So, you have a new baby who has come to join your married life, and now you are a family of 3 (or more!). There's no doubt about it, it's a beautiful thing! As time ticks on, however, you start to notice how much it begins to change your relationship with your partner. You realize that you may not snuggle as much as you used to because there's a new life who demands to be snuggled all the time! Perhaps those quick tussles in the bed together occur a little less frequently... or not at all! Adult conversations that once stimulated your mind and added richness to your relationship are far and few between! And when you do manage to get in some time to talk to one another, you notice the conversation is always about the baby! Chores seem to pile up, alone time is nonexistent, and, before you know it, your spouse becomes a stranger to you.
Hi everyone! Welcome to our 3rd blog visit on the "Trials of the Working Parent" Blog Book Tour! As you might have figured out, today's topic is all about marriage and how our children can affect the intimate relationship we have with our partner. Before we go much farther, however, I just want to say thank you to Mindy, here at The Adventures of the StuCrew for hosting me on the tour! Now let's do some honest chatting about being married... with children!
It's no secret that having kids presents itself with some pretty busy moments in life. Whether you're a working-mom or a stay-at-home-mom, having a baby upsets the balance in your life and marriage. As a Marriage & Family Therapist, I've met with hundreds of couples who come to me because their relationship seems to be sinking. Unfortunately, by the time most couples come to therapy, they're not sinking... they've already been sunk! It's no surprise that couples will ignore the trouble in their relationship until the problem becomes so bad, they can't hide from it any longer. Children can be a particularly troublesome time for couples too. Couples are faced with raising a new life, putting their parenting skills to the test, and trying to meld very different approaches to childrearing that may (or may not) go well together.
Today, I want to share with you about the Emotional Piggybank. This is a concept I teach parents and couples when working in therapy. Pretend your relationship represents a piggybank. Every time you spend quality/positive moments with one another, you are depositing money in the piggybank. Whenever you argue or do something to hurt your partner, you are withdrawing money from the piggybank. The key to keeping your relationship with your spouse healthy is to always have money in your Emotional Piggybank. Couples get into trouble when they keep withdrawing money from the bank but do little to put money back into the bank. Children add to this mix because the stress of raising kids increases the chances that you will withdraw money from the bank and do little to replace the money in the future. I could write several blog posts about how children cause the withdrawal of funds from this theoretical piggybank, but that won't help you much. Instead, I want to give you some ideas on how you can squeeze in those special moments to keep your marriage happy and healthy through the stress of raising kids. So, let's look at one ideas on how to keep the romance alive!
1. Make Sure to Have Some Date Nights
This is a pretty obvious one, but couples really struggle to manage it. If you can have a weekly date night where the two of you get to spend some time alone, go for it! If you're more like me, however, weekly is going to be pretty tough. Don't sweat it! Shoot for a date night at least once a month for a few hours. It may not seem like much, but it goes a long way in helping to deposit funds into that bank!
2. Try to Enjoy Meals Together
Life can get pretty hectic! It's becoming an increasing trend to eat meals on the sofa while watching TV. Scratch this off your list of options. Take advantage of the fact that you all have to eat anyway, so spend some time together! If you have a baby, feed him/her while you and your spouse get a chance to talk about things that matter to you! If you have older children, go around in a circle asking each other about their day. Model to your children how to listen to someone else and show interest in what others are saying.
4. Don't Forget Intimacy
There are many ways of being intimate with one another, and they don't all have to include sex. There is research to show that sharing sexual intimacy on a weekly basis is good for you and your relationship on many levels, but with small kids, this can be very difficult. This doesn't mean you can't be intimate in other ways, however. Simple caresses as you pass each other in a hallway, or a quick kiss that lingers just a little before you dash on to your next chore with a frisky smile, can go a long way in keeping the playfulness of your relationship alive until you can find some "alone" time. I knew a woman who was still married to her husband after 40 years of marriage. She was in her late 70s. I asked her once how she kept the romance of her marriage alive. She said to me, "By never forgetting the fun of sneaking in private moment without my parents finding out!" She explained that having kids while being married is the same as being a teenager with your boyfriend and your parents in the other room. "It didn't stop you then, did it? Why would it stop you now?"
I would love to give you more ideas and tips on how to keep your marriage happy and healthy! Unfortunately, I'm out of time. I hope this post was fun to read and gave you some ideas on how to keep your marriage alive while managing a new baby! If you find yourself having a hard time, don't forget that you can always reach out to a Marriage & Family Therapist for help. It's what we are here for! And don't forget to check out my new book, Trials of the Working Parent, where I share more ideas on how to engage in quality time with your family, how to manage your own self-care, and how to deal with the realities of being a mother in the era of the working parent.