• Mon, Jan 13 - 5:00 pm ET

Childless Couples Are Happier Because They Actually Have Time To Have Sex And Aren’t Covered In Vomit

120381564We’ve heard lots regarding the debate about whether or not people without children are as happy as parents. The results of those studies bounce back and forth like a ping pong match.

Parents are happier!

No, people without kids are happier!

No, parents are happier!

No, wait, people without kids are happier!

The jury is out on that one. However, according to one of the biggest studies ever conducted on relationships, childless couples win. They have happier marriages and tend to feel more valued by their partners, says this summary on The Telegraph. The study won’t be available until next week.

For both men and women, those who did not have children ranked the quality of their relationship more highly than those who did. They also did significantly more to “maintain” their relationship, such as taking time to go out together or talk, than those with children.

Yeah, no kidding. There’s this little thing called “time” that we all have. Kids suck it up, as well as eating most of your brain and your energy. It makes total sense to me that people without kids have better relationships – as there is more time to put effort into them.

Every time I write something like this I get a fair amount of pushback from those who are expert time managers. Good for you that you’re some kind of super-human energy machine and you still have time to make your partner feel as special as ever after you’ve been working, nursing your baby all day, wiping asses, and trying to keep your home from devolving into a junkyard playhouse. Some of us find this difficult.  And now I know that I am not in the minority.

Obviously, I am responding to this study from my own experience; it has been really hard to negotiate keeping a relationship strong after having two kids. We used to be able to wander around the city for hours, enjoy our weekends alone and when we weren’t tied down by the obligations of work – be totally free to enjoy each other. Now, of course we enjoy each other, but it is so different. Our kids are amazing and our family life is great – it’s the “us” time that is suffering. And by “us” time I mean “sex life.”

The kids are asleep! Let’s have sex!

Okay! Just make sure you don’t touch my nipples, because they are unbelievably sore from breastfeeding all night. Also, I should change out of this nightgown because it’s covered in breast milk. No, I can’t take it off because I’m producing a lot of milk right now and we’ll both be covered in it.

Sexy.

One interesting thing that the article noted was this: “Yet, across all categories one simple action emerged as the most important element in strong relationships – saying ‘thank you’.” This hit home personally, as well. I always notice, the times we are bonding now usually happen when one of us acknowledges how hard the other is working and shows some gratitude. I guess an effort like that takes no time at all – and is doable whether you have kids or not.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Bethany Ramos

    I think my marriage is so much stronger after kids because we are working at home and co parenting. So we have to figure it out or implode, but I would hardly call it sexy! Still, I prefer the terrible vomit kid days to the child free days myself. :)

    • Mel

      That’s fantastic! It genuinely warms my heart when people and their kids are happy together. Especially if it makes your marriage/partnership stronger. It’s so often not the case, sadly.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you!!

  • Kay_Sue

    I can see the validity of this. It’s hard to feel valued sometimes when your partner is being pulled in a million different directions, not to mention kids tend to stress budgets and cause conflicts when parenting styles clash. It’s valuable information to have, because it’s a good reminder of what comes first. It does require juggling, and sometimes you’re just too tired to even bother with the juggling itself.

    I do hate that this is going to add more fuel to the whole, “Parents are miserable!” flames. I don’t feel miserable, personally–I love my life and I wouldn’t trade it for any other…nor would I force it on anyone.

  • Melinda Kunoff – Taylor

    How do they measure happiness? Is there a happiness meter? I’m childfree and am happy. My sister and brother are parents and are happy.

  • LadyClodia

    Sometimes I miss the freedom we had before we had kids. Those were 8 good years. But we had always wanted kids, and we knew that things would change, so we weren’t too thrown off by it. And I suspect that it will be easier to do things again in the coming years once we’re out of the napping years.
    Honestly now, though, I feel more useful, less stressed, and I guess happier. Before we had kids it was always really difficult for me to find a job, and the ones that I did have were low-paying, and I felt guilty about that. At least I’m contributing now by being home with the boys since I’d never make enough to cover the cost of childcare.

  • Mel

    It’s funny that this is an article tonight b/c my massage therapist just cut her tip in half when she asked me why I don’t have kids. When I asked her why she did have kids she seemed offended. Imagine that?! I’m not sure why my reproductive choices are fair game when hers aren’t. Maybe I should forward this article to her. Or maybe not, since she’s “fired” by me now. It’s amazing how often people think it’s okay to judge 30ish women’s choices but they don’t want us picking theirs apart. Wonder what happened to live and let live? I should print this article out and carry it around :)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Ew, you should print it out. You are clearly not judgey at all about those who have kids, so why wouldn’t someone reciprocate?

      PS. MASSAGE!

    • Mel

      She was already on thin ice. Her massages aren’t phenomenal. This sanctimommy crap just sealed the deal. But, an average massage still beats no massage any day of the week!

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      If someone can’t answer the question ‘why did you have kids’….I mean, how can you not know why you had kids? Even if the answer is “I got knocked up by accident” or “My wife wanted kids and I really like the way she gives blowjobs” or something, those are still reasons.

    • Kay_Sue

      My aunt is childfree and still gets this question. It’s so insensitive all around. I hate it even more when she says she just didn’t want them–after decades of it, she’s pretty nonchalant–and people imply that she’s not going to have a family when she gets older.

      WTF are we? Chopped liver? She’s family, period. Of course she’s going to be taken care of–she’s always been there for all of her nieces and we’re not going to magically forget that when she hits her elder years. She was the one person during my teenage years that I felt truly able to talk to without worrying about disappointing her–I’m going to forget that?

      It’s stupid, and I am honestly glad you answered the way you did. People need to know that our reproductive choices are our own, period, and that includes women that choose not to have children–and their reasons aren’t any one’s business but their own unless they want to share them. Period. End of discussion.

      I’m sorry, this is something of a soapbox topic for me and makes me want to rant.

    • Mel

      Thanks so much! And thanks for the replies from Bethany and allisonjayne, too. Sappy moment alert: this site really does make me feel like I have some peeps who tolerate me for who I am, even when we disagree about whatever topic is at hand :)

      And thanks for sharing about your aunt. I love my nieces and nephew so much and am there every time they turn around. I’m like a bad penny when it comes to them, and even their school jokes that they can’t go to the bathroom without me there cheering them on. I very highly doubt that I will die alone as so many people seem to think, since I don’t have/want a husband or to birth children. I’m sure your aunt knows how you feel about her, and I salute her in solidarity of the spinsterhood.

  • NotTakenNotAvailable

    I think the reasons studies like this come up with such conflicting results are because the childfree and, uh, child-ed (or future child-ed) have different desires and goals in life (can I get a “NO DUH” in here?). So it entirely depends, I think, on who’s conducting the survey and what kind of biases they have going in that might cause them to word questions differently.

    Personally, I know that two things that enrich my life by their absence are:

    1) Children, and

    2) A relationship.

    While I’m not sure if I’m qualified to comment on this particular study due to item # 2, it’s been my experience that the sex sorta dwindles anyway, even if you don’t have kids.

  • Kelly

    I believe it. We were a happy couple when our son was little but now that he’s a teenager we have a lot more time for us and it’s even better. We have become closer and we’ve rediscovered some of the things we used to do before kids.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Agreed! Once they’re old enough to make their own breakfast on weekends and then watch a little tv while mommy and daddy are still “sleeping” it’s pretty sweet….

  • arrow2010

    Any childless couple saying they’re happy are deluding themselves. Procreation is God’s commandment and you must do it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    I did find the first year to be pretty hard on our relationship. I know a lot of other couples who’ve reported the same thing. Once they get to be a bit more independent, it gets easier. With babies, it’s so easy (and probably necessary from an evolutionary perspective) to focus solely on keeping the thing alive that everything else takes a backseat. I’m really glad we had a lot of time together before we had a kid, as I knew we could weather a lot of storms already and we had a really solid foundation to come back to.

  • LiteBrite

    In general I’m happy. Sure, I miss my freedom during my childless days at times, but I knew the deal before going into this parenthood thing. I know lack of free time is part of the package, but I can’t imagine my life without my son so I accept it.

    I think in general our marriage has become stronger since we had our son. We certainly learned what the other was made of after having him. :) But as Kay_Sue said, keeping that marital relationship alive requires juggling, and sometimes you’re just too tired to even do that. I mean, after I get home from work, make dinner, give the kid a bath, put him to bed, clean up the kitchen, empty the litterboxes, take care of the guinea pigs, get my stuff ready for work the next day and so on I’m sometimes too tired to hold a conversation much less anything else. Now that our son is getting older, it’s getting better though.

    And on saying “thank you”, I agree completely. In fact, for Christmas my son and I created a homemade journal of all the things we appreciate that my husband does for us (mow the lawn, shovel mountains of snow, help with dinner and cleanup, be the sole parent for the boy when I go on trips with friends, etc). It really made me think of all the things he does for us that I never say “thank you” for, and I’m making more of a point to say those two words to him.

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  • KaeTay

    sex doesn’t = happiness. The difference parents have with childish is parents have a different set of worries and fears which lead to stresses. Single people can be selfish with no guilt afterwards.. that guilt typically creeps up on you as a parent. At least it does for me. I’ll feel bad later for not reading that book for the 8th time in a row later on in the day. My unhappiness I have that comes and goes is all from the stress of just life in general. Trying to get work schedules into place so I don’t have to pay for day care, dealing with the VA is another one but my goal is to never take our my stresses out on my munchkin. Even if I’m mad at my husband for her I smile and find a toy to play with.. and from there the happiness goes into full throttle.