Now that the New Year celebrations are behind us, we’re all settling back into the day-to-day routines that keep a family functioning. Winter vacations, holiday parties, seasonal feasts and family traditions have once again given way to the normalcy of homework, after-school activities, play dates and household chores. So what does that mean for your relationship?
It means that, as parents, you are being pulled in every possible direction except toward each other.
When your daily routine leaves you exhausted, it’s very easy to take your relationship with your spouse for granted. Don’t! That feeling of being disconnected will only grow if you don’t address it. Here are a few ways to nurture your relationship through regular kids-free couple time:
Look at Each Other!
No, really. Do you usually talk to each other while ‘doing’ something else or with your backs to each other? Are you looking at each other or at a screen? I know I don’t like not having spouse’s undivided attention when I’m sharing my pearls of wisdom! Your spouse can sense when you’re not hearing them because you’re running through the list of things you need to get back to once he or she stops talking. And it’s a not-so-nice feeling to think that what you tried to share isn’t worth 30 seconds of his or her true focus. So when your spouse talks to you, make the effort to stop what you’re doing, look at them, and listen. No, really listen.
Say ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Night’
Instead of waking up each morning and rushing to get the day started, turn toward your spouse and say, “Good Morning” (With as much of a smile as you can muster, pre-coffee.) Ask how he slept, or what her day looks like. Then again, before bed, say “Good Night” and wish each other restful sleep. Just like greeting each other when you get home from work, these simple rituals of acknowledging each other will help you generate and maintain a deeper sense of connectedness.
Night Time = Date Time
Technically, it may not be a date in the sense you were thinking, but it is an activity that you schedule. Plan to carve out an hour for the two of you to be together after the kids have gone to bed. Talk about your day, read to each other, wash the dishes, or just stare at the spot on the wall together. Whatever you do, just set a time at the end of the day and stick to it.
Don’t Let It Fester
If there is something on your mind, let it out! Instead, of letting it stew, use the aforementioned Night Time Date Time to talk about whatever may be upsetting you (with a calm and respectful tone, of course). Air it out before it has a chance to solidify into harder-to-change negative feelings towards your spouse.
Express Your Love and Gratitude to Each Other
After kids, the way that we feel loved may shift. Where before getting flowers may have let us known we were cherished, now being appreciated for our hard work is a more important gesture. Under the pressure of parenthood, love is more effectively communicated when we lend each other a hand, or relieve each other’s stresses. Recognize the things your spouse does for you, whether it’s making dinner or taking out the garbage, by acknowledging it. Small efforts to show each other your love, like being greeted at the door with a kiss or a sweet send off in the morning, can have big returns of connectedness.
So go ahead and say, “I love you” and “thank you” often and mean it.
An added bonus is that when your kids hear you say such kind, loving words you may just inspire them to say it to each other. That is, right before pushing, kicking and screaming at each other!
These are fast, effective things you can do right now to connect with your spouse on a regular basis, not just on occasion. Make the effort and you will be able to weather life’s biggest storms…together. Stay connected!