Dr. Wall uses the occasion of the birth of his son new daughter two days ago in Cambridge, England, to discuss surviving marriage with two children.
June 24, 2010
Dear Brandon and Philly,
What with the birth of your second child, Lydia Sue, we’ve declared the 8 days of June as a Wall national holiday: Your wedding anniversary on June 14.Our anniversary on June 21 and now the birth of Lydia on the 22nd.And, of course, Father’s Day is thrown in there somewhere.We’ll have to find a way to celebrate as a clan in future years!
Hey, Mary Sue and I extend our prayers and congratulations to you on such a beautiful daughter.There’s nothing like the birth of a child to put the fear of God into your heart and to make you stand in awe.It also spells the demise of many marriages.I thought it might be prudent to take a look at avoiding the pitfalls and sharing some of my clinical observations on surviving the second child and the seven-year itch.
The average divorce occurs after about 7 years of marriage.It used to be 7.2 years.I think it’s creeping up to 8 years.The “Seven Year Itch” also refers to a movie in the 50’s with Marilyn Monroe that was based on the notion that men start itching for an affair after seven years of marriage.This popular myth, that husbands are out having affairs and wives aren’t, is a little unfair.Who are the men having affairs with?
What’s going on after 7 years?Why the sudden risk?The average age at first divorce for men is 31.8 for men and 29.4 for women.What’s going on then?
Here are some of the common pitfalls of couples your age:
–They are working through graduate school or just starting out in their careers.It takes a ton of time and effort to find one’s station in life: Crazy, crazy hours. But, of course, sooner or later, they find their niche and they don’t have to work quite so hard and the income finally is coming it, thank you very much.A lot of good that will do them, if they are divorced!
–They are starting families and just learning about parenting.Parenting has it’s own challenges as do children.Both present plenty of opportunity for stress and for disagreements and for fighting.
–They are broke, broke, broke.No money.No furniture.Many start buying houses before they can really afford it.Debt starts creeping up.Student loans come due and cannot be deferred anymore.They’ve suffered with junkers for years and they gotta get a decent vehicle and now they are looking at their van payment and then they both work so they end up with two vehicle payments and they’ve been in school and working hard for 10 years and the kids are getting to that point we gotta do stuff with them so they go out and buy an RV or boat or a four-wheeler to finally have some family time, ‘cuz you only have the kids for so long and then they are gone and all of a sudden they are looking at debt that will literally take them 20 years to dig out of and it’s so discouraging and disheartening that it’s hard to be in a good mood and so they are testy and depressed and tired and stressed and overwhelmed and then they blame all these problems to their spouse.She or he got me into debt.I can’t live with someone who’s in a bad mood all the time.
–Work and career advancement and kids and running a household all take their time away from each other.The couple hangs out alone less.Their “couple time” equals family time.They don’t have time to chat, to cuddle, to relax, to chill, to go for walks alone.There’s no money or time for dates.They don’t have fun with just the two of them.Their socialization is with kids or with people with kids.This starts a long-term problem of disconnect.They don’t have common interests anymore because they don’t have time to develop them.Often, his social life revolves around his work and hers around the kids.These roles can easily be the opposite.Regardless which gender is doing what, these two are separate worlds.The word “roommates” enters their vocabulary.They don’t have time to connect.
–Sex and affection gets put on the back burner.It could be him.It could be her.But at least one of them has NO energy for sex.Why would I want to be sexual with you if you are never here?Why would I want to be sexual with you if you are preoccupied with the kids or the computer or your stupid job or your studies?Where am I in all this?And then, after spending absolutely NO time with me you want to have sex with me?So all I’m good for is sex?Then you can hear the other partner complaining:You must not love me.You won’t touch me.You turn away from me.You are repulsed by me.You are not interested in being my husband or wife.You just want my check.Here comes that roommate word again….So now they both have hurt around sex and sex was supposed to be this great thing, right?This great bonding-us-forever kind of deal?And we’ve got problems with this?What hope is there for us?Maybe I could find someone out there who would LOVE to be sexual with me.I deserve that.Maybe I could find someone out there who would LOVE to LOVE me first and not be so hung up on sex all the time.Maybe.Maybe.Maybe.
–Someone else starts flirting with one of them and it feels so good that its darker side is lost.The soul is empty by then.It feels like water in a desert.Of course, it’s a mirage.Sand doesn’t make a very good cocktail or after dinner drink either.But by then it’s too late and the hurt has started.Trust is lost.Will we ever find it again?
-Porn seems like an option.Better to do that than to fight about sex, right?That credit card looks so tempting.I’ll just have a beer after work.It’s no big deal.Two beers?Yeah, I can drink too beers and it doesn’t affect me at all.Welcome to the thirties and the era of addictive behavior.Just shy of midlife, right between being a teenager and finally growing up, people often revert to earlier escapes of choice to avoid the problems they are facing.Stresses are running high.Schedules are running tight.Nerves are running ragged.Sleep starts to be illusive.High stress, low sleep and one’s perseverance go down the toilet.Earlier resolve turns to mush.How are the mighty fallen.They had such promise.Had.Had.Had.
I would never want to be your age again.Oh, the agony.The bills.The never ending bills.We could never get the doctor and hospital paid off.Loved the kids, though.Loved each other, though.We made it through.Intact.We pray you do, too.So far you are doing awesome and are a real inspiration.We are very proud of you.
Here are a few pointers to make it though these challenging years:
Get out and stay out of debt.Stay out of debt.Stay out of debt.Get out of debt and stay out of debt.This is one thing we didn’t do well enough and it kicked us in the butt.It’s a big price to pay.Talk about your bills and income regularly.Agree on your budget.Save for a rainy day.Use cash instead of credit.Cash means you are a realist.Cash means you are growing up.Credit means you are putting your current wants in front of your future.Another word for that is immature.This is what children do: Live for today.Mature adults can wait. Don’t buy anything you can’t pay for today.Right now.No cash, no deal.Period.If you can’t afford it you don’t deserve it.I don’t care how long you’ve “suffered.”Compared to the rest of the world you are living like a king.You can wait.
Sleep together every night with NO kids in the bed.Watching cartoons in mom and dad’s bed for 15 minutes on a Saturday morning is fine or cuddling with mommy or daddy in bed for 20 minutes when the child has an earache is fine.But NOT all-night.It’s a rare privilege.Mom and dad’s bed is sacred ground.It is a place where children need to fear to tread.Guard it for their emotional wellbeing and your own sanity and privacy.Teach your kids to comfort themselves.They can cry themselves to sleep.It’s Okay.If, every time your child is upset, you have to be the one to calm them down, you are training them to not have a clue how to deal with problems that come their way.They will need someone else to comfort them.These kinds of folk make very needy and not very healthy spouses!It’s Okay to comfort them now and then or to be comforting.But then teach them how to pray to Jesus, and how to talk themselves down.And then leave the room.Let them figure it out.Let them learn to be alone and not afraid.
I have literally had clients with 7-year olds in their beds.These parents will NOT be talked out it by me.It’s a bad, bad habit.They are creating a monster and the child is basically determining the parents’ love making and cuddling and bonding routine!YIKES!!!!These kids need to be FIRED from their jobs and TODAY!As long as a child is in my clients’ bed any other therapy I try is a waste of time.It’s symbolic of the fact that they are NOT a couple!
Can I stress this enough?Family time is awesome with the whole clan doing fun things.Great.Most families do well at this.But: You need alone time.Just you two.No kids.I don’t care how you get it, but you must get it.It is like the number one thing that young couples with kids ignore.If you don’t hang out alone, flirting with each other, teasing each other, making love with each other, bantering with each other, and having fun and developing your common interests, as both of you change your interests over time and as you mature, if you don’t do this, you will wake up in different universes and your kids will be calling via Skype here and there, but mostly your house will not have any pitter patter of little feet any more and you will wonder where the years went and how did I end up with this person that I can’t even stand to be around?!!!!And I have to do this for the rest of my life?Are you kidding me?AHHHH!
Please develop your common interests.Please have interests beyond your kids and beyond your careers.Have interests that have NOTHING to do with either.Just you two.Your mom loves to quilt.Quilting has nothing whatever to do with nursing.I will never be a quilter.I have NO desire to be a quilter.I love that she quilts.I support her quilting.I encourage her quilting.I’ll even go with her to a quilt store and not complain.Then, after 10 minutes I go find something else to dawdle with.We love to motorcycle.We love to camp.We love to eat.We love to travel.We love to travel with our motorcycle and camp and eat out and eat around the campfire.Kids can be with us sometimes.That’s fine.But we don’t need kids around to enjoy it on our own.Camping has nothing whatever to do with nursing or counseling other than me getting on my clients’ cases to develop whatever in common with each other.I will take NO excuses.Don’t tell me you are two (too?) different individual people and you have nothing in common.FIND something in common and develop it and enjoy it and plan for it and save for it and anticipate it and dream about it and do it and do it and do it again and have a ball.And while you are at it, tease and flirt with each other and have a ton of affection and make love.
Please.Please.Please do this.The divorce courts are full of lonely people who HAD great intentions.Great intentions and a buck five will get you a cup of coffee at McDonalds.
With Love and Admiration,
Dad, Bing, Your Faaaather, etc.
Check out these other blogs by Dr. Wall:
Dr. Wall continues his series on roommates vs. husband and wife by looking at the temptation parents have to invest in their kids and ignore each other. This is fine for roommates; not for husband and wife.
Dr. Wall proposes we find creative solutions to our relationship problems by introducing fun into the equation.
Dr. Wall gives some common sense, cheap fixes in the marriage bedroom to warm up your lives together.
Dr. Wall theorizes that marriage problems increase as debt increases and that one sure-fire way to improve your marriage is to start working together as a team on knocking your debt out ASAP!