Keep the Fireworks in Your Marriage – And Be a Good Parent
New parents, as well as those who have been at it for a while, can find themselves drifting apart as they put more and more effort into caring for their children. It is not unusual to put all the responsibilities that come with kids at the top of the list of all you are already doing, and move the things like taking care of yourself and spending quality time with your spouse to the bottom. For some couples, nurturing their marriage slips off the list entirely.
While researching a story on this topic, writer Erin Zammett Ruddy spoke to New York marriage therapist John Jacobs, M.D., who said part of the reason for this seemingly increasing phenomenon is the simultaneous rise in helicopter parenting; as a society we’ve become hyper-focused on the emotional well-being of our kids at the expense of our marriages. (Zammett Ruddy/Jacobs, n.d.) The irony, of course, is that one of the best ways to raise emotionally stable, well-adjusted kids is to have a strong, supportive, loving marriage. But who has the time and energy for all that?
The truth is, we all do. When it comes to a happy marriage and a happy family, you can have it all… at least some of the time. But, it does take a little effort, and some adjustment of priorities. Your marriage does not have to go on hold from the day your first child is born until the day your last child leaves home.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Don’t set the romance expectations too high, advises Zammett Ruddy. “Simply sitting on the same couch while watching TV (instead of, say, across the room from each other) counts as quality time” particularly if some parts of you are actually touching. (Zammett Ruddy, n.d.)
- While spontaneity is exciting and fun, it is very difficult to accomplish once kids are in the mix. If you wait for the chance to be spontaneous, it may never come. “Couples, like gardens, appliances and friendships, take maintenance. That means some planning,” writes Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. (Hartwell-Walker, 2015)
- Don’t overschedule your kids. The amount of time spent driving them around and watching or waiting at practices, classes, games, etc., can quickly add up to a full-time job, leaving time for little else, as well as leaving everyone exhausted and grumpy. (Hartwell-Walker, 2015)
- Many couples share child-care responsibilities by taking turns, but that can mean you only see your spouse when you are handing kids off to one another. Make sure to balance child-care with time together away from the kids. (Hartwell-Walker, 2015)
- Find an activity you both enjoy. While we all need alone time, having interesting ways to spend time together enables couples to have something in common, and something to talk about other than the kids or household chores. (Hartwell-Walker, 2015) Consider a class, a sport, or just going for a walk.
- Have good babysitters. Family you can rely on, friends you can trade with, or a teenager you trust, are all good options.
- Going out doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The important thing is spending time together away from your kids and creating the space for conversation that doesn’t revolve around them. If babysitters aren’t an option, simply put the kids to bed early and have a regular date night at home.
While more and more people seem to be living the new norm in which parenting trumps marriage, a joint report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values found a surprising, but encouraging statistic: “A substantial minority — about 35 percent — of husbands and wives do not experience parenthood as an obstacle to marital happiness.” The study identified aspects of contemporary social life and relationships that seemed to contribute to an ability to successfully combine marriage and parenting. These included marital generosity, good sex, religious faith, thrift, and shared housework, among others. (Marquardt/Wilcox, 2011)
If you’ve been thinking of your marriage as something else to add to your to-do list, something that gets in the way of your parenting, or simply a non-entity in the grand scheme of your life, for the sake of yourself, your spouse, and your children, reconsider. By making your marriage a priority, your whole family will be healthier and happier. Several Maria Droste therapists see individuals as well as couples of clients ready to reconsider the state of their spousal relationships.
Over time, that proverbial ‘spark’ that brought you two together can wither and wane in the every-day routine of balancing kids, family, work and whatever else life throws at you. Don’t lose hope; sometimes, with a little help exploring your relationship status, you can rekindle the flame and reignite the fireworks from those days when ‘family’ started with two people committed to one another as partners in love and in life. Who knows? Maybe that fire will be new and exciting from the other side of having kids, and will burn a little brighter with your changed perspectives.
For more information on relationship, couples & family, or marriage services, contact our Access Center at 303-867-4600.
If you would like to speak to a therapist about this subject or about any other issue you may be experiencing, contact the Maria Droste Access Center at 303-867-4600.
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Zammett Ruddy, E. (n.d.). How to Make Marriage Work (After Having Kids). Parenting.com. Retrieved on June 28, 2016, from https://www.parenting.com/blogs/true-mom-confessions/erin-zammett-ruddy/marriage-tips
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2015). Is Parenting Drowning Your Marriage? 6 Tips to Help Reconnect with Your Partner. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 28, 2016, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/is-parenting-drowning-your-marriage-6-tips-to-help-reconnect-with-your-partner/
Marquardt, E., and Wilcox, W. B. (2011) How to Keep Parenthood from Making Your Marriage Miserable. The Atlantic. Retrieved on June 28, 2016, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/12/how-to-keep-parenthood-from-making-your-marriage-miserable/249456/