The same passion and love that caused the birth of your children can be unceremoniously extinguished by the presence of those same children! When the two of you become three (and maybe more), it’s much more challenging to keep intimacy between husband and wife alive and well. With the demands of diaper changing and constant cleaning and feeding, tending a marriage can seem like a luxury one simply doesn’t have time for.
Yet you must keep the long view in mind. Years from now, when your last child goes away to college or work (yes, this will happen!), you and your spouse will be home… alone. The investment you make in your marriage not only blesses your home now, it creates a future of love you can look forward to. Nothing gives a child security like being brought up by a mother and father who love each other deeply.
You may want to grow closer to your spouse, but you’re in survival mode as it is. Here are 10 doable ways to get started in the right direction:
1. Have a daily connecting ritual. Think of a habit that’s easy to do which will establish a ritual of connecting with your spouse each day. It could be snuggling and talking first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Maybe a shared cup of morning coffee or evening prayer. Every night at bedtime I tickle my husband James’ feet and arms (he likes the touch) and we talk about the day (I like the talk). A daily connecting ritual will keep you from slowly drifting away from your spouse.
2. Have a regular date night and annual getaway. For some, regular means a weekly dinner out without the kids. For others, maybe a monthly date works fine. The point is to continue courting one another. I have friends who had a weekly candlelight dinner at home while their kids watched their weekly movie. Also put a getaway on the calendar at least once a year. You will feel like a new couple after just 24 hours away from the kids.
3. Schedule time for romance and kiss daily for 5 seconds. The daily kiss keeps the pilot light burning between you. You probably want to tell your spouse the daily kiss is not the go signal for the big event. However, do prioritize lovemaking in your calendar because as counselor Dr. David Clarke said in my book 31 Days to a Happy Husband, “Couples with kids that don’t schedule sex don’t have sex.”
4. Respect your spouse’s parenting style. Men and women parent differently and this is good. If a child wants to be comforted after scraping a knee, he will run to mommy. But if he wants to be thrown in the air for a good time, he knows to go to daddy. Don’t disregard or belittle your spouse’s parenting style. Embrace it because the blending of the two styles is very healthy for your child. Never make your spouse feel foolish because he or she has a different opinion about parenting. Learn to leverage each other’s strengths and support one another as parents.
5. Pray together and go to church together every week. Coming to God with your praises and needs will bond you spiritually as a couple. Use Scripture verses to pray out loud for God to bless your marriage and children. Pray for unity in the home and provision of your daily needs. Pray your children would walk in truth. The prayers don’t have to be long to be effective. Hold hands as you sit together in church. As you grow closer to God, you will grow closer to each other.
6. Attend an event like a marriage conference or couples night out. We need inspiration and instruction to learn how to become better spouses. Maintain a humble, teachable attitude and you will become a better lover every year. At a marriage seminar where I was teaching, a mother with five young children told me how the seminar gave her hope amidst a difficult and stressful time of parenting. She and her husband had that glow again because their hope was renewed.
7. Surround yourself with positive friends who speak well of their spouses. Do your closest friends treasure or trash their spouses? Do they assume the best or worst of their partners? Do they model commitment or complaining? Hang out with people who value and protect their marriages. Make no mistake – your friends’ attitudes will rub off on you, so choose your friends wisely.
8. Read books about parenting and marriage together. When our firstborn was a baby, my husband James and I searched desperately through four or five parenting books cracked open on the kitchen table. What should we do about our screaming baby? Those books helped to guide us as we didn’t know a thing about babies! Good books continue to guide us in our marriage (we recommend Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus) and we’re always reading about our next stage of parenting. We’ve got a 12-year-old now, so we’re currently reading Boundaries with Teens by John Townsend.
9. Don’t cater to your kids more than you cater to your spouse. When your child needs something above and beyond the call of duty, you are probably all in. Need a special costume for a play? Sure, you’ll drive around town to get it. Need to drive several times a week through traffic to get to baseball practice? You figure it out. But when your spouse asks for something inconvenient, you hesitate. Can’t he or she take care of it? Change the paradigm and make it a priority to cater to your spouse’s needs. Your toddler probably won’t remember driving to deliver something to your spouse’s boss; but your spouse will remember the favor.
10. Be firm about your child’s bedtime and establishing healthy sleep patterns. Getting a good night sleep is monumental in your child’s development and it’s certainly key in a marriage. When you are rested, you are nicer, more reasonable, and more pleasant to be with. Don’t let your child talk you into staying up late for one more show or interrupting you throughout the night for water. Treat sleep as sacred and enforce boundaries so your children will sleep through the night. This of course doesn’t apply to babies, but many times older babies and toddlers aren’t developing good sleep habits. Studies show this negative pattern often carries through the teen years and beyond. Train your children to sleep through the night. It will help your marriage too.
Is it possible to grow closer to your spouse even when you have young kids in the house? You bet! Be purposeful in your marriage, setting small goals of daily connecting and annual getaways. Adopt the attitude of a lifetime learner and you will reap the rewards of a close and happy marriage.
Don’t let your marriage slip from your priorities just because your children are needy. It’s very healthy when a child understands that mom and dad don’t revolve around him or her. Instead the family should revolve around Jesus and then around the marriage which is the foundation of a happy home.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at www.ArlenePellicane.com.
Publication date: June 27, 2016