My husband and I were ecstatic when we were finally pregnant with our son. We had tried for a couple of years, suffered a miscarriage and were constantly worried during the pregnancy. After a week in the hospital, our baby boy was ready to bring home, and we couldn’t have been happier. We received lots of parenting advice from well-meaning friends and relatives, but you know what we didn’t get? Marriage advice—specifically, how to make your marriage a priority after the baby arrives. And that’s what we sorely needed.
Why You Should Make Your Marriage a Priority After Having Kids
That’s not to say that we had a bad marriage at the time – we didn’t. But we just took for granted all the alone time we’d had for nearly 15 years. (We dated all through high school, college and into our mid-20s before marrying.) “We’ve had plenty of alone time!”, we thought. We know how to make this relationship work.
But as the baby demanded more of my time (and I also worked full-time out of the home), and his work demanded more of his time (he worked two jobs), we drifted apart without realizing it. We still loved each other. But when I was home from work, I was focused on spending time with our son. And when he was home from work, he was either completely exhausted or doing the same.
We were great parents, but we were terrible spouses. We were short with each other, as sleep-deprived parents sometimes are. Our time together was always 100% focused on taking care of our son.
And so it went for four years. Over four long years, we drifted apart without even realizing it. When it finally came to a head, we realized we needed to make drastic changes if we wanted to save our marriage. We realized that we had to make our marriage a priority again – and by doing so – we’d be better parents, too.
So, if you’re a parent already, or you’re about to become one, I encourage you to make your marriage a priority, too.
Now, before you discount what I’m saying, I don’t mean that you ignore a crying baby because your spouse wants your attention. What I mean instead is that after you’re settled in with the baby (after 3-4 months, usually, when you’re in a good routine), you need to make sure your relationship is in clear focus. You need time alone together whenever and wherever you can make that happen. And you need to connect with each other through the day.
How to Make Your Marriage a Priority Today
1. Bring back the PDAs (at least in your home).
You used to kiss your husband all the time, right? Remember how you wanted to hold his hand every chance you could? Start doing that again.
Steal kisses before he leaves the house. Hold his hand in the car. Walk up behind him while he’s shaving and hug him. Just make it a point to touch more often.
2. Make alone time a priority.
This is easy when your kids are babies—you get alone time every time the baby naps. Our son, however, gave up napping before he turned two. As he’s gotten older, we’ve had to adjust how we fit alone time in.
During the toddler years, for example, we’d have to stay up late even when we were tired to have time alone together. In preschool, and now in Kindergarten, he can spend a few minutes playing with his toys in his room or watching TV so that we can talk, cuddle, or whatever…
Make alone time happen several times a week.
3. Put the phones away.
This is a tough one for both of us. I work online, so it “feels” like I need to be connected 24/7 to engage in social media, answer emails, answer Facebook messages, etc. And he likes to watch YouTube videos, read the news and research on his phone.
But, I have to admit, there was a time—about a year—when those phones really came between us.
Now, when we’d like to have the other’s undivided attention for a conversation or just to spend time together without the constant alerts, we just ask the other to put the phones away. It’s as simple as that.
4. Don’t give your child all of your attention.
We have to supervise our children; that’s a given. But, contrary to what many people believe today, children do not need our attention 24/7. They need to learn to play independently, whether they have siblings or not. Our son loves it when we get in the floor and play action figures or trains or games with him, but he’s also quite content playing alone when he needs to. That’s a valuable skill—it’s not healthy to expect to be entertained by others all the time.
When he was younger, I gave him all my attention and expected my husband to take a backseat all the time. Our marriage is much happier now that there’s more of a balance.
5. Show your spouse some appreciation.
Here’s another mistake I made: I was an ungrateful wife in the past. I didn’t mean to be. And there were times that he was an ungrateful husband, too. However, we can’t change someone else. All we can do is change our own behavior. The good news is that when you begin to show your spouse more appreciation, he or she will reciprocate.
Appreciate your husband! Tell him you appreciate the long hours he puts in to take care of your family. Tell your wife that you appreciate what a good mother she is, even when you come home to a messy house (but happy kids). Brag on your spouse to others. It’ll make you both feel good!
6. Don’t overcommit yourself.
One complaint I hear from fellow moms a lot is that their schedules with the kids are so busy. They go from sport to sport and activity to activity with barely time to eat in between. And I get how challenging that must be with multiple kids!
But, you need to limit their activities if the time you spend on them negatively affects your marriage. Kids should absolutely have extracurricular activities, but they don’t have to do every extracurricular activity available. Let your child pick one per season so that you still have plenty of family time together.
And the same goes for work, volunteering, etc. Husbands and wives should avoid (whenever possible) taking on too heavy of a workload, volunteering for too many events, etc., if it cuts into that crucial alone time you need with your spouse. Make your marriage a priority, and your other obligations will fall in line.
7. Go to bed at the same time.
Go to bed at the same time if you can. It gives you time to talk, cuddle or just hold each other as you sleep. Plus, you’ll both be in better moods the next day if you get a good night’s rest!
This isn’t always possible. Believe me, I know. My husband spent several years working the night shift, so we were on totally opposite schedules with regard to everything.
Thankfully, he’s now on day shift, but before he was, we finally figured out a system that worked for us. He came in from work at 6 am, and I woke up at 6 am so that we could spend an hour together before I got our son ready for school. He made sure he woke up early enough before work (despite working his 12 hour night shifts) to spend some time with both me and our son before he went to work. And on his days off, I’d get back up after putting our son to bed to stay up late with my husband to spend some time together.
Did both of us lose a little sleep? Yes. Was it worth it to get some time alone together? Absolutely! Do what you need to do in order to make your marriage a priority.
8. Flirt with your husband (or wife).
Flirting is so much fun, and you definitely need to keep it up after you get married. It makes your spouse feel wanted and loved and makes both of you feel playful.
If you’re not the type to be flirty in real-life conversation, try it via text instead. That’s what I usually do. We send fun, flirty messages during hubby’s lunch break or when I’m out running errands, etc. You’ll be stoked to see each other again by the end of the day!
9. Share each other’s interests.
When you were dating, you probably did things together a lot. Sometimes, it was something he liked; sometimes it was something you liked. But, over time, you can lose interest in doing those things with each other, especially when your time is so limited after having kids. You’re either busy, exhausted, or you want to do something that YOU want to do. And that’s fine sometimes.
But sometimes you need to do what your spouse wants to do. For example, my husband enjoys the outdoors while I’m more of a sit-at-my-laptop-all-day kind of gal. But, we go camping, hiking, and ATV riding together because he loves those things. And you know what? I’ve grown to enjoy them, too! And because I blog for a living, he has learned the lingo, takes an interest in my analytics and helps me brainstorm ideas because those are things that I enjoy.
10. Have sex regularly.
I saved the best for last! There’s no delicate way to say this—unless you have an illness, injury or psychological issue that prevents you from doing so, you need to have sex with your husband or wife regularly. For lots of guys, physical touch is the primary love language, so even though it may not be yours (mine is quality time, for instance), you still need to speak his. Plus, it’s good for your health, well-being, and marriage!
How often it should happen is up to both of you as a couple, but research shows that couples who have sex less than once a week are less happy and less satisfied in their marriages. So, if a lack of alone time is preventing you from having sex with your spouse, you need to make your marriage a priority and create the time.
While the things on this list aren’t the only things you need to have a happy marriage, they’re very important. If you and your spouse are having problems, don’t give up! Try a few of these tips to see if it improves. But, most importantly, talk to each other to make sure you’re on the same page. You both have to make your marriage a priority in order for it to work.
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