Another item crimping our happiness in married life is fear—fear of not being the same people we were before we had kids. Fear of not being as sexy as we used to be. Fear of not supporting the family the way we think we should. Fear of not raising perfect-enough kids. Fear of not earning enough money (for those of us who are breadwinners) or fear of being financially dependent (for those of us who've left the workplace). These fears are real, even if we wish they were not, and we need to face them openly if we want to get past them and be happy.
Some of these fears are as easy to allay as checking for monsters under the bed. (Take a good look. See anything there? Nope—let's move on.) Others, however, lie deep in our psyche, and we need to really examine them if we want to get past the problem.
One of the biggest fears we heard from married men and women was the fear of hitting some kind of marriage crisis, reaching that "dealbreaker" moment when married life as we've known it dissolves. But we were surprised to learn that an affair wasn't the number-one dealbreaker on most men's and women's minds. The number-one dealbreaker was losing the house or some other financial disaster. What's more, couples who had already lived through affairs were not so afraid that another would lead to the end of their marriages. They'd been through the worst and come out the other side. Some even reported feeling stronger for it.
In fact, one thing we heard again and again was that crises actually made marriages stronger. "I do think we got stronger because of hitting rock bottom—I made the conscious choice to make this a good marriage," one mom told us. Especially after years of sleep deprivation and diapers, it can take a good crisis to truly appreciate and understand each other as a couple again. Of course, it would be great if life were simpler and more straightforward and didn't require this, but it seems to be the nature of existence. It took a crisis to make us decide to re-embrace our love was a refrain we heard over and over.