Your marriage (or your adult partnership) is the foundation upon which your entire family is built. If your relationship is strong, your family will be stronger. Your life will be more peaceful. You’ll be a better parent and quite simply, you’ll have more fun in your life. Even if you believe this, it can be hard to put your adult relationship in the position of importance it deserves. Yes, being a parent can get in the way of your relationship, but you don’t want to let it flounder until the kids are older and you can ‘get around to it’!
So here are some practical, easy-to-implement ideas you can apply, even if your time and your household is overrun by little people:
Appreciate the good things, and overlook little annoyances - Take a minute to think about the many wonderful reasons you chose to be with this person. Those things are probably still there - but covered up with a layer of peanut butter. Your first step in nurturing your marriage is to remember that even though you are parents, you are still a couple too. Make it a habit to ignore the little annoying things - dirty socks on the floor, worn-out flannel pajamas, an awkward burp at dinner - and choose instead to search for those things that make you smile: the way your spouse plays with the baby or the peace in knowing someone so well that you can wear your worn-out flannels or burp at the table when you’re with them.
Give daily compliments to each other - Now that you’ve committed to looking for the good in your partner, it’s time to say it! Compliments make you feel loved, and make you feel more loving. Compliments are easy to give, take such a little bit of time and they’re free - you just have to make the effort to say them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small thing or big things, kind words will bring you closer together.
Mind your manners - That may sound funny to you, but think about it. How many times do you see partners treating each other in impolite ways that they’d never even treat a friend? Sometimes we take each other for granted and unintentionally display rudeness. As the saying goes: ‘If you have a choice between being right and being nice, just choose to be nice.’
Pick your battles - This is great advice for child-rearing - and great advice to follow in your marriage as well. In any relationship, there will be disagreements. The key is to decide which issues are worth pursuing and which are better off ignored. From now on, anytime you feel annoyed, take a minute to examine the issue, and ask yourself two questions: ‘How important is this?’ and ‘Should I choose this battle or let it go?’
Cuddle more - When you have little children, you likely always have someone on your lap or in your arms. You probably have a day filled with sticky hugs and kisses. Remember to shower some of that affection on each other. Sprinkled throughout the day is best - stay in the habit of kisses, hugs and touches, and your relationship will feel more loving to you both.
Spend time with your spouse - It can be very difficult for your marriage to thrive if you spend all your time being ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy.’ You need to spend regular time as a couple. This doesn’t mean you have to take a vacation to Hawaii. Just take small daily snippets of time when you can enjoy uninterrupted conversation, or even quiet companionship, without a baby on your hip, a child tugging your shirtsleeve or a teenager begging for the car keys. You owe it to yourself - and to your kids - to nurture your relationship.
Many people find that a regular ‘date night’ is easiest. Perhaps set this up as a standard grandparent, aunt or uncle time with your kids, if you have family who would enjoy this. Or share babysitting time with friends or a co-op.
If you can’t find child care, then once a week set up a routine dinner, movie or talking time for just the two of you after the kids are in bed at night. Or meet for lunch, or get up early and have breakfast before the troops arise. Or let the kids have movie night in one room while you two put aside work and house tasks to just be together for an hour or two. The key is to find something that works for you - and then do it regularly.
I hope you’ll get started with these ideas right away. And watch your relationship take on a whole new glow.
Elizabeth is a mother of four, and author of the bestselling No-Cry Solution series on topics such as sleep, discipline, picky eating and potty training. She is known worldwide as the voice of practical, respectful parenting. Visit her website, nocrysolution.com. Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill) by Elizabeth Pantley.
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