We've all heard the complaints, and maybe you have even been the one complaining. Once children arrive, the romance of your marriage goes out the window. More time is spent shuttling kids to their various activities, and you and your partner often feel like you are ships passing in the night. Or during the day.
You're just not connecting like you used to. And you miss it.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
In no particular order, here are five ways you can build a happy, healthy marriage after kids.
At some point, you were a simple married couple before kids entered the picture. Don't lose sight of that bond that brought you two together in the first place. Be sure to recapture that when you can.
Yes, that means the date nights you have probably read about elsewhere. But it's more than simply going to dinner and discussing the kids while you're at the restaurant. Is that really focusing on you and your partner?
Take the time to remember what brought you together. Was it a shared interest? A sport? A love for travel?
When you have the time together, do the things you love to do and rekindle what attracted you to each other initially.
You are both individuals, and (assumedly) you each bring something to the family that helps keep it all running smoothly. Maybe your partner is the primary earner, and you're the logistics person (or vice versa). Or perhaps you have found a balance where you both work and take care of the kids.
Whatever your partnership has become, be sure that you continue to show appreciation for what your significant other contributes. It is easy to get frustrated ("How come I'm the one who is always running the kids to practices?") – but would the kids be able to participate in sports if your spouse wasn't earning money to pay the fees?
Celebrate the strengths that you each bring to the family.
Yes, you may be the parent who deals with issues most of the time, but if your partner happens to step in the middle of a sibling fight and makes a decision that isn't the same one you would make, for goodness' sake, do NOT call them out in front of the kids.
You've probably both heard it a few times: "that's not the way Mom/Dad does it." Or maybe it's, "Dad said XYZ, but you said ABC." Kids love to play that game, hoping to get the answer they actually want to hear.
You and your partner need to present a united front to the kids. I'm not saying sweep things under the rug – especially if they cause other issues – but take the time to talk it out after the kids have gone to bed. Don't contradict each other in front of the kids.
This tip dovetails with the previous one. Say that your partner steps up and makes the kids' lunches. But he gives the PBJ kid ham and cheese and puts celery sticks in the kid's lunchbox who only eats carrots. Is any of this the end of the world?
Your kids may act like it, but it most certainly is not. Be grateful that they wanted to help prepare the lunches. Then maybe undertake a little bit of self-evaluation – did they know the current food choices? Did the kids change what they like to eat within the last 3 hours? Because you know that happens all the time.
Or maybe your partner did the grocery shopping so you could go to lunch with your friends. But you get home and find that they bought the "wrong" brands. Is that worth fighting over? Unless there are specific medical reasons for a product, I will venture to say no; nothing like that is worth a fight.
Here's an addition. If your partner happens to be the breadwinner in the family but wants to take a day with the kids – let them do it with minimal input from you. You often have the opportunity to spend time and learn your kids' likes and dislikes.
Let your partner discover them also. Of course, if it will cause a major meltdown or otherwise ruin their time together, be sure that they understand it. But otherwise, let them experience the kids. You'll both have a better understanding of the kids and each other.
There will be arguments, and sometimes those might grow into bigger fights. But you can't let them derail your partnership. Being self-deprecating and learning to laugh at yourself can be challenging but strengthen the bond with your partner.
Are you a notorious stickler for rules while your partner is the joker? Are the jokes you sometimes make a little too pointed to be considered a friendly jest? Turning what could be a negative aspect of your (or your partner's) personality into a family joke can help define boundaries – and keep things from being blown out of proportion.
Of course, there are several other things that you can do to build a happy, healthy marriage after kids. But I have found these five to be the keys for many of them. Most importantly, keep both you and your partner in mind when making any decisions – you ARE partners for a reason.
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