Becoming parents is one of the most amazing, all-encompassing, life-giving gifts that anyone could experience. It's true what they say, you never know how much you could love a person, until you become a parent. It's a new and different kind of love, that stretches you and your heart beyond belief... you truly can't explain it until you live it.
It's easy for parenting to sort-of, take over your life and forget that you were ever in love with each other first, but it's so important that your marriage takes a priority. Those first weeks when figuring out life with a newborn have different standards, because you're learning how to parent for the first time while being entirely sleep-deprived. Grace and forgiveness are tenfold during that phase... but there comes a point where you have to take control of putting your marriage first.
1. Kiss and hug and hold hands, a lot. In front of your babe and future littles. It doesn't need to be crazy, but just showing affection to one another can bring so much emotional satisfaction. Hugging and kissing literally release oxytocin into our system, which is like the natural happy drug. The more we show physical affection to our lover, the happier we literally are. So do it! Hug and smooch and hold hands, and caress each others arms and backs and be lovey dovey because you'll be happier and feel better and more loved. Your kids also want to know that their parents are in love. They will feel safe and secure knowing their mommy and daddy love each other, which in turn helps you show affection to your little ones as well.
"Teaching discipline is best done with one hand gently rubbing tension from a kid's shoulders, with a kiss on the nose, a squeeze of the torso, and a love pat on the back. Physical affection matters. A lesson imparted with a hug will be remembered far longer than a cold, distant lecture, because it will be associated with good feelings of parental love." (See more from this short article on The Importance of Physical Affection here).
2. Don't hide arguments from the littles, and LISTEN. Have healthy disagreements in front of your kids. Hiding disagreements and that you aren't perfect, and that sometimes you annoy each other is unhealthy and can create unrealistic expectations for both you and your kids. Talk through things, and have healthy confrontation, but always come to some sort of resolution, even if it's just to agree to talk about things later when you're more cooled off. You're raising your kids to be people, not kids forever (sadly), so we need to teach them conflict resolution and healthy disagreement. If we hide how we're really feeling, and all our kids see is "happy" parents always, but one day you have a huge blow up, they won't understand how to cope with their feelings, or will assume something is seriously wrong. You do need to create boundaries, however. There are some topics that should clearly not be discussed of children, and foul language or the D word simply shouldn't even be on the table. Agree to talk it out, and if emotions begin to take over, take a breath, and resume at a later time; just make sure you really do resume ;) And listen. Some of us are so stubborn, especially when we're upset and emotional about a situation (ahem... me), but it's so so so important to take into consideration our spouse's feelings and viewpoint. They may genuinely see things differently, and if we aren't willing to listen, a resolution will be very hard to come by. Talk it out, and listen.
3. Make love. Yup. I went there. Have fun, and be married! Make alone time a priority. Don't just "do it" to mark the task off your list, but truly get to know your spouse, and learn to love each other in ways only you two can. If there are past issues that were never dealt with that make this time difficult, talk about it. If there are things that make you uncomfortable in the bed, talk about it. Be super duper open with one another. There's no greater feeling than knowing you're both loving one another to the fullest. And guys, if you know washing the dishes or bringing home flowers or writing love notes will fill up your wife's love tank - then do that! Not just so you can "get lucky," but because showering each other with your love languages will help this area of your marriage. If you're arguing a lot, make time to be alone with each other. Put the babe down early, or wake up early and have fun. If you're really too busy to let it happen spontaneously, then put it on the calendar! Have it in mind that every Friday, Tuesday and whatever day... it's go-time. Because the reality is, sometimes we're really busy and if we aren't intentional about it, it'll go far too long before you're there again. Make this time fun and not just a task, and I promise it'll take your marriage to new levels of love for each other.
4. Find something that you both enjoy doing together. Do you love nature walks? Or photography? Dinner out, watching movies... date night's out? Hiking, or reading? Maybe you're into video games, or watching shows. Or maybe you both just really love coffee or tea. Whatever it is, find something that's for you two to connect on. Of course the babe/littles can join you! But just be sure you find something that's especially enjoyable for you both to do together. If you can't think of anything, try new things! Write a song together, or go running; Help the homeless or cook special meals together. I'm sure you'll find something you both love to do, and doing it together will make it all the more special.
5. Say nice things about each other, to each other. Of course we all think nice things about our spouses (but if you don't, maybe you should think about why not, and address the heart issues there, it's so good to clear the palette of negativity), but not everyone is great at remembering to voice those thoughts. Or, maybe everything nice you say about your spouse is only on social media, but you feel awkward saying it to your love's face... I think this is most common, and a sad effect of our current culture, but we can change that. Be nice. Don't roll your eyes. Don't say mean, sarcastic, or snarky remarks under your breath when your annoyed. Did you know contempt is one of the biggest factors in divorce? Let's change that! Love each other with how you speak to one another. Be kind. When we're kind and voice nice things to our spouse, and in front of our kids, it's a butterfly effect that will only reap good benefits. Don't withhold good words, encouragement, support, kindness and love from your spouse. They need it from you more than anyone.
I'm not even two years into marriage, and I'm definitely no expert. But these are five things that I've noticed drastically change the tune of our marriage when we're needing a pick-me-up. Your marriage is number one. A good and healthy marriage produces good and healthy children. Monkey see, monkey do. Our children are directly influenced by the way they see their parents love and treat each other. Let's make it a priority to put our spouse first, since we wouldn't have our babes if we didn't have our lover first ;) <3
What are some things you do to ensure your marriage doesn't fall apart during the hard season of parenting? I'd love to hear your tips too!