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How the First Year of Fatherhood Changed My Marriage, According to 12 Dads

Everything changes when you become a father — including your relationship. Here's what 12 dads had to say about the shift.

Being a dad changes who you strive to be, but becoming a dad changes who you are. Your sense of self becomes less about you, and more about those who depend on you. Almost immediately, all your priorities realign. One of the big things that also tends to change is the dynamic of your marriage. Having kids puts stress on your relationship, sure, but it also helps it evolve into something far more meaningful. The fact is that when you become a dad you will start to notice things — good and bad — that only your first year as a parent can highlight. We asked a dozen new dads how their first year of fatherhood changed their marriage. Here’s what they said.

We Appreciated Each Other So Much More

“Seeing my wife in action as a mother just swells my heart. During the first year, it was amazing to see the way she would comfort our daughter, or power through rough nights. It was just very inspiring seeing someone rise to a challenge like that. She’s said the same about me, too. I think we both learned a lot about ourselves, and each other. We did things we never thought we were capable of, and we worked together as an amazing team.” — Duane, 34, Arizona

I Became Less Stressed

“It’s weird to say, but I think I actually relaxed more in the year after our daughter was born. When I say ‘relaxed,’ I mean about menial, pointless stuff that used to really, really stress me out. Like, before our daughter, losing my phone would consume me until it was found. Tunnel vision. As a father, though, it quickly became, ‘Well, can’t worry about that now. The baby needs to be changed.’ My wife was grateful for my renewed focus, because it was about something we’d both prioritized.” — Tim, 37, Ohio

I Started Seeking More Approval From My Wife

“Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be the only one on the hook for making bad decisions, but I remember my first year as a father being a time where I would call or text my wife about everything to make sure I was making good choices. It was stuff like substituting food at the store if they were out of something specific. ‘Honey, they don’t have the 8-ounce mashed carrot baby food. Is the 12 ounce okay?’ I just didn’t want to screw up! About eight months in, my wife was like, ‘This shit needs to stop. Just do your best.’ And she was right. We were both first time parents, and neither of us had any idea what we were doing.” — Andy, 35, Colorado

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I Started Farting in Front of My Wife

“She started farting in front of me, too. It wasn’t intentional at all. One day, during ‘baby chores,’ I just wasn’t paying attention and one slipped out. That was the first time either of us had farted in front of one another. It was such a non-event, too. Totally not a big deal. We had a quick laugh, but then it was like, ‘Back to the baby.’ From then on, we didn’t celebrate the act of farting, but we both realized that it was one less thing to stress over.” — Adam, 34, Pennsylvania

I Learned a New Way to Compromise

“When it’s just you and your wife, compromises only need to work two ways. Baby makes three. Even though he couldn’t walk or talk, our son was now a part of the family, and we needed to consider him in all of our decisions. So, when it came to stuff like who would be home when, or who the baby would go with if we were running different errands, we had to compromise in a way that would make sure our son got to spend time with both of us, too. We had very different schedules at the time, so it was a challenge.” — Sean, 36, Kentucky

We Both Slowed Down

“The first two months after our first daughter was born were just ‘GO! GO! GO!’ We were up all the time, taking care of her, running errands, working, and all that. Then, after a few months, we kind of hit this groove. Our routine started to fall into place, and we actually found ourselves embracing those little bits of free time by just sitting, relaxing, and breathing. It honestly made everything else seem to slow down. Maybe we got lucky by not having to do so much ‘trial and error’ while trying to figure things out. But, hey, I’ll take it.” — Aaron, 39, Illinois

We Became Minivan People

“Yep. We took the plunge. Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. [My wife] had a harder time adjusting to it than I did because she drove a Honda and I drove a pickup. Vans are actually pretty cool. The DVD system. All the space. And, I won’t lie, it’s great for tailgating five years later. Neither of us were the type to say, ‘Oh, we’ll NEVER get a minivan,’ but I don’t think we ever really imagined what it would be like to actually drive one. It’s not any less manly than my pickup. Just a different type of manly.” — Robert, 37, Florida

We Weren’t Prepared. So the Romance Died

“It’s sad, but it’s the truth. We weren’t prepared for the hit our love life would take upon welcoming a baby into the world. Romance was always sort of a no-brainer for us. It was just something we did naturally. So, it’s no one’s fault, really, just the result of taking on so much new, high-stakes responsibility. We had no experience, so all of our energy was devoted to trying to care for our daughter. We made no effort to connect romantically with each other, either because we were too tired, or just too preoccupied. One day we just sort of noticed it, and started talking about how to fix it, but it was a good nine or 10 months into parenthood before either of us felt it.” — Eddie, 32, Wisconsin

We Became Cheap Almost Overnight

“My wife and I were never frivolous with our money, but we didn’t ever bat an eye at spending $6 on a coffee, getting the platinum car wash, or whatever. Once we had our son, we second-guessed every expense that wasn’t a bill or a mortgage payment. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a really sudden departure from our previous life. I imagine most couples learn about fiscal responsibility over the course of years, so I guess it was lucky that we were able to adapt so quickly.” — William, 36, New York

We Got Better at Communicating Our Needs

“I think it was because we knew we didn’t have time to wait for the other person to catch on, if that makes sense. When you have a kid, you have to improve communication so that you can provide for him or her in the beginning, and then stay on the same page about parenting as he or she gets older. My wife and I had to get better at anticipating and communicating each other’s needs, just so we didn’t waste time playing games. We just made sure to be clear and concise when things would come up, which helped our time management and our relationship.” — Pete, 35, Pennsylvania

We Stopped Trying to Do Everything Ourselves

“My wife and I are both proud, independent people. So, when we had our first child, we were determined to do as much as we could on our own. That lasted for about a month. We were both working, and dealing with a lot of other stuff that just couldn’t be navigated without the help of our parents and friends. Asking for help is definitely not something we enjoy doing, but it wasn’t about us anymore, and we had to get more comfortable reaching out to people for the sake of our son, and our marriage.” — Darren, 38, Texas

We Stopped Fighting

“The time during my wife’s pregnancy was rough. There were a lot of factors in play but, basically, it was a tricky time for our marriage. We just couldn’t seem to get on the same page with a lot of things. When our son was born, though, it was like we were united toward a common goal. We tabled all of our issues and focused on raising him. And it wasn’t like we just ignored the problems, we just decided to focus our energy elsewhere. That turned out to be a great thing, because the challenges and rewards of raising our son brought us closer than we’d ever been.” — Matt, 37, Montana