In these days of tag-team parenting, those lazy hours spent talking and sharing experiences with a spouse can feel like a distant memory. To stay close, share a highlight of your day and a low point of the day. Discussing your worst moments may seem like a downer when you have limited time together, but when you understand what the other person is going through, you’ll be more of a team.
No matter how great your marriage was before you had kids, you can’t just leave it on autopilot now. As a family therapist, families come to me because of family conflict and crisis, with the goal of wanting to put out the fire. I often hear, “with children, there are so many things we have to deal with immediately, so we don’t have time for our own relationship.” I emphasize that you have to invest time and energy in your marriage – and address tense topics – if you want it to sustain during tough times.
Below are a few suggestions to think about when it comes to spicing up your spousal relationship:
Pay a Bit Less Attention to Your Kids
It is evident through my work with families that they want their children to grow up feeling loved. However, I have to remind parents that doesn’t mean you have to stop a conversation with your spouse anytime your kid wants you to watch her do a cartwheel. In fact, she’ll be more likely to learn patience and resilience if you ask her to wait.
Make Time to Be Alone
Your kids may push all your buttons when they beg, “Don’t go!” but adult-only time is crucial. Parents – find a good babysitter! You’ll feel less guilty going out if you know your kids are home having fun with that one college student they like. Let’s be honest, kids need a break from us as much as we need it from them. It’s a win-win. The kids get a babysitter who gives them lots of attention, they get to eat pizza for dinner and parents get some much needed adult-only time.
Look for Little Ways to Be Nice
One of the biggest differences between couples who make the transition to parenting smoothly and those who don’t is their ability to express the three As: affection, appreciation, and admiration. If your partner gets home late, instead of snapping at him or her, try taking a sympathetic stance. Saying, “you must have had a really busy day” acknowledges hard work and eases tension, as well as communicates a message that you’re on the same team. This kind of feel-good behavior starts a cycle of kindness between you and your partner and often leads to gratifying payback.
— Written by Sarah Saunders, M.A., licensed professional counselor at Meghan Barlow and Associates, a behavioral health practice in Rocky River that focuses on the needs of children, adolescents, and their families. The practice offers a diverse, multi-disciplinary team whose expertise ranges from traditional counseling to social skills, ABA and speech therapy.