Meet Chris and Jessica. Chris is a successful video producer who has abundant energy, and Jessica is a graphic designer. They’re a fun couple to be around. They married in their mid-thirties and soon had a child. Now two and a half, that little bundle named Ethan affected their marriage in several ways.

There was certainly a physical impact. Jessica is petite, and carrying her preborn child was a significant strain on her tiny body. After Ethan’s arrival, her postpartum weight loss came easily, although Jessica’s energy levels took longer to recover. In fact, these days she’s pretty tired. Lately Ethan tends to get up a couple of times per night, and that’s cut into Chris and Jessica’s sleep. They’re big coffee lovers now, depending on the caffeine to keep them going throughout the day. They don’t remember the last time they had a good night’s sleep.

Chris and Jessica’s sexual relationship has been altered by their general lack of physical stamina, this interrupted sleep schedule, and Ethan’s other ongoing needs. These days, going to bed at 8 p.m. seems like a good idea—and that’s so they can sleep … nothing more.

The kind of romance they enjoyed regularly has been relegated to special occasions. Despite their desires to resume that part of their life, it’s just not happening. This is just a season, they tell themselves, and they both look forward to when they’ll be getting more sleep and have the sexual intimacy they once enjoyed.

Emotionally, Jessica and Chris will tell you they’re doing okay. They’re settling into their parental roles, adjusting to the demands of parenting. Chris gets encouragement in his fathering from the guys at work, and several of them are in a similar season. He still has time to play football on weekends.

Jessica is developing a new graphics business out of their home, and is often caught up in the busyness of that. Still, she makes time for her friends and gets a gals’ night out every few weeks. So they feel like they’re getting some quality time to keep sane.

Truthfully, though, some struggles are going on below the surface. Jessica is consumed by Ethan’s needs, and seems unavailable for Chris when he comes home in the evenings. They used to have some great talk time, but now that’s gone. Jessica is usually less interested in what happened in Chris’s day, and much more interested in what Ethan did, or how he is feeling.

And Chris is starting to resent that.

Practically, while Ethan needs diapers and baby food, there hasn’t yet been a huge financial hit. Around the house, certainly they’ve had to baby-proof the place, but it’s been a pretty natural adjustment for them. Besides, it is kind of fun to have this bundle of joy and energy … these days he’s always exploring and is learning so much!

One area of life they’re having a bit of trouble with is “together time.” While they pursue their separate interests and hobbies, Chris and Jessica aren’t doing as much together as they used to. It’s hard, because Ethan is at a particularly demanding stage. As a toddler, he tends to get into things around the house, makes messes, and needs a lot of supervision. His bedtime is so early, Chris and Jessica can’t get out for dates—and besides, who can they trust to take care of the baby? They’re concerned with his safety and well-being, so finding a trustworthy babysitter seems impossible.

Does this sound familiar? It will.

Chris and Jessica’s story may be yours.

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They’re the poster couple for a simple truth: Your marital relationship will change significantly when your baby comes. So here are four tips to help your marriage survive a new baby.

1. Stay connected as husband and wife.

Make room in your schedule for daily talk times and weekly dates. Do things together as a family. Hang out at the park with parents who also have young kids. Develop routines like Thursday night pizza or Sunday afternoons. Take family hikes or bike rides.

2. Remember that your mate is not your enemy.

Your spouse is the love of your life, and you need to treat him or her as such. Don’t get angry with each other. Don’t blow up when one of you is exhausted and really needs help. Extend lots of grace. Follow the scriptural admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

3. Remember that your child is not your enemy.

You love this little baby, really you do! So don’t for a minute think she is an enemy to your marriage. Yes, she will demand a lot of you, and she will extract a lot of your spouse’s energy and attention. But she’s your child, and you have a tremendous responsibility to raise her well. It’s your job to allow her needs to dictate a lot of your choices and activities as a couple—for now. And that will impact your marriage.

4. Get some sleep.

Take turns wearing earplugs. Seriously. Buy some Mack’s Silicone Earplugs and learn to love ‘em! I didn’t want to consider earplugs, but my wife, Dena, started using them and it became apparent she was sleeping well—while I didn’t, because our son kept waking me during the night. When you are desperate for sleep, wear earplugs. Alternate turns, so at least one of you gets a good night of rest, every night.

Life is changing—for the better

Having experienced the practical side of managing the arrival of a new child six times, I can confidently declare this: If handled deliberately and carefully, the arrival of a child into your marriage will indeed forever change your union—but only for the better. Looking back on life without children, I can honestly say our lives have improved by nearly every measure.

Life is more fun, and it has more meaning. Having been forced to reckon with my selfish proclivities, I’ve grown as a man. My walk with the Lord has become more steady. In my wife’s mothering, I see God’s goodness. And in our children, I see His wonder and majesty.

Yes, a baby will affect your marriage, because a baby will change you in miraculous and mighty ways.

Adapted from First Time Dad ©2011 by John Fuller. Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.