After our first son was born a counsellor told me for a marriage to succeed once children were part of the equation you had to put each other first.
“You and your partner are one circle and you, your partner and your child/ren are in the other circle,” she said drawing with her hands.
With five years of parenting under our belt, I now see why this is so true. Having children puts an unprecedented kind of pressure on relationships; as co-parents you’re dependent on each other in some of the most simple and yet complicated of ways.
In addition to this, life just gets busier. You’ve got your separate lives with work, friends and family and then you’re committed to another third or fourth or fifth party; your kids.
You’re tired, pre-occupied, trying to remember everything that needs to get done while attempting to stay true to yourself, while nuturing your children at the same time. It’s tough.
Little wonder it can feel like work to keep your relationship afloat.
Make your partner a priority again
The fix, according to psychologist Renee Mill is just a matter of looking at your priorities.
“I often ask couples: if your four-year-old needed speech therapy every Wednesday night and you had to take her there together - you would. You would find the time and the money to pay for the therapist and you would go together. Once couples prioritise their relationship and see making time as vitally important for a) each of them and b) for their children and c) the longevity of the family, they will make it happen,” she said.
According to Renee it’s easy for parents to become completely child-centred and this is not healthy for three reasons:
1. As adults we need to have adult conversation
2. As sexual beings we need to keep sexually active
3. As a couple we need to keep communicating and staying together happily.
Get this right, says Renee and even your children will thrive.
“They feel secure and they will role model it and emulate it when they are grown up . So, even if your child complains when you go on a date, just say: 'Darling, this is good for all of us. Daddy (or mummy) and I love each other and want to spend time together. I’ll see you in the morning.' Then leave. See it as good therapy for the child, and indulge,” said Renee.
Beyond date night
While regular date nights are great fun, they’re not the only solution, especially for couples with really little children. If money or logistics is an issue for you, you could try these simple suggestions from Sharon Pope in her recent post for Mind Body Green:
1. Look your partner in the eye when they’re speaking to you
The eyes are the windows to the soul, so take advantage!
2. Smile at your partner
Whenever he or she comes in the room, look at them and smile.
3. Do something new together
Take a class or cook a healthy meal together. You can also create something together like a backyard oasis or plan a vacation together.
4. Take 15
Give each other 15 minutes together every night before collapsing into bed to connect and talk. Days can get busy, so you have to specifically carve out these moments or they won’t happen.
5. Say thank you
There's nothing quite like genuinely appreciating at least one thing each day about your beloved.
6. Forgive imperfections
And do it without ever asking to be forgiven.
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