby, what do you need from me?”…..

      2. 6.1.2
        Peter 51

        Soul Sister,
        I relate to that.   I called them microagressions.   So small and fleeting that comment would be an escalation that made you the agressor.   But they mount up.

    2. 6.2

      Thanks so much for this.   I think it can be so easy to give out advice.   As someone who haven’t had as much experience as you, it was humbling to read this.   I also fear that my boyfriend would stop courting me.  
      Though, I don’t think I believe in soul mates.   At least, not in the conventional definition.   I think there are lots of different people out there who are good candidates.  

  7. 7

    Children REVEAL the quality of a marriage, not lower it.   The true test of a marriage is not how well a couple does when they can make love whenever they want, both partners are feeling and looking great, finances are easy, and outside stressers are low or non-existant.   The REAL test of marriage comes when, for example: a job loss causes financial distress, a spouse becomes ill and needs to be cared for, children come along and add more intensive labor to relationship, a parent dies or becomes ill, and the adult child of that parent has to deal with the grief, settle the estate, etc.
    There’s a reason why the traditional wedding vows are for richer or poorer, sickness and health, for better or worse.   Any couple can stay together when things are all rosy and cozy. No couple truly knows the quality of their marriage (and their marriage partner) until they weather a severe life storm together.  
    Then you know, you either had a high quality marriage, loving each other through thick and thin, or you had a fair weather marriage.

    1. 7.1
      Dina Strange

      Good words!

    2. 7.2
      Karmic Equation

      I have a friend whose marriage was rocky before they had their first child. The couple re-bonded through marriage. Had two more children. Then one child developed cancer, now in remission. Their children bonded them, but not emotionally, because their marriage is now sexless though cordial. They’re roommates.
      And I’ve told this friend many times, children shouldn’t be used as marriage glue. Because ultimately EVERYONE suffers. The woman because she knows the husband stayed in the marriage “only for the kids”; she because she knows she “used” her kids to keep a rocky marriage together and he wasn’t in it for HER; the man because while he loves his children and his wife has to resign himself to an emotionally and physically unfulfilling marriage for the sake of the kids. Yahoo. Right. No thanks.
      This couple weathered the storm and stayed committed. The children have a stable environment with two devoted parents. But the parents are both unhappy.
      So I disagree. Children HIDE or postpone the problems in a marriage.

      1. 7.2.1

        Sounds like this couple KNEW their marriage was bad, and mistakenly thought children would bond them together.   There’s a difference between being bonded to someone and being STUCK with someone.
        They certainly didn’t need children to reveal to them that their marriage was bad, they knew that before and during, and they know that know, only difference is they are stuck for awhile.  
        I have a friend going through that now, her youngest has Asperger’s and she feels TRAPPED.   She wants OUT, but feels she can’t until the kids are out of the house, and she doesn’t know if her youngest will ever be able to.   And her relationship was alway iffy.   I had to bite my tongue during her whole engagement period and wedding.   I suspected she wasn’t really happy with her fiance and was settling, because she was a never married 30 something.   Marriage didn’t fix their relationship, neither did the kids.   Neither does the food or wine she consumes in mass quantities.

  8. 8

    My wife and I have been married for thirty four years and we have raised four wonderful sons, all now grown men.   Our children have made our marriage stronger, happier, spiritually sound, and so much more loving.   The warmth and love our sons give us and the love and support we have given them have made them finer and more caring men, and have brought my wife and closer and more loving to each other than I would ever have imagined.   So in my opinion, yes, definitely, having children has raised the quality of our marriage to the highest heights of heaven.

  9. 9

    @ Soul sister.
    Men operate under the premise “if it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it”. At least the ones that I know, and I am even slightly envious that you do in fact know real life couples where both partners are devoted to growing together.
    From the type of   comments from male posters on this blog, I think they have zero interest in the type of discourse between you and me.  

  10. 10

    The combination of never being content and the constant opportunity for attention from the opposite sex, will always be Women’s downfall thus the decay of marriage and family. Its when you have to be a stepdad while someone else is being a stepdad to your kid

  11. 11

    @Julia thanks for the response.   I agree that many men could help out w/parenting more, especially if both partners are working full-time.   In that case, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be 50/50 (or 100/100, as they say).

  12. 12

    From reading some of the comments on this topic, and speculating that the gender of some of the particular commentators is female, my observation is that these particular commentators are vacuous, inane, and certainly not on the right-hard side of the mathematical curve that describes the distribution of IQ in humans!
    My comment is to the effect that if a marriage can last long enough it is likely to go through many ups and downs in the degrees of love, respect, and attraction   between the partners.   If partners love, respect, and accept each other, in my opinion it is more likely that creating children will certainly enhance the marriage.
    Children were certainly an significant factor as to why I wanted to marry my wife, obviously not the only one.   I still admire, appreciate, am in awe by the some the things she does (that I have no skill/ability at),   enjoy her presence, listen to and accept her advice, plan and participate in efforts that impact both of us, make love (and still think that she is “hot”!), and talk.   We have been doing this for now 30 years and have three grown children.
    What I sensed in some of the comments was a lack of appreciation (?) of the statement of the marriage vows, regarding “for better and for worse”, “for sickness and in health”. “for richer and for poorer”.   When partners get married, it should (but not always is) under the auspices of accepting the totality of the other person.   The totality includes the physical, intellectual, psychological, experiential aspects; the fact that some commentators cannot accept the fact that they and their partners inevitably  age  (particularly past age 40) is a reflection of their lack of maturity and intellectual depth.   I am thankful that my wife is the opposite of that!

  13. 13

    yes love being a mother but the same man got boring. married three times and i love to work my children have a school life

  14. 14

    If you have children together, just try to still make time for each other, try to spice things up, buy some new lingerie, go on date nights, whatever it takes. You can still have fun together.

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