Every parent has been there. It’s late at night. The baby has finally fallen asleep for what may only be a few hours. Both parents are exhausted, and it’s hard to remember the last time a meal was eaten warm. A hot shower seems like a distant memory. The only thing that seems important at that minute is to fall into bed for a bit of sleep. The only conversation between partners in several days has had to do with whose turn it is to make a bottle or change a diaper.
Unfortunately, a bit of this scenario is inevitable. Having a baby or young child is overwhelming physically, emotionally and financially. It’s only natural that the marital relationship may take a temporary hit while new routines are created and life settles into the new normal. The trick is to not let this temporary state become too ingrained.
Why Keeping the Marital Relationship Fresh is Important
When couples become too focused on their children and forget about each other, they lose the camaraderie that makes parenting less stressful. Growing apart too much leaves a space for something or someone else to step in, and this can permanently destroy the relationship.
Aside from the obvious problems that this can cause, such as divorce, it can also be damaging for the children and their future relationships. Children will grow up thinking that what they have seen at home is normal, and it helps them in the long run to have a healthy, loving relationship modeled for them.
Making Time for a Loving Partnership
Although a romantic weekend away together is a great way to get some alone time, it’s not always practical because of finances, work schedules or child care issues. One way to spend time together is to schedule a date night, weekly if possible, or even every other week. Ask friends or relatives to watch the kids, or hire a babysitter.
It may seem like an extravagance, but it’s important to have time to just be together without children. It doesn’t even have to be a nice restaurant, fast food or a local diner will do just fine, the important part is that it’s a grown-up only evening. If even that is not possible, put the kids to bed early once a week and have a grown-up only dinner at home. Put on some music, dim the lights and spend some time in conversation about things other than the children.
Leave notes for each other in the morning, or at unexpected times. Jotting down, “I love you and will be thinking about you today,” only takes a second, but can go a long way towards making a spouse feel appreciated. A quick phone call during the day will also make a loved one feel good.
A married couple should try to remember what made them fall in love with each other in the first place. When caught up in the day to day routines, it’s easy to begin treating a spouse like a roommate or just a part of the background. Looking at old photos or love letters from the person, or reminiscing about past holidays or romantic dates, can help to bring that old feeling back.
Life with children is often hectic and stressful. But it is beneficial to the couple and their children to work on the relationship. Spending time alone, small romantic gestures, and remembering falling in love in the first place can all help keep a relationship going after kids.
How Children Affect Marital Happiness
Some marital relationships are happier after children are born. In this study, the couples who reported stronger relationships after their child’s birth were married longer and had higher incomes.
Three Ways to Improve a Marriage Relationship
Take risks together. Trying new things together, such as sky diving or learning about astronomy, improves marriages by uniting couples. Psychology professor Leaf Van Boven from the University of Colorado explains that happiness is found in experiences because they’re open to positive reinterpretations, become a meaningful part of a couple’s identity, and contribute to a happy relationship.
Untangle money issues. “Often, when couples argue about money, it’s not money that’s the problem,” says William Harley, PhD, author of His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. “Instead, the money fights are a byproduct of relationship neglect.” Money can become a weapon when one spouse uses the other person’s spending habits as ammunition, or when a spouse spends money to get even.
Keep communicating. Research shows that contempt and holding back from honest communication can lead to marital trouble and potential failure. Partners should find things to appreciate and respect about each other. To improve your marriage, talk, touch, and communicate. When communication stops, marriages are less likely to be happy.
Increasing marital happiness levels (whether or not children are involved) takes effort on the part of both partners. The more couples focus on improving marriages, the easier it gets – and the happier marriages are!
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