Being married is hard, but it’s all about making time for the other person that makes it work. But what happens once you have kids? As exciting as creating a family is, it can throw a huge wrench into things because you do everything for the little ones making sure they are being taken care of. While at the same time you need to be taking care of your partner and showing them the love you show your kids. Keeping love alive after kids is so important.
I remember coming home from work one day shortly after our first was born. I ran straight to him, picked him up and began to unload all my affection onto him. After a few minutes I looked up at my wife’s tear filled face. Being the sensitive guy that I am I asked “What is wrong with you?” This caused more tears but a very important lesson that I have yet to forget. She went on to explain how she needed that same affection, she craved it and wanted to be the first person he came home happy to. From that day on I have always greeted my wife with the first kiss upon returning home, followed by kisses and time with my children to help relieve her from her days work. I am no expert but I seen a difference from that simple step. How do you do it all?
Baya Voce, relationships curator, said, “As unsexy as it sounds, once kids come into the picture you have absolutely got to schedule time with just the two of you.” A lot of time if you’re at the point where kids have impacted your love life, sex drive can feel extremely low and to feel like you’re supposed to feel sexy and want to get it on just because you’re in bed together is unrealistic.
“In fact, even just massaging each other or lying in bed naked together with no pressure for sex, it can be really intimate,” says Voce. Life gets hard when you have little ones up all night, then you get up for go to the gym early, work all day long and then come home to working with keeping the kids alive. It takes a lot out of you and sometimes you don’t feel up to sex because you are just so exhausted.
Then you wonder, if people are too tired to do anything after having kids how do they keep having more? Well, it’s easy, you work through it and make an effort. Here are some things you can do to make your life and romance strong with your partner.
- Weekly Date Night. I get it, you have kids and need a sitter, add that up with dinner and movie and by the end of the night you’re emptying out your entire wallet. Easy solution, get the sitter and just go to Chik-Fil-A and have dinner together. Being just the two of you being able to focus on each other. Not having to worry about kids makes a dinner date so much better.
- Remember what you did when you were dating? Bring it back. You used to put for so much effort when you and your partner were dating, but then suddenly you dropped it all when the kids came along. It’s time to bring back the little things: flowers on a random day, love notes, cute text messages, etc. It’s the little things that will bring her so much joy.
- Personal time. “Getting back to you might seem selfish initially, but it’s so much better in the long run for the health of your family relationships,” says Voce. Get back to you: your hobbies, goals dreams so that your partner sees you as an attractive partner again, not just a parent (which can be not that sexy).
- Acknowledge, often and honestly, the crazy phase of life you are in together. The very nature of family life is chaotic when there are children in the home. And the chaos is typically in inverse proportion to the amount (more kids = more chaos). Say it loud and proud, “This is NOT the season of our life where we will have lots of time to nurture each other and our relationship. That time will come again. AND we will do our best with the time we do have together now because this is important to us. All of us.”
- Regulate before you communicate. Carrie Contey, Ph.D. says, “Try to be aware of where you are in your brain when you communicate. If you are in the red (reptilian brain), don’t talk. If you are in the yellow (mammalian brain), do something that gets you back in the green (human brain) before you speak. A few ideas — big breath, drink of water, jump up and down, walk outside, splash your face with water. Remember your partner is hearing your brain state WAY more than he/she is hearing your words. Oh, and no one is a mind reader. Express yourself clearly, from a kind human brain.
- Check yourself. Be responsible for checking in on your own emotional state. Often. Hold whatever you observe with kindness, not judgment or excuses. Think of it like the way you might talk to a friend who simply needs empathy. Turn to yourself with softness and check in often.
- Pillow talk. Besides talking to yourself, which sounds crazy, but clearly needs to happen. You need to talk to each other. Sometimes life gets out of control, you get home from work and before you know it the kids are in bed and you’re exhausted. But have you and your partner talked about your days and listened to what the other is going through? Before shutting your eyes, laying in bed and just talking about your day and listening to one another can be relaxing and may even help you sleep better because you’ve just unloaded all the things that you went through for the day. Plus, it’s nice to know all that your partner is doing when you’re not together.
- Cut the criticism. This one is probably one of the hardest for me. I don’t do it intentionally, but it just comes out and I’m not even thinking about the results that can come from it. But for every one criticism, give five appreciations. Practice this regardless of if you voice the criticism our loud or you think it to yourself. 5 to 1. Learn it. Live it. Love it.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Cut everyone around you, especially yourself, a whole lot of slack. Be like Teflon, let the annoyances slide off. Try to let at least 50% of what annoys you go. I know that when I haven’t had a lot of sleep, been at work all day that things can blow my fuse a lot faster than if I were to get plenty of sleep and have a stress free day at work, but life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Your partner is dealing with a lot too when they have kids constantly needing things from them, the last thing you need to be doing is harping them on all the little things.
- Really listen and put yourself in your love’s shoes. We all want to feel heard. Give your partner the gift of really listening. The other day I got to experience what my wife goes through on a regular basis. We were driving down the street and saw an accident where an ambulance and fire truck were helping someone who had been injured. My son quickly asked, “What happened?” “He got in an accident and they are there to help him.” “Why?” “That’s their job, to help people.” “Why?” This went on for miles. She tells him stories and all he says is “why” not really listening to what she is saying. I get it, he’s little and this is what little kids do. But when you have had conversations like this all day every day, it’s no wonder your partner wants to just have a conversation with you, where they know you will actually listen to what they are saying.
Having kids has been the greatest blessing in my life and I am grateful for the fun, exciting moments that we have had together and will continue to have. I don’t need to leave the love out of my relationship with my wife though just because I am too tired and have used all that love on the kids. Work hard and make your relationship be what’s the most important.