Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

Parents: Revive Your Romantic Relationship with Each Other

Parents: Revive Your Romantic Relationship with Each Other

If you’re a parent, romance may be a thing of the past for you. Perhaps you and your spouse had enjoyed a passionate relationship before your children were born. But once they arrived, your attention shifted to focusing on them rather than on each other.

Your children have many needs, but one of them is that their parents enjoy a thriving marriage. It’s important — and possible — to make the time to nurture an ongoing romance with your spouse, even during your child-rearing years.

Here are some ways you and your spouse can keep your romantic love strong while raising children:

• Set aside time in your schedule to be together — just the two of you — on a regular basis. Don’t discuss your children, work, chores, or topics of disagreement between you during those times. Instead, use the time to enjoy something together as if you were dating.

• Engage in intimate conversation. Honestly share your thoughts and feelings, and genuinely listen as your spouse shares his or hers. Ask each other questions. Seek to learn more about topics that interest your spouse. Give each other equal time to speak, and don’t interrupt each other. Look each other in the eyes, giving each other undivided attention without distractions.

• Only pursue recreational activities that you can both enjoy together. Don’t spend some of your most enjoyable moments apart.

• Make it a habit to express affection. Hug each other, kiss each other, hold each other’s hands. Frequently tell your spouse, “I love you.”

• Have sex as frequently as the one who desires it most would like, but do it in the ways the one who desires it least finds most enjoyable. This will make lovemaking more desirable to the person who has a lesser need for sex.

• Give your spouse your undivided attention for at least 15 hours every week. Use that time to meet each other’s emotional needs for affection, conversation, sex and recreation. If your relationship is in bad shape, schedule more than 15 hours each week for this. Every Sunday afternoon, sit down together with a calendar to schedule your time together for the coming week, planning some extra time you can use in case an emergency disrupts your original plan.

• Don’t make selfish demands on your spouse. Realize that attempts at manipulation only lead to resentment — not cooperation.

• Don’t make disrespectful judgments. Seek to understand and respect your spouse’s opinions as much as your own. Remember that God has brought you together to complement each other.

• Avoid angry outbursts. Rely on God’s grace to help you deal with issues calmly and rationally.

• Be honest with each other. Build trust by avoiding dishonesty and responding gracefully to the truth (even if it’s hard to hear).

• Eliminate annoying habits. List habits that irritate each other, then work to stop doing things that disturb each other.

• Act interdependently — not independently. Realize that your marriage is a partnership. Let your decisions reflect as much concern for your spouse as for yourself. Avoid the mindset that declares, “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.”

• Establish a policy of joint agreement. Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse. Before you make a decision, ask your spouse how he or she feels about what you would like to do. If you disagree about something, try to negotiate, setting ground rules about being respectful and positive while you discuss the issue. Identify the problem at hand from both of your perspectives. Write down your thoughts to clarify them before speaking. Brainstorm solutions together. If you arrive at an impasse, stop negotiating and schedule a later time to begin again. But if you find that your spouse is not persuaded, don’t go forward with your idea. Remember, your children learn to be thoughtful — or not — by watching how you and your spouse interact.

• Create a child-training plan together. This plan should describe goals for your children’s development, and methods you’ll use to help guide them. Clearly explain rules — and the reasons behind them — to your children. Be consistent in your discipline. Make sure you discipline in ways that are appropriate for your children’s ages. Reach an agreement with your spouse about discipline issues before acting so you can present a united front to your children.

• Mutually decide how you will divide childcare and household chores. List every task that you each want done, mention when it should be accomplished, identify which spouse wants it accomplished, and rate how important it is to each of you to see each task accomplished. Then take responsibility for the tasks you each would most prefer to do, and assign the remaining tasks to the spouse who most wants them done — or hire someone else to do them. Ask your children to help both of you out, and surprise your spouse once in a while by doing one of his or her assigned chores as a gift.

• When you need to add a new responsibility to your schedule, drop an existing one. Prioritize your time to avoid burnout.

• Continually seek to develop a lifestyle that’s enjoyable for both of you. Be creative and flexible through this process.

Adapted from "His Needs, Her Needs for Parents," © 2003 by Willard F. Harley, Jr. Published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House Co., 1-800-877-2665, Willard F. Harley, Jr., is a nationally acclaimed clinical psychologist and marriage counselor and the best-selling author of "His Needs, Her Needs."  He leads Marriage Builders Weekends across the United States and lives in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, with Joyce, his wife of 40 years.

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