The Dynamic Duo: How to Stay a Loving Couple In the Midst of a Family
While I may have a bit of knowledge about relationships and communication stored up, I will not pretend that I’m an authority on superheroes.
However, if we think about the strength, focus and ability it takes to have and raise children, the demands seem as thought they’d require superhuman abilities. I have yet to meet a parent who wouldn’t appreciate the superpower of reenergizing without sleep, lightening-fast-speed to chase the kids, or cloning themselves so they could be at home, at work and running errands at the same time.
Preparing for the Arrival of Children
The addition of children to the home brings with it innumerable changes. There are changes in the way time is spent and in available finances. There are changes in leisure time, priorities, sleeping patterns and in household roles. Like any transitions, these, alone, are important things to think about and discuss with your significant other before they happen, preparing for what’s ahead.
There is also one accidental change couples make that should be prepared for:
Parents often lose sense of being“couple”,while all of their focus goes towards being a “family”.
Keeping the “Couple” Intact
There are many reasons a couple gets and stays together. Those points-of-connection often rely on some of the things that change with the introduction of children.
Before children, the pair likely used the free-time they had to enjoy leisure activities together: nights-on-the-town, travel or simple movie nights in. These things become more difficult to do with the additional responsibilities of parenting.
Children’s schedules, the interruption of sleep and the additional noise and bustle around the house inevitably leads to a physical toll on the couple, as well. Stress levels will be up, as exhaustion and the pressure to keep going conflict.
This can lead a couple who used have great conversations to have some breakdowns in communication. It will also likely lead to some very natural, very common feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated and feeling like you can’t keep up or “do” everything required to keep up with your various roles: “husband/wife”, “parent”, “employee”, “family member”, etc.
How to Stay “Us”
Anticipate the Change
The first step to keeping the couple in sync is simply to understand and anticipate these very natural, inevitable changes. Be prepared to give yourself a little leeway and understanding as you feel the pressures of parenting, and realize that you need to give the same empathy and understanding to your partner. Be prepared to look for times your partner is struggling and dive in to help.
A couple who supports each other, provides a shoulder for the other to lean on and takes time to understand each other will continue to thrive as responsibilities become more difficult.
Daily “Us” Time
In today’s world, with an often two-people-working household, the kids running here and there and a million distractions pulling us from the home and each other, it can be really easy to put quality time with your spouse on the backburner.
Each couple should have a goal to connect daily, spending even minutes of quality time with each other, supporting each other and nurturing the couple’s relationship. Whether this becomes a routine, setting a certain time and place for the two of you, or you find that you can meet on a whim, taking turns calling a “time out” to be a couple at opportune times, setting aside time with your spouse should be a daily priority.
Schedule A Date Night
Yes: The baby is adorable and vulnerable and needs to be fed and may have its sleep schedule a bit rocked. The kids have their activities and reliable babysitters are hard to find and money is tight and you’re tired and time with the kids is important.
There are plenty of “ands” and plenty of excuses. But you are simply not going to be as effective as parents, and you are not going to survive as a healthy couple, if you do not find time to recharge.
Schedule a weekly date night. Yes, weekly. Date nights are key: a night during which we limit talk about the children and favor topics such as future plans, checking in with each other, interests, praises and current events. These are nights for remembering who “we” are as a couple, setting time aside to move forward together and cherish the relationship.
Is money tight? I recommend going to a park or zoo, finding a free art exhibit, hiking or setting aside time to play games together. There are scads of “free date” ideas to be found: if you run out of them, turn to a good internet search!
Afraid you can’t find (or can’t afford) childcare? Can the children stay with family? Are you able to trade time babysitting (you take ours on Friday, we’ll take Saturday) with friends or families you know through school, church or work? Has the time arrived where you can let one of your older children watch the younger ones for an evening? Network with other parents to find reliable, recommended babysitters. Babysitters can also be found through online services, created to research and endorse competent childcare workers.
No matter what the constraints, your date nights can be achieved and kept if you put your mind to it. Stay committed to the idea, swap the planning of them with your spouse, and you’ll find plenty of reward.
If a good dose of the above doesn’t seem to resolve a rift between you, we at Stenzel Clinical Services are always here to help. With qualified professionals able to assist couples with communication, conflict resolution, intimacy issues, parenting issues, as well as the variety of others, we are confident that we can help alleviate the pain and tension you may be facing.
Call us today at 630.588.1201 for more information, or to schedule an appointment.