Kids take a toll on a marriage. They do. No denying this fact. We all have friends that talk about how wonderful their marriage is and how the kids made them stronger and more happy and I say quietly in my head “Yeah right.” Not they didn’t. Sure, your children may have strengthened a bond between you, of course. But then when it’s 2am and a child is scream crying because they have a cold and your husband didn’t put the medicine back in the medicine cabinet and you are forced to search the house because it is missing, don’t try and tell me your tone of voice you use with him is the same one you used before kids arrived. This new tone of voice coming from your body is hard core, demeaning, annoyed, cutting at times depending on the situation, and very ugly. Personally, you hate that your voice sounds like this and the words coming out are what they are, but hey, you are flippin’ tired as hell and your husband doesn’t do what in your mind are the easiest tasks to keep things in life straight forward and simple. I’m projecting. This is our situation and I’m sure some women have husbands who do the voice, but from what I hear it comes mostly from the mommy’s mouth because we are, after all, always right.
And this is the beginning. Then you take into account that you both have 500 more chores now with a baby around, less energy, less sleep, and of course way less sex. If you don’t have less sex, let’s face it. The sex you are having is more on a “let’s have sex” quickie style and then move on. The days seem to be over where your sex drive is thriving and it all seemed so much easier and more natural. It becomes the dreaded……..clockwork.
What inevitably happens now, without this connection, without the sex, without the loving words, is resentment. Anger. Frustration. Disconnect. And then that awful tone in your voice starts happening all the time.
So yes, this can be sad. This can take over. This can ruin or even end a marriage. But instead of sitting around thinking about how unhappy you are, maybe try a few positive things to help restore your love and connection. We all, myself included, find it easier to truck along and let the negative sides creep in without facing them straight on right away. The longer we wait and settle in, the harder it will be to dig out. This hole of resentment can get pretty deep if we let it. So let’s dig people.
1) Let your Guard Down
Yep. The hardest one first. We build up this wall, stop allowing ourselves to show vulnerability, and we think this protects us. It is replaced with anger and “The Voice”. That will get us nowhere, no matter how many of the other steps we try. So this one will take a lot from you, it means we have to look inside and release EVERYTHING. Just let it go. Let it all go. Don’t hang on to a few things for later. It all has to be gone, fresh slate. You have to be able to be vulnerable in front of your partner, to come from that place instead of the angry place that took over. When a problem arises, our walls are gone and we can come from this place of love, much like we all did when we first met. I won’t try to pretend this is simple, this will take everything you have and involves a lot of strong habits be changed. But with practice and time and fierce dedication, it’s possible.
2) Bring the Touch Back
We are so rush rush in life now with kids around, we usually don’t do a lot of touching until it’s time for our “sex”. This is awful. It makes the sex unconnected and mechanical. Throughout the day, try touching each other. Every chance you get. Your husband puts an arm around you, you rub his shoulders, he rubs your feet (yes please), you hold his hand, he runs his fingers through your hair, you kiss. All of these things keeps you from getting into a “are we just roommates” situation and makes the sex you have later much stronger and more connected. Touching in a non sexual way is essential. Essential.
3) The Time Chart
Here is a great time chart to help out with the needs of a marriage:
– 15 Seconds a Day: Make out with your partner for 15 seconds (or more) a day
– 15 Minutes a Day: Take 15 minutes a day to connect and talk
– 1.5 hours a week: Take this time once a week to date. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, this could be take out sushi or going to your favorite restaurant or even bowling. This is not a date to talk about the house, or finances, or work problems etc. This is a date to flirty flirt and laugh and bring your A-Game. Like you would on any other date with any other person, no baggage allowed. Just light and fun. With candles.
– 1.5 hours a week: Sexual intimacy. Make this the amount of time you will dedicate to it. No quickies right before bed, legit time and focus here. If it does’t come easily for you, try to find a way that is more natural. Either way, keeping this fire burning is the best thing you can do for your children so it deserves this time set aside and to be really focused on as a top priority in your life.
4) Make Small Gestures
Small gestures makes you feel good, makes your partner feel good, makes the kids feel good when they see it, it’s a win win. And it lightens things up and makes it fun again. You know your partner best, so you know what types of things they would like and appreciate. Pick a date on the calendar each month to do something nice, make a favorite meal, buy a small gift, pick some flowers, whatever. Be creative.
5) Have Fun
This seems dumb to write but seriously, just make sure you are having fun. Fun activities, dance parties after dinner, silly things like that. Get out of the house, explore, travel, stay in, do whatever. But make fun happen in your life. All this serious stuff is a drag. Spontaneity is so important, even though with kids being spontaneous means a lot of planning…….
6) Make sex a priority
This sadly is the first thing to be put on the back burner which ends up leaving one or both of you a little turned off. Sex should be a top priority and can’t be left on the shelf the way we tend to do. Your husband needs a reminder that he should never stop courting you, and by doing that, he will get awesome sex in return. Courting = sex. Such a simple equation, but sometimes needs reminding. So remind!
7) Live in the Moment
This is a great one because it will eliminate that “tone” in your voice you have been trying to get rid of, but it is also one of the hardest. Kids thankfully have you living in the moment every day, but we need to transfer this to your relationship. If your child cries or throws a tantrum about something he has thrown a tantrum about before, we don’t bring up the past and get angry with them. We stay present and calm and talk about their feelings as if they were brand new. Same should go for our partners! Maybe they have made the same mistake a few times, maybe they made it more than a few times. Instead of turning on “the tone one voice” we hate, why not be present and explain to them what you are feeling about the situation and how it could be improved. “Honey, the medicine is much easier for me to find if it’s in the cabinet. Could you put it back in there next time? Thanks. Now do you remember where you put it so I can go get it?” Kiss kiss, love love. Coming from the heart in the moment is awesome, but yes it’s hard to erase that past. More often than not it sounds more like “Why don’t you ever put things back where they are supposed to go…” etc etc. There’s that tone. Yuck.
8) Don’t Forget to Feel Attractive
This is also something for your to-do list. We forget to feel attractive. Feeling attractive may come from taking a badass kickboxing class, or wearing tight jeans, or horseback riding, or sporting some super high heels. Something that brings out the most confident and fulfilled you. I find the more fulfilled we are, the sexier the marriage will be. The more you are stuck in a rut (I was in sweatpants ALL DAY yesterday) the less happy the marriage (and yourself) will be. So get out, do the things you love most, fancy yourself up a bit. It pays off for everyone.
9) Talk (a.k.a brutal honesty)
Stop with the silent stuff. We all do it. Your husband comes home and says hi and goes right for the kids without giving you a glance. This makes you mad inside (you just put on makeup and spruced up a bit before he got home) but instead of saying it, you THINK IT. Thinking it is dangerous, those thoughts spread like wildfire in the mind. It starts out with a little “Well, that’s typical, he didn’t kiss me hello” and turns into “This marriage is awful, I mean he won’t even kiss me when he gets home! He never kisses me or does anything he is supposed to. What’s the point of anything?!?” OR some other type of full blown rage or sadness. It’s useless and not based on reality. Scenario 2: “Hey! Where are my kisses???” with immediate reaction from husband being “Awwww sorry!!!” kiss kiss kiss, kids laugh. It’s lighter, more fun, less serious, and enough reminders later he will remember to smooch on his own. Hopefully.
If you are in a really tough marriage rut with patterns you find impossible to break, you can always try the George Castanza method from Seinfeld. Try doing the exact opposite of what you are feeling. So, if you are feeling angry, be happy. If you don’t want to have sex, initiate the sex. Just force it. See what happens! It may change the entire dynamic and mood between you and your mate, you never know!
Keep in mind that marriages and kids are hard FOR EVERYONE (even if they won’t admit it), it’s a daily juggling act and none of the things listed above are very easy right away. It takes a huge amount of time, practice, patience, and adjusting from old patterns. If it falls back into old ways, no being discouraged. Get over it, be present and move forward with love, honesty and a good attitude. Having kids in your lives makes it a bit tougher, but it also makes your marriage the most important thing you have. And it’s worth all the effort you can give. They will thank you in the future.