Today I’ve partnered with Prepare/Enrich to bring your my favorite strategies to strengthening your marriage after babies, and they aren’t all what you’d expect.
How many times since having kids have you heard the importance of getting out the house with your guy for a kid-free evening and strengthening your marriage? A lot right? The advice usually included not talking about your children either, didn’t it? Well I think my very favorite moments of marriage these last two years (Lincoln is TWO, when did that happen??), revolved around the two sweet spirits we’ve brought into the world. There is not a time I’ve loved Ben more than watching him be a kind and patient father. And as much as we love rock climbing, there is nothing quite like the shared love of a tiny human to bond you over a common interest.
Bond over it.
Enjoy being married to the one person who loves your babies as much as you do.
One of my very favorite traditions with Ben is watching my snapchat stories (or IG stories more often these days) in bed before we fall asleep. It’s a great way to recap what we did that day (because I take far too many videos of my kids) and I love that he loves their silly, quirky behavior as much as I do.
But, I get it, since having babies there are kids around for most of your life these days. And even though you love them, and even though you love watching your husband be a parent, your marriage is different now. If you’re looking for Valetine’s ideas, I loved reading through this post I put together FOUR YEARS AGO as a guide for men but today I have ideas to get you through the rest of the year for strengthening your marriage.
So, aside from embracing your mutual love of your children, here are some things to consider going forward.
Tips for strengthening your marriage after kids:
Consider an early bedtime (for the kids)
I know, I know, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some dads get home late and want to spend time with the kids. Some moms NEED the kids to sleep past 7 am so early evenings are out of the question.
BUT, babies with early bedtimes is the best thing we’ve done for our marriage in the last two years.
Lincoln (now 2) has managed to get his bedtime to about 7:30 but for the first year of his life it was 6:30 and Adelaide (7 months) is in bed by 6:20 each night. My goal is to get them both closer to a 7 pm schedule but I am really loving the quiet hour I have with just Lincoln after Adelaide is asleep.
It means Ben and I have a solid 2-4 hours after the kids go to sleep to ourselves. Now, with his work schedule and work I have to get done from home, we aren’t always both free during those 2-4 hours, but any given week, we could always find a few nights to be.
Don’t Give Up the Me-Time
Before kids it’s likely that you spent some time apart from your spouse, right? Maybe it was girls night or book club. Maybe he took off for the gym or a game of basketball. I know that time is precious but I really think having a few moments without having to think about the needs of another person makes you better at meeting the needs of other people. And when you’re parents, most of your life is about meeting needs. So, make time alone from your spouse (and your kids) a priority and watch as it helps you be a better mom, and a better wife.
Maybe it’s bringing your spouse a green smoothie in bed or maybe its setting out a bowl and a spoon for their cereal. Maybe it’s as simple as a lingering kiss goodbye each morning. Maybe you watch a show without your phones together each night before bed. Whatever you do, find small rituals to communicate through your actions that you care about each other, that your spouse is a priority.
Just Say It
I know we all say “actions speak louder than words” … but not always. And even when they do, words speak louder than silence and sometimes we get caught up in our own little world and stop noticing all the things our spouse is doing. Or am I the only one?
Five years into marriage and most of the time I can tell what Ben’s thinking. And I KNOW he loves me. But I can’t always FEEL that he loves me. And small comments over the course of a week make a HUGE difference in that department.
One reminder I love is, “when you think it, say it.”
So when you notice your husband took the time to unload the dishwasher before he left for work, thank him for it. When you catch yourself thinking about how great your spouse is at 2 pm when you’re apart, send a short text. Or when you’re together, on the floor playing with the kids, take the second to articulate the feeling of love you’re getting.
When we were dating Ben would call these moments “love bursts” and all we’d have to do is mention that we were having a “love burst” to communicate the feeling of appreciation and love for the other. And I’m committing right now to bringing those back (Ben, you’ve been warned).
I sometimes find myself getting SO frustrated in thinking of all the things I’ve done around the house while the things I expect Ben to do still sit unfinished.
I catch myself striving for a fifty/fifty split on so many things and being frustrated when I feel like I’m doing any more than my share.
I love the advice though to keep score of what your partner is giving. I try to make a mental note whenever I realize Ben has done something (even if it’s leaving for a full 14 hours at work to provide for our family without first putting his bowl in the dishwasher). This habit of cultivating gratitude for him has made a huge difference to me over the last few weeks and I’m working to make it stick.
Each time I mentally log something good he’s done I’m more appreciative of him, and more excited about helping our family too.
Last week Ben and I spent half an hour taking the Couples Checkup assessment and going over our report together. I loved the insight it gave us into certain areas of our relationship but what I liked even more is the conversation is sparked. I love it as a tool to facilitate important conversations in marriage we don’t often make the time for (like our communication styles, our division of labor, and our extended families).
We spend our whole lives living and working in our marriages and we often forget to step back and work on our marriages. I think quality time together is great, I think serving each other is awesome, but I think taking the time to evaluate and improve your relationship and communication multiplies all your other efforts at date night and random acts of kindness.
The checkup consisted of a long set of questions that Ben and I answered separately (we did it at the same time on different devices) that took about 15 minutes to get through. Most of it was rating how I felt various statements applied to me, to Ben, or to our relationship. At the end it put together a 10 page marriage report, complete with our strengths, and the areas we needed to work on. It went in depth and we were able to use each analysis as a starting point for conversation about what we could change or how we could improve.
What I really like is you don’t see your spouses answers to any specific questions. So, for example, I don’t know how Ben feels specifically about how much time we spend with my family at the end of the report, but I do know that he is “very satisfied” with how we relate to family and friends. On the other hand, the questions showed I think we could improve the way we communicate with each other but didn’t specify which questions/answers led to that conclusion. I think this makes for healthy discussion about themes/trends in your marriage without getting stuck in the details of specific situations.
Are you looking for a meaningful activity to add to your Valentines plans this week? Let this be the match that sparks the conversation that leads to small changes that make a big difference. And then go watch a favorite romantic comedy. Or go out for a fancy dinner. Or eat all of the chocolate truffles.
Put Your Phones Down
I hope Ben and I are the only ones who get through a whole episode on netflix and realize we’re sitting three feet a way on the couch each scrolling through on own social media feeds?
Oh you too? So lame, right?
Find a time, set a time, enforce a time everyday or every week that you unplug and are fully present.
There is something about being with Ben, but in my own world of technology that ends up feeling more isolating than if I were alone to begin with.
For a few months we were really good at putting our phones away at 8 pm. For a while we enforced a “no phones in bed” rule. I’ve also considered a “no phones before 10 pm” rule so it also takes care of helping us be present with the kids before they go to bed. Whatever you do, find something that works for you and ditch the phone.
But really. Just do it.
I’d love to hear your tips! What do you think has been helpful for strengthening your marriage since having little ones? What would you add to this list?
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