I don’t think I’ve ever solicited advice from other parents on keeping a marriage healthy. It’s not that I don’t need any—it just doesn’t usually occur to me to ask for it. Maybe I don’t know an awful lot of parents I would value such advice from, or maybe I’m just too proud to think I need it. Sometimes I do need it, though. It would be great to know an older couple who could be role models for us, but such strong relationships are rare in this world.
Conversely, the unsolicited advice that usually comes in torrents on any other subject has failed to materialize when I tell people I have a nearly-one-year-old baby and another due in February. I have had people tell me that kids are what drive couples apart, but that’s not usually helpful. I can say from experience that the presence of a child tends to shine a high-powered spotlight on every flaw in a relationship, but that needn’t drive a couple apart.
I’m writing about this because I received some unsolicited advice from a long-time reader recently. I usually resent it when people presume to tell me how to be a good husband, but this message seemed full of concern, kindness, and hard-earned wisdom (she is the mother of four, and the first three came within 36 months of each other):
Babies can fill your life in a wonderful way, but please guard your marriage more than ever as you become consumed with wonder over the new lives God is entrusting to you. Your wife needs your love and thoughtful care and concern more than ever at this time-I know because I was pregnant once while caring for a one year old and once while caring for a baby and a two year old. Help her as much as you reasonably can and put her needs (especially for sleep) ahead of your needs for other things. She will be better able to meet your needs if you do this. Pamper her when you can. Now and then, instead of taking care of the baby for her, arrange for somebody else to take care of the baby (at their house) and bring home her favorite take-out and a great movie and give her an I-love-you-and-I-don’t-expect-anything-from-you backrub. Babies take a lot out of their moms physically (both before and after they are born). The more you care for her physical needs (read: sleep), the more she can care for yours. That’s the best advice I can give you. Like you wanted it. I just so remember how I felt and what I needed, I want your wife to get the advantages of our hindsight.
If any of you have other great advice like that, please share it.