My husband and I just celebrated ten years of marriage a few weeks ago and have survived adding five babies to our family— and only feeling stronger! It wasn’t always that way, though. It took many years to figure out how to protect our marriage in the challenging time of pregnancy and postpartum. The physical demands that it takes on a momma makes it easy to let go of the physical intimacy aspect of marriage– or even the mental energy to hold a conversation without being half asleep. As new moms, our days are spent holding or nursing a baby and can be feeling touched out by the time our husband gets home. It can be exhausting to feel pulled in many different directions of people who need you and to make the effort to nourish not just the new baby, but your relationship with your spouse too. However– the effort is worth it. We’ve found that making these relationship building tools a priority leads to happier lives all around. By making each other a priority, we argue less because we feel loved and fulfilled instead of resentful.
Know Each Other’s Love Languages
Love languages are often one of those areas for couples to be polar opposites in. Who knows why, I guess what they say is true about opposites attract? I’ve learned that how I feel loved is different than how my husband feels loved. He’s very physical (wink, wink) while I love quality time with deep soul talks. He’ll try to show me love with physical affection, but it often doesn’t communicate love in my eyes– at least not on a deep soul connection that I crave. For years I spent nagging for time, while he spent feeling dejected from his physical advances and we both felt bitter. It created a huge issue in our marriage until we figured out that we “communicate” differently in love and needed to learn each other’s language, not just focus on our own. You and your partner can take the love language quiz here to get started and spark a good conversation. We found that when we focus on loving the other person, the other person then will want to return the same to us, resulting in us feeling like a more unified team as parents.
Make Time For Each Other Everyday
Even if it is few minutes before turning out the light, talking over dinner, or a more purposely planned date night– time to reconnect is crucial! Simply being a listening ear to know what is going on in each other’s heart and lives goes a long way. Being on the same page with family plans or expectations from one another is important from a practical standpoint, but also for your emotional connection.
Find a Hobby Together
One strain that we experienced in our marriage was having no idea what to do on dates when we went on one anymore. Twenty years from now when our kids are all grown, we still need to be best friends and enjoy each other’s company! Finding a common interest and hobby has helped us keep fun in our relationship. We discovered boardgames to be one of our favorite things to do together (and one we can do for date nights at home!) and recently added kayaking to our list of favorite dates.
Flirt Like You Are Dating
Flirting doesn’t have to die when we say “I Do” or become parents! Sneaking kisses, hugs, and snuggles whenever possible helps to keep passion alive. While our kids may think we are “gross”– I promise they would rather see displays of affection over arguing.
Respect the Need for Self-Care
You can’t love another person effectively if your own cup is empty– same is true for parenting. A huge shift happened in our marriage when I had hit rock bottom in PPD and we realized that we were losing ourselves in our jobs and parenting. Since then we have made it a weekly goal for each of us to have a night off of parenting duty– whether it is going out to dinner with friends or sitting alone doing something that we enjoy as an individual.
Keep Communication Open and Respectful
There are times my husband drives me crazy, whether it is his complete distain for dishes or his opinion of a parenting decision. However, keeping our line of communication open, honest, yet respectful helps us hash out our different ideas or ways of doing things without damaging our relationship. If a situation needs addressing, we both should feel safe in being able to approach the other person with our request for more help or a suggestion of change.
Wait to Fight
On that same note, if a situation has you all riled up and you are ready to spit fire like a momma dragon whose nest was attacked– wait. Take a deep breath and give some space if you see your spouse looking that way, too. No need to push to solve it right now! It’s a lot easier to protect your relationship if you both take a time out to cool off before talking something out. In doing so, you get out of the defensive zone and into a more productive adult conversation.
Seek Counseling If Needed
Sometimes it can feel hopeless that anything will change and seeking outside non-bias help is worth while. There is no shame in counseling! In fact, much of what I just listed above we were taught in counseling when we hit a rough patch five years into our marriage, in a time we felt stuck in a cycle of arguments after our second child was born. Having a safe place to voice concerns and differences, along with receiving new ideas to spark change can be revolutionary to your relationship. It was for us!
Growing a baby and the transition to adding a new family member can be a beautiful, but challenging time for couples. With a few tools in your stash though, it can become a foundation for a strong and happy life together and a positive example to your children.