Make Time For Your Marriage
Kids are a major stressor on matrimony. If you find your spouse often takes a backseat to their needs, then it may be time to strengthen your family's foundation.
By KD Reep
Children do not strengthen a marriage. In fact, they are a serious threat to it. In our culture of child worship and helicopter parenting, this is almost heretical to think, much less say. But the fact is children are one of the greatest stressors a marriage can experience. The long and short of it: The more time you focus on your children is less time you spend on your partner and marriage.
“Think of marriage as the foundation of your family life,” said Rebecca F. Ward, licensed clinical social worker. “If the foundation—your relationship with your partner—is sound, your kids will be, too.”
If you think having one child takes all your time and energy, having a second will make you wonder how you ever had time to breathe, much less dress or eat. Making time to pay attention to your spouse and your relationship can seem insurmountable, but it is vital to maintaining your relationship and reinforcing the love that brought you together as a couple in the first place.
“Children absorb all of a couple’s time, attention and devotion,” Ward said. “This is exactly why it is critical that a couple make time for each other. Neglect of the relationship will not only erode your partnership, it will wear away the foundation of your family. For the sake of everyone involved, you have to care for your relationship first.”
But how to do that? The first thing you have to do is make your spouse your priority. “That may seem counterintuitive when our culture tells us children are our most important pursuits,” Ward said. “However exhausted you are, however many chores go undone, make time to be with your spouse—just the two of you. Don’t talk about the kids or the house or anything other than the two of you.”
To reconnect and stay that way, start small. First, commit to sending your spouse off for the day with a hug, kiss and kind word, then welcome him home the same way. “Everyone wants to know they are loved and wanted, and acting happy to see the person you love will go a long way to making them feel like a priority,” Ward said. “Seems simple, but it’s an easy and significant first step.”
Next, set early bedtimes and stick to them. This doesn’t mean the kids have to be asleep at this time, but it does mean they have to be in their rooms. Kids must learn to entertain themselves, and giving them the opportunity to do so on a regular basis will benefit everyone.
“If your kids are in their rooms by 8:30 p.m., that gives you and your partner a chance to unwind and be together,” Ward said. “No matter how tired you are or how much you think you have to do before the next day, commit to taking at least 20 minutes to focus on your spouse. It will be something you both look forward to sharing.”
In fact, these 20-minute times can be anytime during the day. You can both take your kids to daycare, school or activities and use the time when you don’t have kids in the car to talk. You also can feed the kids separately, which gives you a chance to eat something besides chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.
“If you both work outside the home, schedule lunches together during the week,” Ward said. “This is a great time to talk about things other than your children, the house or duties. In fact, you can use it to remind each other why you fell in love in the first place.”
In addition to lunches, plan for extended time without your kids on a regular basis. Recruit family or friends to keep your kids and return the favor, or find a babysitter you trust and pay them fairly. Time to do things the two of you enjoy—even if it’s being alone in the house together—will make you feel special, appreciated and valued.
“Which brings us to sex,” Ward said. “Schedule time to have sex on a regular basis and stick to it. Give up the notion that sex has to be spontaneous. If you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen because you are exhausted or have other things to do. Talk about it with your spouse, set a time—even if that is setting the alarm early one morning—and keep it. You’ll both look forward to it.”
Finally, do what is right for you, your spouse and your family. “Remember that this time in your relationship is temporary,” Ward said. “Your kids will grow up and move on, and if you take care of your relationship throughout all of its stages, it will pay off in dividends.”