With work, kids and just life in general its hard to really focus on flourishing your relationship with your partner. My husband and I have been married for almost 15 years, we have 2 kids, ages 8 and 5 and with full time careers and each with our own business–life is not easy; but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here is a typical day in my life: wake up, get kids ready, get the kids to school, put in a full day at work, then pick up kids, get dinner ready–or picked up, and get to any extracurricular actives. After or before any extracurricular activities we need to make sure any homework is completed, notes from school are signed and/or reviewed and we converse with the kids about their day. Then comes free time/TV time, bath time-if we can manage it, then around 8:30 its bedtime for the kids. From 8:30 to about 10 or 11 I am usually on my laptop or catching on my fav shows while I do extra work before I get to bed. The next day it starts all over again. The weekends are slightly better but it feels like we have a birthday party for a friend of one of our kids or some sort of family function every weekend and we only have 2 kids!! I bow down to those of you that have more children.
In order to make sure my husband and I essentially don’t lose sight of the other in all the back and forth with the kids we have had to make it a point to make time to just be together. When we decided to have kids we both agreed that we did not want to be one of those couples, whom after the kids were grown and gone, would look at each other and have no idea who the other person was outside of being a parent. We got married for a reason, there was and thankfully still is so much love there, and though it is not easy to just get up and go as we did before kids we have to be very intentional and that is okay.
Below are some of the things we do to ensure we do not lose sight of each other.
- PLAN A DATE NIGHT!! This one is vital and if you do not do anything else on this list–do this one. Plan on a minimum of once or twice a month–if you can do one weekly even better. If you have kids and do not have family or another couple that would be willing to kid-swap for you for a few hours–then hire a sitter. We have tried sitters from Care.com and also local ads on our neighborhood site. If hiring a sitter is not an option, then just pick a night, put the kids to bed, and enjoy a quiet dinner together or watch a movie where the focus is each other and there are no phones or laptops in site. These are the moments where you can talk about what is happening to you in your lives and discover what is going on in your partners’ life. It does not and should not be about the kids.
- Make a Love Jar: this may sound strange but it was something we learned at a marriage seminar. Basically you get a jar with a lid of any kind and set a note pad and pen beside it. Put the jar somewhere that only you and your partner can access as these may be juicy! The purpose is to write a thank you note to your partner for things they did that really helped you out or you really enjoyed. Once a week you take a few minutes for each of you to pull a note out and read it. Its amazing how often we do not say thank you for the little things or even have conversations about the things we like and express that to our partner. It turned out to be a driver for the continuation of positive behavior, think of it like positive reinforcement. We both learned there were things we did that we had no idea made such an impression, whilst they may have been minor at the moment my husband or I really appreciated it.
- Relationship Check-in: Every couple of weeks or so we take a few minutes aside to ask each other how our heart is. Its a conversation that usually just lasts a few minutes if all is well. The rules of the check in are that you cannot interrupt the other, your must listen to what they have to say, you cannot get angry, you have to remain quiet, take it all in and process before responding. You must be very mindful of how you respond, if you get defensive and argumentative then your partner will not feel comfortable to have this type of communication with you in the future. These are truly powerful moments. A marriage counselor once said to think of it this way: its like your partner takes their heart and hands it to you to hold. You have to be very careful with this heart, you do not want to drop it or hurt it and you want to be able to give your heart to your partner and have them respond the same way. If the conversation gets heated then its best to end it and come back to it later when you both have had some time to think it through.
- Continue to court each other after you are married. We have learned that once you get married the work does not end, in fact it never ends. There were things you both did before getting married for the other in order to get a smile on their face or a positive reaction. Keep your partner in love with you by continuing to do the things that made him/her fall in love with your in the first place. Sometimes things as simple as a phone call in the day, flowers or a gift, cute texts messages or making their favorite dish will make an impression.
- Surround yourselves with other couples that have a healthy relationship. Simply put negative energy attracts negativity. You do not need to have that around your relationship, I am not saying drop your friends but if they fight and treat each other disrespectfully then they may not be who you double date with.
- If you have to, schedule sex. It is vital to your relationship and there is no shame in that. Its better to schedule it then to go far too long without it.
- Try to attend marriage seminars. Churches usually do these every so often, thats how we have found these. I cannot emphasize how eye-opening, down to earth and informational these have been.
- Be present. With our phones we now have the whole world at our fingertips. Make a point to be present and enjoy the moments, they will go by so fast you won’t know where it went and you do not want the reason you missed it to be because you were checking emails or surfing the web.
- Learn how to argue. First off, if you disagree, keep it private. It is so uncomfortable to be in a room with a couple who does not care who is there and proceed to have a full blown argument in front of you. Dont be those people, if there is a disagreement, table it and discuss it later in private and after you both have had some time to cool down. Arguments are okay and expected as you are two different people who were probably raised differently and have thoughts on certain things. Just remember to stop and listen before responding. Also, do not be ashamed to admit if you were wrong and apologize.
- Last one and one of the most important, always be respectful! Once you lose respect for each other, it all goes down hill. The trust is lost and verbal abuse and other negative behavior creeps in. Do not let this happen and if it does, do everything you can to repair it as soon as possible as this is very damaging.