When you are married to your spouse for a long time, you both go through a lot of changes. My husband and I met when we were in Sunday school at around age five. We started hanging out as friends in 7th grade, and thanks to church activities, we stayed close throughout high school. Then when we were juniors in high school we had “the talk”. You know, the “DTR” or the “define the relationship” talk. We started dating the summer before senior year and pretty much didn’t look back. He asked me to marry him senior year of college and we tied the knot the following September. That means we have been in a romantic relationship for 17 years. Whoa!
When we decided to start a family, five years after we got married we had a huge shift coming. We were each other’s whole world for a very long time, but we had to make room in our hearts and lives for our child(ren). Expanding our hearts was not the hard part, but finding time for just the two of us was. It still is, especially now that we have three little loves. It takes more work, but it is so worth it to work on your relationship.
Here are 4 ways to let your spouse know you’re still there for them:
1. Lower your expectations.
Your world has been turned upside down. Most everything looks different around you. Your home is littered with baby apparatuses, burp cloths, and bottles. You and your spouse are taking time off from work to heal and bond with your baby. And your bank account has seen better days. If you find yourself longing for times when you could just leave the house, kid-free, and go on a 6-hour date with your husband, you are not alone. But, that’s just not going to happen for a while. And until those kids are grown and out of the house, it isn’t going to happen without having to find childcare. BUT that doesn’t mean date night is over. You just need to get creative.
The best part about a newborn is they sleep for looooong stretches. This means it is the perfect time to go to a restaurant and have a date (if your state isn’t locked down from COVID-19)! Make sure that the infant is nice and sleepy, put that baby in their car seat or stroller, and enjoy a meal with your spouse. It might not be an all-night affair but an hour or two of (almost) one-on-one time will do the trick.
2. Get creative.
Along with the creative new tag-along date, try having a date at home either after the baby goes to sleep, or while the baby is rocking in his or her swing. Order from your favorite take-out place and if you’re feeling extra fancy, get a little dressed up. I also like to throw in some Scrabble here and there if I am feeling competitive. It makes the nighttime routine feel a little less mundane and a little more special than usual.
My husband and I also like to do house projects on the weekends. I know this sounds like the most BORING, ADULT thing anyone could ever do, but I guess that’s us! We will ask the grandparents to take the kids for a few hours while we complete a DIY project or paint a room. We get to hang out and talk to each other while being productive. Then when we are done we grab a burger before picking up the kids. It’s a win-win.
If you don’t have family nearby see if a friend would take your kid(s) for a few hours and one day you can return the favor.
3. Communication with your spouse is key.
I think a huge part of maintaining a healthy marriage, especially post-kids, is having open, honest communication at all times. My husband knows that at the end of the day after I have had three kids crawling all over me, and asking me for things, I get “touched out“. I need some alone time do decompress without anyone talking to me or touching me. Including him. When I explained that to him he didn’t feel left out or replaced, he just knows I need space and I will come around eventually.
I also put encouragement and praise under this category. My husband and I love and respect each other and we both know it without even saying so. But, sometimes it is still really nice to hear! We are always trying to lift each other up with encouraging words about parenting, work, and anything else we think needs to be praised. Not only does it bring us closer, but it’s a great example for our kids to see.
4. Stop longing for the past with your spouse.
Your marriage before kids was (hopefully) fun and full of freedom. But, building a family means you need to sacrifice a lot of the life you had before. Even getting my haircut feels like a chore because I have to make sure someone can watch my kids. And if it is my husband, it means it takes away from family time. Your life and marriage are different now. Instead of longing for the past, embrace the new life you have. You’re right, date night will be less frequent, and it can’t happen at the drop of a hat due to childcare needs. But, when it does happen it will be that much more special. And you will probably spend the whole night talking about your kids and looking at pictures of them anyway. You might even drop a few, “I miss thems” in there.