Let’s talk about how to keep your marriage alive with kids! 🙂
I got to thinking about this topic, because my husband and I recently spent an entire weekend all by our awesome selves for the first time in three years. (Yes, I said THREE – that was not a typo.)
- Entering a parking lot without acting like it’s a war zone with dangers all around.
- Feeling a strong urge to hug a stranger in a public restroom and say “It’s ok. I don’t judge you. I have three kids too.”
- Stepping into a restaurant that is not Red Robin and getting that same slightly-out-of-place alternate-reality feeling you get when you visit a foreign country.
- Having to do nothing to keep the house clean.
You can probably relate to these feelings if you have littles, but what struck me as even more remarkable is what’s MISSING from this list:
- Getting to know each other again.
- Rekindling the romance.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We had a great time and enjoyed each other’s company.
But it’s not like we needed to have that weekend. It’s not like we had forgotten how to be “husband” and “wife”. It’s not like we had grown apart. It’s not like our marriage had been on the backburner for ages and we really needed that weekend alone to repair something that was broken.
What I realized is that somehow we have managed to keep our marriage very much alive for the eight years we have been parents.
After writing several articles about marital conflict and the hard times we went through as newly and not-so-newly-weds, it’s a relief to write about something that my husband and I have actually managed to do fairly well.
It’s not like adding three kids to our family hasn’t ever been challenging, but I truly feel like our marriage is now stronger than ever.
So what’s our secret?
Well, if you would like to learn how to keep your marriage alive with kids, here are five things we have done that I think have made the biggest difference for us.
How To Keep Your Marriage Alive With Kids
1. Have Realistic Expectations
Fact of Life: When you have kids, your life is going to change big time. And that includes your marriage. Your marriage is going to change.
You are bringing a little being into this world who is entirely dependent on you for everything. That little being is going to need a lot of care and attention. Which means you are going to have less time left to give to your spouse.
Especially at first.
We had three kids within three years. Our first-born was two and a half when we had twins. This means that I was pregnant or breastfeeding for basically four years straight. Plus we were both working through most of it.
Yes, we were exhausted. Yes, I felt more like “dairy cow” than “wife”. Yes, we struggled.
But it helped to realize that this was a phase. It helped to realize that this was to be expected. It helped to realize that for a short while “mom” and “dad” needed to replace “wife” and “husband” almost entirely. It helped to realize that this didn’t mean our marriage was in trouble.
It helped to realize that as long as we didn’t get stuck in that mode forever, we would be okay.
2. Think About The Kind Of Model You Want To Be For Your Kids
Once your kids are through the infant stage and no longer need round-the-clock care, you might still feel conflicted about taking the time to make your marriage a priority. You sorta know you probably should, but you still feel guilty not giving all your attention to the kids.
Here’s what I try to remember whenever I feel torn in two directions: Most people learn “how to be married” from their parents. My husband and I are that model for our kids.
What kind of model do we want to be? What do we want our kids to remember about our marriage?
How their parents weren’t that close? How their parents grew apart? How their parents eventually divorced because they never got around to making their marriage a priority?
How much their parents loved each other? How their parents were always hugging and holding hands? How their parents seemed so supportive of each other? How their parents always made time for each other even when life got crazy?
How safe and secure they felt, because they knew their parents’ love for each other was the glue that was going to keep the family together? No matter what.
3. Make An Effort To Connect
If you want to stay connected to someone, you need to know what’s going on with them. This isn’t always easy to accomplish with kids interrupting you every two seconds and a gazillion demands competing for your time. So it’s something that requires commitment and effort:
- Make time to talk every single day. Set aside at least 20 minutes. Find a time that works and make it a part of your daily routine. For example, my husband and I catch up when we are cooking dinner during the week and over long breakfasts on the weekend.
- Show interest and ask how your spouse is doing. How was his day? How is he feeling? How are things going? Talk about more than just who is going to pick up the milk after work and who is going to cover the soccer practice on Saturday.
- Say nice things. Give compliments. Don’t take each other for granted.
4. Make Shared Interests A Priority
Since you are married, it’s probably safe to assume that you have at least some common interests. Maybe you are both into working out. Maybe you like the same genre of movies. Maybe you are devoted to a political cause. Maybe you are enthusiastic DIYers.
Whatever it is, make it a priority. Make time for it.
For my husband and me, it’s renovating our fixer-upper and turning our backyard into a mini-farm. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s something we are both into. It’s something for us to get excited about together and something we can do with the kids running around and “helping”.
5. Bring On The At-Home-Date-Nights
Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting a baby sitter and going out on a date with your spouse. If it works for you, keep doing it! It’s a great way to connect with your spouse.
It’s just that it never worked for us. We don’t have family close-by, so an adults’ night-out ends up costing a pretty penny when you consider the baby sitter + price of dinner. And it’s a hassle. And you have to plan it in advance. And we want to connect more than once every couple of weeks.
Enter the at-home-date-night.
Now, you could wait until the kids are in bed, but that never worked for us either. I get sleepy too. 🙂
So here’s what we do:
- Cover the living room rug with a painter’s tarp.
- Serve kids’ dinner on the tarp.
- Turn on a movie – pick one that is new and/or exciting enough to keep them interested, but not so scary that they need you to watch it with them.
- Sneak off to the other end of the house for your own private candlelight “dinner” ;).
It’s All About Being Intentional
Obviously, none of this is rocket science. Keeping a marriage alive with kids isn’t that different from keeping a marriage alive without kids. It’s just that you have to be a lot more intentional about it when you have kids. It’s easy to let the kids take all of your attention. It’s easy to let family activities and work and hobbies and friends and relatives fill your schedule to the brim.
You have to fight that easy by being intentional. By prioritizing what matters to you most.
Should your partner-in-life – the person who is MOST important to you in this world – really get the last time slot of your day when you are barely awake and would actually rather be sleeping?
Or does that person deserve to be penciled into your schedule first? Before anything and everything else?
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