My Siamese cats are inseparable. Each night, and often during the day, they cozy together at the end of our bed on a blanket they have claimed as their own. Both cream colored with different colored markings, it's often hard to see where one begins and the other ends. It struck me one early morning as I stumbled out of bed to make school lunches that the cats are more intimate than my husband and I. As if reading my thoughts, they stirred and instinctively began washing each other's faces, their tongues touching occasionally.
Like the majority of people in our position - double income with kids - facing the daunting task of capably managing careers, kids and family life, we are often zapped of all our energy at the end of a long day.
Ever wake up in the morning swearing that tonight will be different? Time to focus on one another. Convinced that night will be the night that you'll prepare a fancy feast for your spouse, complete with candlelight. Okay, forget the candles and the fancy part. I often wake up with the conviction of just preparing dinner for my hardworking husband's late arrival home from work. I vow to greet him at the door with something other than a shabby T-shirt and sweats and to share a bubble bath once the kids have gone to bed at a ‘normal’ time. Who knows what will follow light conversation on the hammock under the stars…
Sadly, something invariably gets in the way. Sadly, it is often our spouses who get pushed aside as something to take care of another day. Following a day of helping others help heal their relationships, car pooling, arguing with the kids about bath and bedtime and dealing with a million things in between, it's hard not to fall asleep next to my child at 10pm. After that, all I want to do is crawl into my own bed after placing an ‘Off duty, leave me alone!’ sign on my door.
So, maybe weeknights are not the best to plan romance. Maybe they're best spent dreaming up excitement for the two of you on the weekend when things are hopefully not as rushed.
So, this is what I advise others and try to practice myself:
1. So as not to feel as harried on weekend evenings, schedule extracurricular activities very lightly or not at all on weekend days. Following a more relaxed day, try to schedule a babysitter in advance on regular intervals - every second Saturday night, for example. Do this even if you have nothing planned.
2. Don't feel obliged to include others in your plans every time you go out. Balancing time just for yourselves and with friends is very important. If you feel the need to include others each time, this may be a warning signal that you feel uncomfortable with your spouse alone - this may happen after extended periods of not connecting with one another.
3. When you go out on your date, dress up for one another. Sometimes, even cologne or perfume can ignite small fires within.
4. If you're fortunate enough to have the help of an older babysitter or family members, try to get one night away from your regular routine about twice or three times a year. Even spending a night at a local downtown hotel can rejuvenate your relationship for weeks to come.
5. Read self-help books for ideas on how to maintain a healthy monogamous relationship. One such book by Patricia Love, M.D., and Jo Robinson is Hot Monogamy.
6. Realize that despite our tendency to push one another aside in the midst of chaotic schedules, it is best not to take one another for granted. Schedule time for one another. Literally. Even though this may appear contrived, what you do within that scheduled time can be spontaneous.
7. And speaking of spontaneity, do something different for one another occasionally. Arrive at your spouse’s place of work with a picnic lunch and insist that you take a walk to a local park to eat it. Send your husband flowers. Bring your wife breakfast in bed. Surprise one another and you'll be surprised at the benefits to your relationship.
One of the best captions I have read is magnetized to my fridge. "One of the most important things a father can do for his children is to love their mother." Of course, the reverse is true, too. Love and enjoy each other during the days ahead.
Sara is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is the author of two parenting books, Am I A Normal Parent? and Character Is the Key, and is one of North America’s leading parenting experts. For more information, visit www.helpmesara.com.
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