Being in a marriage, a happy, committed marriage, is hard work. I recently saw a segment on the Today Show about it being all or nothing these days — where people are overflowing with abundant happiness, but they still can’t find a way to make it work. We expect more from marriages now than we did a decade or two decades ago, and with that come inherent challenges.
Feel blessed to have celebrated 11 years with my guy. I’d be lying if I said though it was all blissful, happy moments. It’s unrealistic. We’ve definitely had highs and lows, have seen a counselor a few times, and have been tested a few times (young kids & no sleep can do that to you!). My therapist validated that absolutely adding young kids to a marriage is one of the most challenging times in a relationship. You’re sleep deprived, a majority of your energy and time is going toward others and your world is circling around them instead of focusing on ourselves and our relationships. Hearing that alone — even without any advice — was validation enough (thanks, Shannon!) that I’m not the only one dealing with this. We’ve also learned a lot along the way and are better for it.
1. Have a date night. Just the two of you, not with other couples. It’s so easy to plan double dates, to plan afternoon playdates or to do things with others. You know those empty nesters you see at restaurants that hardly talk the entire meal? Sad. Create dialogue now about each others dreams and goals, wants and wishes, daydreaming about trips or anything else. I think it’s realistic to keep kids totally off limits but minimizing the kiddie chatter will help feel like you got a break from parenting duty. Enjoy and appreciate time just the two of you.
2. Make your bedroom a no phone zone. Ok, ok, we haven’t mastered this one yet but I’m putting my phone to charge in our office, and so is my husband whether he likes it or not. Nothing is hotter than watching your guy aimlessly read the news on an iPad, right? Fail. Talk about taking the intimacy out of the bedroom!
3. Mirror each other with communication. I don’t know about you ladies but nothing irritates me more than “it will be OK,” or some other generic response that doesn’t validate my feelings in the least. When I told this to our counselor she encouraged us to mirror the message, so when I say “I can’t believe I didn’t get that blog contract. My site sucks.” — instead of him saying, “it will be fine,” or “you know it doesn’t suck,” he would say “I know it’s frustrating that you didn’t get that job but look at all the other work you have. What else can you work toward getting?” I’m sure a professional can speak more eloquently but you get the idea. It does wonders in friendships and business, too.
4. Be Appreciative & Grateful. In business and personal life it’s easy to only hear the complaints, what’s not done. I’ll be honest, I can nag but I’m actively working on also being more appreciative of the awesome efforts my husband makes and how hard he works for our family. Saying thank you for even little tasks like taking out the garbage, making the kids’ lunches or making the dinner reservation for Saturday night is huge. It increases his happiness, and his likelihood of doing more (win-win!).
5. Decide What’s Worth it. One of my grandma’s told me this years ago and I’ve always held this true. I think I asked her about something that my papa did that I thought was annoying; it was one of his quirks. She said to me either decide what’s worth it, or pick your battles. Same difference (and funny enough, the same philosophy goes for parenting!). Don’t make everything into an argument and decide what’s a non negotiable. Yeah the socks on the floor are annoying as is his love of leftovers night after night when that’s not your thing (as was my papa’s!) but decide if it’s worth the fight.
6. Give a passionate kiss each day. It’s all too easy to fall into the friendship/roomate zone. I’ve had countless conversations with close friends over the years of relationships that have ebbed and flowed. Make a priority to keep romance, even a bit of it, even on the most chaotic days. It doesn’t have to be sex or nothing. Don’t just give a fleeting kiss. Find time for minimum one deep, passionate kiss each day. There are countless studies about the power of kissing. So, let’s get to it!