By Guest Blogger Gray Moulton, LMFT, CST Therapist
Creating and developing a lasting marriage is hard work. Think back. You and your partner met in college. Your eyes locked across the room and the butterflies in your stomach went crazy. Before each date you would get excited, even giddy when thinking about seeing them. You enjoyed each other’s company, had fun together, whether alone or with other friends, and you were always anticipating the next chance to see the other. Nothing seemed to get in the way of your love at this point in life.
Fast-forward 15 years, and a lot of things are now getting in the way. The love that was shared just between the two of you now has to be split between your partner and the two beautiful children you created. What once seemed so easy, now feels as though its terribly hard work. You know you love each other, but when do you have time to actually spend together? When can you have date night between soccer, ballet, vomit and doggie accidents on the new carpet? You’re likely thinking about how hard you work to care for yourself and the kids, as well as keep the house and your job. How in the world can you even think about having time to care for your relationship, especially with the kids?
I know you love your children. You would do anything for them, anytime, and most of you likely do. Think about your marriage like a well. Rain fills the well so that people can come and take water out. Who is filling your well throughout the day when you are constantly giving to the kids? Do you have any reserve for your spouse when they walk through the front door? It’s important to remember that kids put you on a schedule you aren’t accustomed to, create amazing amounts of new anxiety, and exhaust you with their endless supply of energy. You spend hours making sure they are safe, happy and healthy. This is exhausting. Gone are the days of jumping in the car Friday night after work and going to the beach for the weekend. Now you can’t wait to jump into the bed, and sleep. While sleep helps the body, it isn’t exactly all that is needed to refill that well though.
I read an article last week talking about the importance of the the “222” when creating a lasting marriage. What’s that you ask? The idea behind the 222 is that every two weeks you have a night out with your spouse minus the kids. Every two months you take time to have a weekend away, and every two years, you both take a week away together. This sounds amazingly fantastic to me! Wouldn’t it be so awesome?!?! Yeah, except for that fact that you don’t know anyone who could keep the kids, and you don’t have the money to spend to do this. Reality stinks sometimes. Think about it though. The idea of the 222 doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of money, or any money at all actually.
My first words of advice are to not be afraid to ask for help to make sure that you can create alone time for the two of you. I know you’ve kept your friend’s kids or picked them up for carpool. Maybe you’ve watched the neighbor’s child until they can come home from work. Maybe the neighbor is someone who would love to keep the kids for short amounts of time. ASK these people for help. Your date night out could be time at home while the kids are over at a friend’s house. A weekend away may actually be a weekend home, alone, just the two of you and take out Chinese. When the kids are young like this, it’s very important to the marriage that you spend time without them, together, maintaining the relationship. After all, it’s the relationship that made the kids to begin with.
My second words of advice are DON’T FORGET ABOUT SEX. Once you get the kids to bed and are pretty confident that they’re asleep, find some time for intimacy. It doesn’t have to be candles and music, but if you can pull that off, go for it. Find what works for you in the moment and reconnect with your partner. Don’t worry about the details or that the kids might bang on the door. That’s why the lock was made. Seriously, as Nike would say, just do it. Your lasting marriage depends on making the time.
Finally, I completely get that you are overworked and overtired. It’s on those days that you need to make sure that you are showing GRATITUDE to your partner. Be sure you take just a few seconds every day to look directly into their eyes and tell them exactly why you love them. Or thank them for something that they have done for you. Just hearing your words and seeing the earnesty in your voice will help them to understand that you are both in this together. Offer a hug. Take a moment to fall into one another, breathe deeply together, and enjoy this quiet moment of connectedness. This may be the only time you get, and it might just be the quality time you need. Best of luck as you work to create your lasting marriage.
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