When you meet someone and fall in love, forever is a lifetime and you are excited. Every day with that one person who makes you tick, makes you smile, infuriates you but not enough to be without them, is a blessing. You get married and promise your lives to each other, knowing that forever isn’t long enough if it means you can be together. You weather storms in your life from jobs to children, and you stand with each other through each rough patch, steadfast and sure.

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For some, the dilution of parenthood, employment and hobbies make a marriage strong. You have grown from concentrated love for just each other, selfishly caring for the needs of whatever you want, to a more mature, slower love that incorporates another level of appreciation for each other. The thing to remember, though, is that parenthood doesn’t have to define you. Your marriage will feel strained at times: exhaustion, job stress, stress from the children – it all builds up. The strain is going to peak and trough throughout your life, and you may find you can benefit from Christian marital counseling to help you get through the bad times. If you can stand together, hands held and know that you are more than just parents, you are already winning half the battle.

Children change things in life, and there’s no doubt about that. You won’t be the same person you were before you got married because the simple fact is that you are no longer just a man or woman in love. You are giving into a responsibility to care for someone that is vulnerable, helpless and in need of you. Children still do not have to define you. You are still the couple you were before – you just may have grown up in ways you didn’t expect. Your marriage still needs to be recognized, applauded and cherished through every step of the way. If you take the time to remember that before you were parents, you were two independent people who chose to be together, you can get through those days where the exhaustion bores you to tears. You can get through the struggles of raising children, and believe it when people tell you that you will manage just fine.

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The key to a lasting marriage is to remember that you are still people underneath all the layers. You still have your likes, dislikes, and independence. The difference now is that you rarely put yourselves first, and you truly need to so that you can stay in love, in tune and ready for whatever life and parenthood throw at you. Your choices together as a solid unit are what will teach your children that love exists and they will benefit from happy, healthy parents who are in love. An unhappy marriage needs as much love and attention as a new baby, so take the time to put yourselves first and remember that you’re a couple in love – not just parents.