The really critical danger-point for a marriage is after the second child is born, especially if there is an age-gap of less than three years.
Because that is squeaky-bum time; that is when not-much-time goes down to no time at all. And unless you both love small babies inordinately, going right back to the start, doing it all again, can feel quite poisonous.
Although doing all the new-baby stuff all over again is less fraught and frightening because you know what you’re doing, it’s more boring.
When the second child comes along, lazy husbands get their comeuppance as they are pressed into service.
At times it’s unbearable. And if you are the type who likes to shield their husband from things, to do absolutely everything yourself, the arrival of the second child is problematic because for the first eighteen months you need help. You cannot possibly do it all yourself – you do not have enough hands.
When the second child comes along, lazy husbands get their comeuppance as they are pressed into service. They have to get a grip and work out how to switch the DVD player on. They have to not freak out and scream ‘Oh God, oh GOD!’ at a particularly explody dirty nappy.
They have to man up and get to grips with dressing the toddler and not fume ‘He WON’T get dressed’ – looking at you like it’s your fault. They have to go to bloody indoor play from time to time and deal with potty-training mishaps.
They just have to get in there. And for a certain sort of man, losing their wife’s love and attention when their first child was born was just about tolerable, but losing their wife’s love and attention again, yet further, and having to do a shitload of messy parenting is a step too far.
Husbands need to be a bit more self-reliant and a bit tougher, seeing the bigger, long-term picture in which they will get their wives back one day, and acknowledge that life is difficult for everyone when they have small children.
There has been a lot of stuff in the press recently about ‘baby-proofing’ your marriage, going out for dinner once a week and all that crap. I don’t know what I think about that. Yes, as a woman you need to try not to totally neglect your spouse and/or blame him for absolutely every negative emotion you have in relation to motherhood.
In return, husbands need to be a bit more self-reliant and a bit tougher, seeing the bigger, long-term picture in which they will get their wives back one day, and acknowledge that life is difficult for everyone when they have small children; you are not in some particular hell – your wife is not particularly ratty and bad-tempered. That’s just the way that it is.
But from what I’ve seen, it comes down to this: you either married the right person or you didn’t. If you didn’t marry the right person, babies will tear your marriage apart; if you did, they won’t quite manage it. They will try! They just won’t manage. It’s just a question of luck, really.
If you can stay married until child number two is eighteen months old, you are solid.
If you can stay married until child number two is eighteen months old, you are solid. No matter how many times you’ve been to the brink or stormed out for twenty-four hours or been to see a marriage guidance counsellor, if you’ve made it that far you can go all the way.
Your children will claw away at the foundations of your marriage with their tiny fingernails … scrape, scrape, scrape … it will be death by a thousand paper cuts. But once the youngest is eighteen months old, two years old, you don’t think about divorce every day.
Maybe every other day. Then only once a fortnight. And once they’re at school, hardly ever.