Keeping that spark in your marriage after kids!
My husband and I will have our 33rd anniversary this year. We raised our son and have remained best friends. We managed to keep our relationship alive and well throughout our entire marriage without a lot of extra effort. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall ever feeling like we had to make an effort to stay close.
For us, our relationship has always been a priority. We need to keep our relationship healthy in order to keep the family together and everything running smoothly in our household.
Thinking back, I can see how we have remained close because of a few simple things that we’ve always incorporated into our lives. None of it was ever “work” either. It was fun, as it should be!
These are in no particular order because each one is as important as the other and they all work together.
Don’t stop showing signs of love and affection! Our son never said, “ew” or “gross” because it is natural in our house to hug and kiss each other every day. I actually think it’s great for your kids to see that you are in love. What could be more comforting to a child than knowing he or she is being raised in a house where everyone loves each other? These little acts of affection like hugging, kissing and slow dancing in the kitchen should be part of every household. More times than not, kids know when their parents are arguing. Shouldn’t they also see that you are in love? Cuddle on the couch during a movie, kiss, hold hands, give a peck on the cheek or forehead, touch your partner’s face or play with their hair, rub their shoulders, sit on their lap. Human touch is SO important for many reasons but ESSENTIAL for a healthy romantic relationship.
(I shouldn’t even have to say this but feel the need to say that you OBVIOUSLY need to use your best judgment. Please don’t gross your kids out, embarrass them or worse, traumatize them! You should know what needs to be kept private and what’s appropriate!)
Doing something nice for each other should be part of any relationship. Make your partner smile.
It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to do small acts of loving kindness. We keep a dry erase board where we leave each other love notes, jokes or pictures. Make your partner’s favorite cookies “just because” or even just bring him or her a cup of coffee in bed. I get breakfast in bed almost every day because my husband gets up before I do. He makes himself breakfast anyway so brings some up to me too. It’s wonderful and always appreciated.
If your partner usually does the dishes, you can do them. Put a little piece of chocolate or love note on his or her pillow once in a while. A few more ideas are to rub his or her shoulders, light candles for dinner (When our son was growing up we always had candles lit at the table. When he was old enough it was his job to light the candles. It’s lovely to know he incorporates this into his household now too), make the plans for your next date night, let him or her choose the next movie. The ideas are endless.
If you’re saying to yourself, “I take care of people all day long, the last thing I want to do is take care of someone else, let alone a grown person!” then I submit to you this to ponder…this person is the love of your life. This person is the one and only that you have given all of your love to. Your kids will grow and leave the nest one day. This is the person you will grow old with. This is the person who will be with you through thick and thin. If you’re out of work one day or find yourself sick or depressed, they are the one who will be there.
Yes, you deserve the same in return and should get it. Chances are, both of you put work into the family. You are a TEAM. If you’re the one having a particularly difficult day or week then your partner should help you out and maybe even pamper you a little bit. If they are the one who is down, it is your job to help lift them up. Yes, I said job. Because as a member of a team we each have responsibilities. You agreed to that when you decided to commit to each other. You reach out to them and save them when they are over their head. That’s what team members do. They don’t just watch each other sink.
Honestly, I truly believe this one thing could save a marriage. It is imperative for parents to make a commitment to continue to prioritize their relationship even when they have kids. Especially when they have kids!
There is no perfect relationship. Many people have commented about my husband and I being the perfect couple or having the best relationship or being lucky. None of that is true. No one knows what goes on behind the scenes. Just like everyone else, we have our annoyances and arguments.
Do all the things you’ve always known are important to the relationship. Be honest but kind to each other. And when you lose your temper and aren’t kind, apologize with your whole heart and try to change. Trust one another. If you can’t trust there is no real love. Root for each other. Help each other as much as possible.
You know the advice Tim Gunn always gave on Project Runway? That’s right, “Make it work!” I love that saying because it has been our motto for years. When you are deeply committed enough to get married or decide to spend your life together and have kids, you need to be able to get passed the hard parts too. You are going to have to look passed flaws and mistakes. We are all only human. Do this before you ever have a chance to drift apart and you never will!
My mom already watched our son when we were working (or we paid for daycare which is so expensive) so we didn’t have access to a babysitter or the money for “date nights” but it never stopped us from doing fun things any chance we could get. We took our son with us for outings like the zoo and museum. We had a favorite Asian restaurant in Chicago where the soup was was delicious and inexpensive. We visited relatives, went to the park, played outside our own house and came up with anything we could to get out of the house to just go do something fun. Getting out of the house is really important. All work and no play is no way to live. Enjoy every opportunity to be outdoors. Even if it means leaving the house a mess. The dishes and laundry can wait.
As you both settle into new roles as parents your lives are going to change. Each year of your relationship will bring new and exciting adventures along with some challenges too. All of the things you go through change you as a person. It doesn’t happen all at once but subtly over time. Your interests will change, priorities will change, goals and dreams will change. Allowing your partner to go through whatever they are growing through is essential. Just like we wouldn’t want someone to box us into a certain category or lifestyle, we can’t do that to others. If you don’t grow together you will surely grow apart. Embrace and appreciate each other as you both change through the seasons of life.
No one has said it better, in my opinion, than Khalil Gibran:
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
May you be happy and well.