While it’s no secret to any couple past the honeymoon stage that marriage requires work in order to be successful, it can come as a surprise to new parents just how much raising children changes the dynamic of a marriage. Keeping the ever-elusive “spark” alive after babies come along can be one of the biggest challenges that a married couple faces, but it’s absolutely possible. These 12 pointers can help you maintain the great relationship you have, even when the demands of parenthood begin to weigh on you both.
- Put in the Effort – It may seem simple on the surface, but just remembering to put some effort towards maintaining your marriage when you’re exhausted, mired in the world of potty training or just trying to keep up with a demanding family schedule can be a challenge. Just like anything else worth having, a marriage does require at least some effort from both parties to continue running smoothly.
- Try to Focus on the Good Things – Becoming fixated on the frustrating aspects of your marriage is easy, but it’s also poisonous. Trying to keep the things you love most about your partner and your lives together at the forefront of your mind will require some dedication, but it can have very positive results in the long run.
- Compliments, Compliments – There are a thousand things you love about your spouse, but the hectic pace of everyday life can make remembering to appreciate those things difficult. Making a point of complimenting your spouse each day shows appreciation for them and can be the balm that frazzled nerves need during high-stress moments.
- Avoid Taking Stress Out On Your Spouse – Letting off steam is normal, but it can become problematic when you’re expressing your frustration with an unrelated situation by attacking your spouse. It’s easy to take stress out on those closest to you, but it’s difficult to repair the damage that type of behavior can have on your relationship.
- Make Time for One Another – Time probably isn’t something that you have very much of, which makes it all the more significant when you set a sliver of your precious free time aside to spend with your spouse.
- Remember That Your Partner is Not a Mind-Reader – You may have a running list of things that need to be done in your head, but you shouldn’t expect your partner to be able to read that list. You have to communicate your needs and expectations to your spouse if you expect them to be met, so don’t fall into the trap of expecting them to just know what you need without direction.
- Don’t Be Too Proud to Apologize – Flying off the handle is easy when you’re in the pressure cooker that is raising children on a tight schedule. When you’ve had time to cool off, however, don’t let your pride stand in the way of a much-warranted apology, especially if you’ve realized that your reaction wasn’t necessary.
- Assume the Best – When you’re stressed, tired and in sore need of a break, it’s easy to assume the worst as you’re trying to decipher the inscrutable actions of your spouse. Rather than believing the worst-case scenario is just around the corner, try to assume the best intentions were the motivation behind any behavior you don’t understand.
- Small Gestures Go a Long Way – A sweet greeting card snagged from the rack at the market, a favorite food prepared for dinner and other small gestures like these can add up in big ways, especially when they’re the bright spot in a challenging day. Remembering to do these things amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always worth the effort.
- Seek Spontaneity – Look for every opportunity to do something lighthearted and unexpected, even when you can only grab a few moments in which to do so. Just because your impromptu road trip days have come to an end doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice every shred of spontaneity in your marriage.
- Remember That You’re Playing on the Same Team – When little grievances add up to big problems, you can easily lose sight of the fact that you and your spouse are on the same team and are pursuing a common goal. Rather than seeing your spouse as the opposition, try to shift your perspective.
- Be Adults Together – In a sea of diapers, cartoons and juice boxes, there isn’t always room for a grown-up discussion that doesn’t center around the practical aspects of running a household. Just spending a kid-free hour of television time together before bed can create interesting talking points. Every couple has their own shared favorite pastimes, but it’s important to spend time together being adults, not just oversized kid-wranglers.
Some marital issues require the assistance of a totally neutral third party, which is why marriage counseling can be so beneficial. There’s a fairly common misconception that seeking counseling is the last-ditch effort to save a marriage that’s failing, but that isn’t always the case. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a mediator when you’re having a completely natural rough patch in your relationship, especially as you’re trying to adjust to parenthood together.