Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash
Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Ready for Kids?


My husband and I have been married for about four years, and for the past several months we’ve been going through a rough patch in our marriage. But lately my husband has been suggesting we should start having children soon. I’d like to have kids one day, too, but don’t you think we should work through some of our issues first?


“Your life will never be the same!” These were the words we kept hearing after the day we found out that we were pregnant. Everyone from the Lamaze instructor to the grocery checkout clerk seemed compelled to remind us that things were going to change. You know what—they were right! However, they were very wrong, as well. When we had our first child, our lives did change but it wasn't the negative type of change others were talking about. People had us so worried that life was over as we knew it. We clearly remember driving home from the hospital thinking, “Yesterday was our last day of freedom!”

Not only did we worry about losing our freedom but we were scared that we were not ready to have kids because our marriage wasn’t perfect—actually it wasn’t even close. Erin and I really struggled in our marriage during the first two years. I went into our marriage thinking it would be a piece of cake simply because I was the son of marriage expert Gary Smalley. Boy was I wrong!

The truth is that no one can truly be prepared for a having a child.

There are too many changes—both good and bad. The key is learning how to balance being a parent and a spouse.

What Erin and I have discovered is that balance is important whether you have a child on the way or have many children. The secret is understanding your mate's love language.

Because everyone is uniquely different, we all have particular things that enable us to feel loved. Love language is simply those things that our mate does which makes us feel loved or cared for. In order to balance being a parent and a spouse, we need to discover our mate's love language. However, this can be difficult. Sometimes we do things for our mate to show our love, but it's not want they need. This happens because we have a tendency to demonstrate our love in the same manner that we like to receive it. The problem is that our mate may need something totally different than what we may provide.

One simple way to discover your mate's love language is by asking what he or she needs to feel loved. We use the phrase: “I feel loved when you…”

We encourage you to write these things down so you'll remember them. However, when asking about love language, do not judge, disagree, or invalidate the things that your mate says. These are what is necessary for him or her to feel loved. Also, make your love language observable. In other words, instead of saying, “I want intimacy,” which is too vague, say something more specific like, “I need you to say you love me at least once a day,” “We will make love twice a week,” or “I need you to ask me about my day.” These behaviorally specific statements can help your mate to translate general statements into specific behaviors.

The best way to love your child is to love your spouse. Discovering your mate's love language provides you with an incredible way to balance being a parent and spouse. As you learn the unique ways to love each other, you will possess information that cannot be found in any marriage book. In order to keep this precious information from going to waste, we encourage you to ask one simple question. On a regular basis, ask your mate: “On a scale from zero to ten, with ten being the best, how have I done this week in making you feel loved according to your unique needs?” As you consistently ask this question, you will be loving your mate according to his or her love language. This in turn, will allow you to parent even better!

Greg Smalley, PsyD
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Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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