Keeping Your Marriage Solid After Kids
Having children is a wonderful thing, but it is also something that can take a toll on your marriage. Sleep deprivation, little “us” time, even littler “me” time, and as they grow so do the time demands. Whether you have one child or multiples. Whether you live in a house or travel in an RV. Whether you both work or one works and one takes primary care of the children. Whether you have babysitters to give you Date Nights, or you have no options of getting out without the kids. No matter what the situation, there are some things you can do to keep your relationship happy and healthy. If you think your marriage is great, then perhaps some of these will just be the icing on the cake.
I Love You: I love you is a simple phrase that we rattle off to each other several times a day, when we’re hanging up the phone, when we’re leaving the house, and so on. It is important to say it and for our partner to hear it. There is more to it though. There are two things my husband and I have always done no matter what else is going on.
First is to never go to bed mad at the other person. If there is a situation or argument going on, see it through to the end. If it is something that you can not work out then find some common ground and agree to think on it but get rid of anger/ frustration. I can think of a couple of occasions where we have stayed up all night talking because it was that important not to go to bed mad.
Secondly, we always say “I love you” right before falling asleep. It is the same words we say to each other all day, but it has a different feel when saying right before bed. It is also the last thing you hear before falling asleep.
Sleep: You would be amazed at how many arguments, disconnected feelings, and misunderstandings are caused by lack of sleep. As parents we spend a good majority of time in the “sleep deprived” category even if we don’t realize it. Correcting this issue can be difficult but there is a way to make it better. If you have small children that wake at night frequently, take shifts.
When the triplets were small we split the night feedings into two shifts. He had from 7pm-12am and I had 12 am on because he worked days. It doesn’t seem like much, but at least you are getting a few solid hours of sleep. The second thing you can do (and we do this now) is pick one day each during the week that you sleep in.
That means from the time the kids go to bed, until you decide to get up the next morning (must be before noon lol), the other person will do everything child related. Even if you can’t sleep due to the noise in the house you can lay there a little and relax/rest. You will be amazed at how much you and your spouse will look forward and appreciate those days.
Be Open and Honest: Sounds self explanatory right? Then why is it one of the biggest problems in marriages? Infidelity, no matter what the form, is the largest reason for divorce. There are many women I know that get offended when their significant other goes through their purse, looks at their phone, goes through their online social media. Why get upset unless you have something to hide? Keep yourself honest by giving all your sign-in information to your spouse. That means email, phones, facebook, twitter, and so on.
There should be absolutely nothing your spouse can not get into if they wanted to. My husband and I have always done this. It didn’t start out that way for these reasons but after hearing so many stories about relationships gone wrong because of these things, I’m glad it has always been this way. He can get into any of my emails, social media, websites, phone, purse, anything he wants and vice versa.
Hide nothing and it makes your marriage stronger. It solidifies the trust and greatly lessens the possibility of infidelity or thoughts of. If you have any excuse why you wouldn’t do this, you need to really look deep and evaluate. Your partner and you should have nothing to hide from one another.
I Feel: Have you ever been arguing with your partner and said “you make me feel…”? It usually just escalates the argument more because the other person feels attacked. When you say something like “You never listen to me” it automatically sets the person on the task of defending themselves. Instead you can say something like “I feel like you aren’t hearing what I’m trying to say.” This sets the conversation up for meaningful dialog.
From here you can determine if the other person is understanding what your trying to say. You’d be surprised at how much a simple misunderstanding can turn into a fight. All because something wasn’t stated right or the other person misunderstood what you were trying to get across. Try to keep from “attacking” the other with speech and keeping the communication going. It’s not easy, especially at first, but keep trying.
Finances: Money can become a large problem in a marriage and has been cause for many divorces. First and foremost, do all your financial planning and budgeting together. Having just one person doing the bulk of it can leave one of the parties completely in the dark as to what your financial situation truly is. It can also cause frustration on the side of the one doing the finances especially if you are running on a tight budget. Many things can happen in life to create tight spots or rough patches in your financial security.
You need to work together to get through them and figure out how to overcome them. Two eyes are better then one. One person may be able to see something or have an idea the other hadn’t thought about. Also, no matter what may be going on, remember that money should never create a rift between you. Money will come and go, it will get tight and it will work itself out, but your relationship and your family are forever.
My husband and I always tell each other, “We’ll figure it out and get through this as long as we stay together and stay strong.” There are times we say this several times a day to each other during rough patches (financial and otherwise) and it does help. It reminds us that no matter what is going on, our family is more important then the situation we are facing. (Note: I highly recommend the Dave Ramsey Method- Living Debt Free.)
Adult Time: There are several ways to achieve this but the most important thing is that you do it consistently and often. Many people do Date Nights where their spouse and them go out, usually to eat, maybe a movie or concert, or just out having fun without the kids. If you can do this, then that’s wonderful but it is still not enough. If you are financially constrained or don’t have anyone to watch the kids Date Nights need to be adjusted.
Do something at home. Put the kids down and then set aside special time to play a game, have a candlelight desert, watch a movie or show, anything that you both enjoy doing together. Make this your special time to connect with one another. I would suggest making a whole night of it once a week and then making an hour every night to do something together. My husband and I haven’t had an opportunity to have someone else watch the triplets since they were born so we could go out on a date and now we live full time in our RV which makes it even a little more difficult.
What we do though is put the kids to bed and then spend at least 1-2 hours a night talking, snuggling up together to watch a movie or a TV show we are into, work on a project together, or just hanging out. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, it’s just the fact that we are doing it together that is important. We have done this just about every night this past year and it has made a huge difference.
Kissing and Sex: Keeping the physical connection going is important to a relationship. No it’s not everything, but it is a very important piece and if it is neglected then the frustrations and loneliness will spill into other aspects of the marriage. First kiss your spouse hello and goodbye. No matter what else is going on, make the time to do a brief kiss, because you never know what will happen that day. Also, once a day passionately kiss your spouse. This sparks that deep physical connection and gives you a sense of closeness to the one you love.
Now for the harder part, sex. When you have kids, work all the time, and so forth, finding the energy and time to have sex can be difficult. Also body and hormone changes from having children can effect a woman’s sense of self and attractiveness, thus it becomes more difficult. Whatever obstacles are in the way, find a solution. It is important to connect on a deeply intimate plane frequently. You should have sex at least 3 times a week. Sounds like a lot? It’s not really and this number has been shown to greatly increase a marriage’s stability. It doesn’t have to be a 3-6 hour marathon, most parents can have sex in less then 10 mins if needed and with proper motivation.
Don’t let that become the norm though. Change it up, be creative, try tantric positions, fun games, freshen it up every now and then. Do not think it’s not important to your marriage. Don’t think it can be shoved down to the bottom of the list because it isn’t an immediate need. Whether you recognize it or not, lack of sex can effect more then just your marriage. It can make you more on edge, quicker to get frustrated, make it harder to deal with stressful situations. Shoot for 3 times a week, more if you can, and do that for 2 months, and take note of the difference, not just with your spouse, but in your life.
Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes: At one point or another we get frustrated with our spouse because we feel like we are doing all the work, and at some point your spouse will feel that way about you too. It’s more common and frequent when one spouse is working and one is the primary for the kids, though it happens to virtually every couple at some point. For my example I am going to focus on the one working parent (working at home or away from the home)and the stay at home parent.
The Stay At Home Parent: The parent that is primarily responsible for the children has a 24/7 365 days a year job. They usually spend all day with the kids, entertaining them, teaching them, making sure they eat well, bathed, dressed, and stay healthy both mentally and physically. They also are usually the ones in charge of making sure the house stays clean, laundry, shopping, meal planning and cooking, and so on. They have to figure out how to make everything work financially within the household’s budget.
A lot of times they don’t have a great deal of “adult interactions” on a consistent basis as opposed to those who work outside the home. All of these things can be stressful and wear a person down every now and then. It’s even harder when their partner gets home and they are exhausted from their day working and don’t take over so the other can get a break. They had breaks at work right? Why don’t they jump right in and help you clean up for the fifth time that day? They look at you wondering why your frustrated because you have spent a relaxing day at home with the kids, watching your tv shows, playing outside, and going to the mall.
The Reality of Your Day: You have cleaned up toys at least 5 times throughout the day. You have had to cook and clean up from three meals and two snack sessions. The kids have been playing wrestle mania for two hours and constantly screaming and crying because someone body slammed them. Going to the mall? Try the grocery store, managing three toddlers refusing to get in the cart so you are rushing through trying to get everything you need, while the kids are trying to figure out what they can “help” you get. The only thing that ever goes up on the tv (when it is on) are kid appropriate meaning: Pooh Bear, Sesame Street, Dinosaur train, and so on. It is the quickest way to turn an adult mind to mush.
All of this is on a good day! A bad day is throwing in several temper tantrums, one or more sick and fussy kids, rainy days where you can’t get out so the kids tear up the house instead, doctors visits where the kids are crying and begging not to go, and playing referee all day.
The Working Parent: Usually this is a 40 hour a week job (some are less and some are more) plus 1-2 hours of travel time on the road to get there. They have to get up at a certain time, be presentable, and be on a strict schedule for the whole day. They miss out on time with family because someone needs to bring in money to pay the bills, keep everyone fed, and to do fun things. They usually have 2 days off a week and more often then not there are “projects” waiting to be completed. They are usually tired when they get home and just want to relax and enjoy their family a little.
What awaits though is another dose of frustration to top off the day. Their spouse is upset. He/She can’t understand why you don’t just jump in and help with the cleaning and taking over disciplining the kids as they wrestle through the living room. Telling you it’s your turn to put down the kids because there are a million things left to do. They just can’t see why you are so worn down. You got to have a quiet lunch without interruption, got a couple of relaxing coffee breaks, had adults to talk to, an hour to relax in the car, and none of the drama that comes with kids.
The Reality of Your Day: You were up till midnight stressing about a work project and had to wake up and 5am to get to the office in rush hour traffic. That relaxing hour drive is filled with stops, slowed traffic, road raged drivers, and accident detours. All day is dealing with “office politics and drama.” Clients who wait till the last minute to tell you about a project they need done and need it today (5 hours worth of work provided it goes smoothly). Dealing with co workers who do as little as humanly possible and you having to pick up all the slack making your work load almost impossible in the time frame you have. A bad economy causing even more stress on job security and meeting the household budget needs.
The kids were sick last week, the car blew a tire and had to be replaced, now it’s leaking fluid and has to go to the shop, all the financial hits at once weigh on your mind and cause even more stress. There are several things that need to get done around the house (cutting the lawn, upgrading the kitchen, fixing the bathroom faucet, and so on) that will take a big chunk of time on the weekend. All you want to do is spend some time playing with your kids, cuddle your wife, and have a stress-free adult conversation.
Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are dealing with that we forget that our partner is dealing with their own too. We also tend to assume things like how the working parent assumed the stay at home parents job was easy. In truth, the days they are off and have to manage the kids all day, they are worn out by the end and ready for the kids to go to bed. The stay at home parent assumed because the working parent had breaks and spent the day around adults it was easier. In truth, the working parent had internal stress going on due to economy things and worrying about the family on top of work stresses that could affect his job security.
Neither job is easy, and when we are forced to take on the others role, it forces us to see that. Instead of getting frustrated and mad at each other, talk about how your each feeling. Talk about your days so the other can get a sense of what you have done. Find ways to help both of you get what you need and want. Be creative. Do not judge each other though and do not assume the other has it easy. Let go of the notion that their day is easier, and know that both of you work hard (even if it’s different) to support and keep your family happy, healthy, and moving forward. When you feel the frustration mounting, quietly think about the things your spouse has had to deal with that day. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Me Time: Alone time, doing something we love is important. It helps keep us centered and reduces our stress. After kids, the me time seems to disappear and it causes upset with us. There is no time to reset or feel like our own person. It’s important to make that time to do something just for us. Read a book, go shopping, hang out with a friend, play a game, play guitar, whatever it is that you love to do.
Don’t allow this time to coincide with other obligations/ projects. This is JUST YOU time. Depending on your family you may be able to do this once a week, once every two weeks, or just once a month, but do not go longer then once a month.
The time frame should be somewhere between 3hours- an all day affair depending on what your family can do and how often you are able to do this. Schedule it ahead of time. If you are only able to do it once a month, each of you pick a day during the coming month, and mark it on a calendar as your personal day. If you can do it weekly then sit down and block out a 3 hour slot somewhere in the week for each of you, and make it your own personal time. No kids, no errands, no work, no projects, just time to do the hobbies you love.
Here’s the challenge I pose to all of you. Really work at doing these things for 2 months as a couple. Take note of where you are at as an individual and a couple when this begins, and how you feel after the 2 month challenge. It will make a world of difference in your marriage.
Yes, our kids are a priority, but so is our marriage. Kids will grow up and move into their own lives. When that happens, if you have not taken care of and built on your marriage, you will find yourself facing a stranger. This is a large cause of late-life divorces and severely disconnected marriages in the older population.