You love your kids, no question about it, and you know that as a good and selfless parent, you need to put their needs above your own… but what about your spouse’s needs?
More and more, experts are raising the question of how marriage fits into parenting.
Whether you fully agree with the title of Episcopalian minister David Code’s book “To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First,” it’s clear that a marriage needs love, care and support in order to prevent the two of you from becoming a pair of co-working nannies.
Here are some simple things you can do to make sure your relationship with your spouse is as full of love and laughter as your relationship with your kids
Quality Time: Not Just Kids’ Stuff
Child psychologists agree that you should try to spend at least 10 minutes a day or an hour a week focusing on special time with each of your children, but do you do the same for your spouse?
When the kids are in bed, or before they wake up in the morning, spend some of that time with your spouse instead of collapsing in front of the TV or social media. Devote your full attention to your husband, making sure he knows you’re listening to every word he says about his day. Cuddle with your wife on the couch and toss around favorite movie quotes together.
You don’t need an elaborate date night every weekend; a few date minutes every night can work wonders.
Try Something New
Sometimes, even when you find something other than the kids to talk about, it falls into a rut as you keep rehashing the same points about why you loved or hated the last “Hunger Games” book. Exploring something together as a couple gives you something new to talk about when you’ve fallen into one of those ruts.
A newfound interest in astronomy, watercolors or hiking can open up conversational vistas, or give you something to do other than talk, as you share an enjoyable activity together and simply cherish being close.
Touch, Touch, And More Touch
Find little opportunities to touch each other during the day. Hold hands under the table at dinner. Give your wife a kiss as you pass her in the kitchen, or put your arm around your husband when you stand close to each other.
Physical affection helps you break out of the daily grind and reminds you that you’re lovers, not just business partners.
The Joy Of Sex
Sometimes as a parent, you need to take what you can get where sex is concerned. As sex therapist Joy Davidson puts it, “Spontaneity may be more fun, but if you’re realistic and plan for sex, at least you’ll have it.”
Every week, pick out at least one day when you’re going to get intimate and plan around it as thoroughly as you would any other serious social commitment. It may end up not happening, don’t stress yourselves out if you end up too tired or sick, but it gets you into the habit of having sex rather than living like roommates.
You’ve heard it ever since your bridal shower: communication is key to a good marriage. With both of you exhausted, overworked and tempted to be martyrs, that’s even truer. Let your spouse know if you need more help with the children or the housework.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, your spouse will probably assume you have everything covered unless you specifically ask for help with something (which is, in some ways, a compliment; you’re doing such a good job that you don’t seem to need any help!).
If you work outside the home, your spouse may assume that you’re immediately free to help the second you walk through the front door unless you explain the mountain of papers your boss sent home with you. Don’t take everything on and let resentment fester. Ask for help. Your marriage will be better for it.