If you’re a married couple with children under the age of 18 you might be feeling that the honeymoon period is long gone. Before kids, the focus had been on your partner and your love for one another. Although expanding your family is a wonderful thing, life after the honeymoon and births of your children can very easily become a monotonous routine. Your head is constantly spinning with thoughts of play dates, doctor appointments, work, homework, back to school night, cooking meals, never ending bills and financial planning, the list could go on forever. Not only has the romance dwindled but you barely have time to say good morning to each other anymore. Family dynamics change when kids are in the picture, and it could feel like the roles of Mom and Dad are taking over your life, and taking away from being Mr. and Mrs.
Can Your Relate to Miranda and Jack?
Miranda and Jack have been married for 14 years. They have a 7 year old son and two daughters 10 and 12. Both work full time. Mom is a teacher and Dad is an architect. After work and before kids their lives were filled with date nights, intimate conversations, passion and romance. Now, between work, kids and day to day responsibilities they go to bed exhausted every night only to do it all again the next day. They barely have time to talk to each other and when they do they are arguing about whose turn it is to do the laundry, empty the dishwasher and pick up the kids from their one too many activities. Romance has been long gone and their last date night was spent at the laundromat due to a broken washing machine.
What Is The Solution?
If Miranda and Jack's story is familiar to yours there is a solution. Oftentimes, your relationship takes the back burner as parents become engrossed in their children's lives. This change in priority is natural when you have children, as they are and will always be your everything, but there is a way to find a healthy balance between tending to your children and tending to your marriage. In order to create change you need to find a mutually convenient time to connect with each other to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly! That's no easy task and that's one of the main problems! Therefore, the best way to do this is to schedule time to talk using healthy communication skills in a marriage meeting with your spouse.
What Is A Marriage Meeting?
Schedule a weekly 1 hour meeting with your spouse. The purpose of the meeting is to help rebuild your connection and discuss issues of concern by using mindful communication and conflict resolution skills. Building healthy relationships by being intentional is key for your emotional well-bing. The meeting will be divided into five parts:
1. Positive Reinforcement - Each of you will say 5 positive comments to each other which could be in the form of compliments and/or appreciation. For e.g. "I can't stop thinking about how beautiful you looked in that dress last night" or " I really appreciate you making dinner and picking up our daughter from dance ". Words of affirmation such as this helps you feel good about each other and not take each other for granted even for the little things you do.
2. Chores and Responsibilities - Discuss all the household chores, tasks and kid stuff that are on the horizon for the upcoming week. Talk about who is going to do what so you are both on the same page and there are no surprises when things aren't' getting done. Many couples feel that there is often an imbalance in their relationship and that one is doing more than the other. Having this type of conversation helps you divide and conquer fairly. You will also know what to expect from the other one and avoid any miscommunication.
3. Fun Days/Evenings - Everyone likes to have something fun to look forward to. But with busy schedules it's difficult to find the time. You have to put on your calendar not only the things you have to do ( as discussed in part 2) but things you want to do. Schedule fun family outings with your kids but also schedule couple time and date nights for just the two of you. It's time to get your sexy back and if you don't schedule it then it just won't happen!
4. Issues and Concerns - This is a great time for each of you to bring up and discuss one issue or concern that bothers you. Be sure to communicate in a healthy way and not accuse, label, judge, criticize or attack each other. One way to voice a concern is to use an "I message". The formula for an "I message" is the following: "I felt__________, when_________, because_______, what can we do about this?" You just need to fill in the blanks. For e.g. you can say to your spouse , " I felt disappointed when you said you would pick up Tommy from his baseball practice and told me 10 minutes before pick up that you couldn't do it because my time is valuable too and I had an important meeting. To prevent this from happening again in the future what can we do about this?" Notice how I didn't attack her/him by saying "you are so inconsiderate or thoughtless" This would just put her/him on the defensive. I did not blame her/him or stay problem focused. Instead, I was solution focused by asking to work as a team to correct this issue going forward.
5. Closing Statement - You want to always end the meeting on a positive note reinforcing the love you have for each other. Remind each other of each other's strengths, not weaknesses. For e.g. "I'm so glad we have scheduled this time to communicate and reconnect with each other because you are such a kind and caring person and I love you".
Change in marriage is very common. Even without kids in the picture, couples and marriages change over time – they go through lulls and require some spicing up every once in a while! Rather than resisting change and expecting the relationship to be as carefree and adventurous as it was when you were dating in your twenties, together establish new expectations for your relationship and your family. With a marriage meeting and some adjustments, you and your spouse can get back to feeling like Mr. and Mrs. – and then you can be excited to hear “Mom and Dad" again!
If your marriage needs a tune up or if you could use some help spicing up your relationship, my staff and I can offer you marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples therapy, family counseling and parenting advice. In addition, if you are having difficulty coping with your marital or relationship issues we can also offer you individual therapy which can include mental health support, anxiety therapy, depression counseling, stress management, self-care strategies and positive coping strategies. We are are for you!!
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW
Modern Family Counseling, LLC