Last month, as I was eating dinner at a new restaurant in Austin called Eleven Plates, I noticed Dennis Quaid and his wife, Kimberly Buffington-Quaid, talking to one of the servers at the bar. I don’t usually stare at celebrities, but in this instance, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Dennis looked unhappy, withdrawn, almost defeated. Kimberly looked like she was trying to make an effort, but still seemed sad underneath it all. As they slowly walked out the door, I couldn’t help but wonder, why did they look so miserable? Did they have a bad meal? Were they unhappy with their service? But it was so much more than that. Then it hit me. With two young children, four-year-old twins, at home, they are no doubt going through the toughest stage in a marriage. Maybe they’re having marital problems?
Fast-forward a few weeks, and here we are reading the headline: Dennis Quaid’s Wife Files for Divorce. According to court papers, Buffington-Quaid says she is filing for divorce because things have “become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities.” Are they, yet, another Babyproofing casualty?
It is critical for couples to know that, once they become parents, they must Babyproof Their Marriage. Once we bring the babies home, most, if not all, of us face the following key issues during the early parenting years:
- Post-Baby Sexual Disconnect – Coitus Non-Existus. His sex drive doesn’t change. She wants to shut down the factory while caring for the most recent offspring.
- Great Mom and Dad Divide – Men and women respond differently to parenthood. The Mommy Chip hums 24/7 while Dad’s driving himself crazy with Provider Panic, that hardwired laser-like compulsion to provide for the growing family.
- Scorekeeping – The endless tit-for-tat over who does what and when. That mental scorecard, or in some cases that OCD handwritten list on the fridge, tracking the division of labor. At any given moment, we all know the score, but no one ever wins this inexhaustible game.
- Family Management – Once a baby hits the scene, the in-laws (aka: the outlaws) and your own parents, while they remained on the sidelines before the kids—SUDDENLY—come out of the woodwork… in full force.
- Balancing Time and Priorities – Once we become parents, ‘me time’ and ‘couple time’ takes a huge hit. Husbands and wives fight over free time like wolves circling scraps of raw meat.
Babyproofing Your Marriage offers over 200 solutions to tackle these common problems. We don’t suggest anything we haven’t tried ourselves. If you would like to read more about Babyproofing Your Marriage, click here.
To end on a positive note, we talked to several older, more experienced, couples who gave us some good advice. Here are a few encouraging thoughts:
This Is Just a Stage
Many couples think that they will continue to have these problems for the next 50 years, and end up throwing in the towel. The good news is that this is just a stage. According to those with hindsight, couples in this early parenting stage are living just one chapter in the great book that is marriage. Hard to believe, but there are decades of sleeping in on Saturday morning, reading newspapers, sipping coffee, and having uninterrupted conversations. The kids, we’ve been told, will get older and quite simply, won’t need the same level of care and attention. One pastor told us, “I’ve counseled hundreds of couples at this stage in their marriages. By the time the youngest child is in first grade, most of these problems seem to disappear.”
“Couples need to remember that this is just a season. It will pass. You will have time and energy for each other again.”
—Nancy, married 30 years, 3 kids, 2 grandkids
Even Better News: This Stage Is Uniquely Difficult, So There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel
Most couples we spoke to said transitioning from carefree couple to partners in parenthood, is one of, if not the biggest, tests our marriages will likely face. Some research indicates that women are more likely to suffer depression when they have young children than at any othertime in their lives, including menopause and the empty nest years.
Maybe, if we all can at least intellectualize that this is not it for the next fifty years, the diapers and the tantrums (the kids’ and our spouse’s) won’t seem so traumatic. Maybe we can all breathe a sigh of relief and stop freaking out about how our spouse just doesn’t get it, and move forward with confidence that things will get easier with time. We may even look back with a smile on our face.
“Going through it, there’s nothing funny about it. After you survive it, it’s very funny.”
—Jerry, married 27 years, 3 kids, 1 grandkid
“When you have kids, you and your wife will go to hell and back. Your kids will take you there. Looking back, though, it was the ‘worst’ times, not the ‘better’ times that made Jackie and me as close as we are today.”
—Fred, married 38 years, 4 kids, 10 grandkids
“Being a parent is the role of your life. It is both the toughest and the most rewarding thing you will ever do. Even with all the worry and the self-doubt, in the end, your world grows as your kids grow, and there’s no question that it’s worth it.”
—Al, married 34 years, 3 kids, 2 grandkids
*Image from Associated Press, by Matt Sayles