News flash: Having kids puts a strain on the marriage relationship.
I know, you figured that one out your first night home with baby No. 1 when he/she spent the entire night sleeping between the two of you, and their indefinite domination of your world began. It can be a bit unnerving when both your freedom and spontaneity exit the room at the same time, making way for sleep deprivation and a sense of heavy responsibility.
Of course, we arent just talking about life with babies. Older kids can be even harder to get to sleep at night, making time alone with a spouse at the end of the day virtually impossible — especially after an evening of homework help and extracurricular activities. Yep, theres no doubt about it, staying emotionally connected to your spouse after having children is no easy feat, but I believe giving and receiving love is one of the best things about being married (not to mention the sense of security it gives to children), so it is worth whatever it takes to keep that part of your relationship alive and kickin'.
While it's nice to celebrate special days like Valentine's or your wedding anniversary, staying emotionally connected after having children is something you have to work on every day of the year. I have a few ideas for how to do that on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, but I would love to hear what works for you and your spouse in the comments section below.
Incorporate lots of daily rituals.
There are so many easy daily rituals to help you stay connected to your spouse amid the craziness of family life. Here are just a few: Hold hands/hug/smooch while making dinner/helping with homework/putting kids to bed; look each other in the eye while talking; give compliments and express gratitude; go to bed together at night; make a quick phone call, write a short love note, or send a text/email just to check in and say, "I love you."
Commit to having a weekly date night.
Date night is now a must at our house. We went through about a decade of very little money and lots of babies and small children, so it just seemed like too much to do on a regular basis. I totally regret that now as I see that our relationship (and my sanity!) suffered. That could have been such a boon for us back then. When it did work, it was because we participated in a babysitting co-op with other families or we decided to spend money on a babysitter but not the date itself. Our favorite date back then was to go to Barnes and Noble and just browse books and talk about what we read. It was a real treat during those lean years! Date night is not about the money, but about being alone together and hopefully getting out of the house. Try to do the things that brought you together in the first place, and definitely make space for talking and reconnecting. (Movies arent great for that.) My favorite way to do date night now is to take turns being in charge of the planning so that one person always feels they are being treated to a real bonafide date.
Do a five-facet review each month.
I stole this one from the Eyres (you can read about it in detail on their daughter Shawnis blog here), and while it doesnt happen every month, it does happen often enough to be really helpful. The idea is to take one date night each month and sit down as parents to quickly go through the Five Facets (social, spiritual, mental, emotional, physical) for each of your children and discuss how to help them progress in these areas. No, its not the most romantic date in the world, but youd be surprised. I often feel like Im the only one worrying about the details surrounding the kids, and my husband often feels like hes out of the loop because he works so much, so this kind of date night is a serious win-win. Being united in decisions and actions regarding your children is actually a fantastic intimacy builder, especially if you consider how many arguments happen over parenting styles and decisions. This is also a great time to talk about your other life goals, or start planning your annual trip together. (Hint hint.)
Break out the wedding videos and photos and take a trip alone together yearly.
The wedding videos and photos: Theres nothing quite like going back and re-living your special day to remind you of why you got married in the first place. We love to watch our wedding video on our anniversary. This year will be our 19th, and my favorite part of the video is when I ask our future children how we look now. (I guarantee its not the same, but thats what makes it so fun!)
The trip alone together: As I mentioned before, we had a really lean decade when we were short on both time and money and not only neglected date night but trips alone together. Honestly, I think we could and should have tried to at least go to a local hotel for even one or two nights just to be alone together. We needed it so desperately during those years. (Please hear this, young and broke parents of babies and small children!) Now that we have more funds and older kids, this is one of our top priorities every year and worth whatever hassle it takes to make it work. (And it is a considerable hassle to get someone to take over the complicated ins and outs of our busy household!) In fact, tomorrow we will be on a plane for the California Coast. I can hardly wait.
QUESTION: How do you stay connected to your spouse all year long amid crazy family life?
CHALLENGE: Pick one idea listed above (or come up with something that fits you and your spouse better) and commit to do it!
This article is courtesy of Power of Moms, an online gathering place for deliberate mothers.