One of the most difficult aspects of being a parent has little to do with the children at all—it’s keeping love fresh as busy, frazzled, exhausted parents.
Ah, parenthood. There‘s not much to say that hasn‘t been said before. For most of us, parenthood is the most challenging, surprising, humbling, exhausting, rewarding and ever-changing experiences in a lifetime.
Many of us have dreamed of having children ever since being children ourselves. Some of us haven‘t. Either way, having children changes just about everything about you. It changes your tendency to be a little self-indulged, changes your ability to function on little to no sleep, changes your ability to be patient (or not), changes your body, your face and your life.
But, perhaps, the biggest thing to change with your growing family is one that we often overlook, although it may be the most important change of all.
Without a doubt, if you have children, your relationship with your spouse or loved one will change, and it will change in a big way. Gone are the days of sleeping in, wondering what you should do with your day. Gone are the days of being able to sneak away in the middle of the day (or morning, or night) to be intimate with one another. Gone are the days where you feel romance trumps all; now diapers, tantrums, morning snuggles, trips to the zoo, playdates and food fights trump all.
Don‘t get me wrong, having children is, hand‘s down, the most precious, grateful gift that my husband have and could ever wish for; however, along the journey of building a family, we may have forgotten to continue building our own relationship.
The following tips are some things I‘ve noticed over the years of marriage, childbearing and working as a Marriage and Family Therapist that I think can help keep your love fresh as you embark on the journey of parenthood. Just like your child-free relationship, a relationship with children requires work. Don‘t forget to keep it fun!
- Date nights, date nights, date nights. I can‘t say it enough. Making time for your relationship with your loved one is easily the number one thing you can do for your family. Schedule at least one night out each month; each week is even better! Hire a sitter or ask a friend or family member to watch your little ones. Even an hour or two alone will do wonders in keeping your relationship fresh.
- Keep supporting one another. In the midst of potty training, diaper changing and cleaning up bumps, bruises, spills and the like, it‘s easy to forget to ask each other how you are doing. Life naturally takes a focus towards your kiddos, and that‘s OK. Just remember to put a little extra into genuinely caring about your partner‘s day (and listening to his or her response!)
- Appreciate one another. It is so easy to focus on what‘s not working or not going right, especially when you‘re both exhausted from the day-to-day of life. What‘s harder is focusing on—and appreciating—the things your partner does or says that makes you feel loved and supported. Reinforce the things that are working well in your relationship, and everything else will go a lot smoother.
- Remember to ‘date‘ one another once and a while. Think about the early days of your relationship where you may have tried to show your partner how much you were in to him or her. Dress up, shave, leave each other notes, buy or make each other thoughtful gifts—help remind one another how much you really care about each other.
- Put your relationship with your partner or spouse first. At times, your children certainly need to come first; they rely on you for their wellbeing, after all! But making sure your relationship is in tip-top shape and modeling a loving, caring relationship for your children is incredibly important in their wellbeing, as well as yours. Take time for yourself and your partner and show your children what it means to love one another; it‘s one of the greatest lessons you can show them!
These are just a few things to keep in mind to help keep your relationship strong as your family grows. Remember, having a child can be a huge stressor on your marriage or relationship. Many people are afraid to talk about this because they think they’re supposed to be in baby bliss when a little one comes home.
Talk through your expectations with your partner when you start planning your family (or after, if you already have children!) and don‘t be afraid to seek professional support for objective, third-party support when needed. The sooner you work on your relationship, the less challenging it will be to get back on track!
[image: via Parker Knight on flickr]