So, I planned on doing this post for Valentine’s Day, but since we’ve had a lot going on here at home, I’m a few days late. But… better late than never, right?
As I was writing this post, I was thinking that there are already hundreds of articles and such out there that speak of how to keep the magic in your relationship. Most of them probably even have some good advice. However, many of the typical relationship tips and tricks are a little harder to pull off when you have kids. Meet your husband at the door after work wearing just a martini? Yeah, notsomuch when you’ve got a bunch of little ones running around waiting for dinner. Go away on a romantic weekend together? Again, not so easy when you’ve got kiddos.
Here’s the thing… The Man of the House and I each have a failed marriage under our belts, and we have learned A LOT from our past mistakes about what makes a relationship work (or not work, as the case may be) We also began our relationship already parenting 5 kids between us, which made our courtship a bit out of the ordinary, as well, so “couple time” has always been something we’ve had to work really hard to make a reality. In the first few of years of our relationship, we did have some weekends free, when my kids would visit their dad and his kids were with their mom. Those weekends are what got our relationship rolling… but now that we’ve got kids in the house 24/7, we definitely have to be a bit more creative to get time alone. Here are some things that work for us:
1. Have Bedtimes. Our kids have bedtimes. The last one is up in bed by 8pm. They are allowed to read quietly in bed for awhile (“lights out” times are staggered by age) but they do need to chill out quietly in bed at bedtime. This is good for them, as it helps them unwind and relax at the end of a busy day and sets them up for a good night’s sleep. And it’s good for us, because it gives us some much-needed “grown up time” together.
2. “Run away” together (to another room). I’m not generally a fan of using the TV as a babysitter… but… as long as it’s used sparingly and not abused, it can be an effective way to help parents nurture their relationship. About twice a month, we let the kids eat pizza in front of a movie, while The Man and I have dinner alone together in the kitchen. This gives us a 90-120 minute “date” during which the children are occupied and happy, and we get to enjoy some adult conversation and a grown-up dinner.
3. Touch each other. Never underestimate the power of touch. Greet each other with a hug and a kiss. Reach out and touch his back when he passes you in the hallway. Kiss her cheek while she’s cooking dinner. Hold hands while you’re watching a movie. These small, affectionate gestures will keep you connected throughout the day, even when you’re really busy.
4. Leave notes for each other. Write “I Love You” in the steam on the bathroom mirror. Send him an IM while he’s at work to let him know you’re thinking of him. Leave a Post-it note with a sweet message where she’ll see it. Send a text to let him know you are looking forward to spending time with him later. This kind of communication takes only a moment of your busy day, but it lets your partner know that they are important to you.
5. Make time for sex. This is really so important, and it’s something that we tend to put on the back burner when we’re busy parents. But the fact is, couples who have more sex are happier. There have been lots of studies done to confirm this! Sex is good for us physically, mentally and emotionally. Try to get the kids to sleep early enough that you can spend some quality time between the sheets with your mate. I understand that making time for sex is particularly difficult if your kids are very young. It is also especially challenging when you have babies that don’t sleep through the night, or you have kids that share your bed. In those cases, you have to be exceptionally creative about where and when you do it. Sneak into the bathroom together or down to the couch when the kids are asleep. Not every encounter has to be a full-on romantic adventure with candles and music (though that is nice, when you can swing it!) Sometimes a quick little interlude is enough to keep the fire burning in your relationship.
6. Get a sitter, even if only occasionally. Sometimes, you need to have time alone together, without having to worry about what the kids are doing. If you have family nearby who can watch the kids occasionally, that is great! Take those grandparents up on any offers to spend time with their grandkids so you and your mate can sneak away for lunch or dinner or even just a walk together. If you don’t have family who can watch the kids, then consider hiring a sitting now and then, or do a babysitting swap with other parents.
Having a strong, stable, loving relationship is one of the best gifts you can give your family. Happy Parents make a Happy Family. It is also important to remember that when the kids are grown up, it’s just going to be the two of you… so it’s well worth the effort to nurture your love, now and always.