I should probably give warning to any family or friends that this post may not be for you. This post talks about my marriage, which includes sex. So feel free to skip this one if this makes you uncomfortable. For everyone else, this post is all about how to keep your marriage fresh and a priority amid all the chaos.
Someone older and wiser once told me this period of time will be the hardest in my life: raising young children, attempting to build a career, establishing financial freedom, and maintaining a healthy marriage. Given this came from someone who has the most successful marriage of all time (truly), I really took to heart what she said. When you think about it, it is crazy. You go from being young and carefree, doing whatever you want, whenever you want (all while looking perfect, even if you slept in your makeup) to wiping butts, trying to participate in meetings with 2 hours of sleep, hoping no one notices the breast milk stain on your shirt, surviving epic toddler meltdowns, all while somehow keeping everyone fed, and paying bills that are not always easy to pay.
Aside from the common neglect of self care, it is not uncommon for marriages to suffer as well. I mean, how could they not? It can often feel like the world is working against your marriage: everyone is stressed, the mountain of responsibilities can be suffocating, your children are testing every last speck of patience, your body confidence post baby is not always positive, there is never enough time in the day, and you are tired, you are really fucking tired. However, I like to look at it as a test. If we can survive these early years of parenting young children and coming into our true adulthood with grown up responsibilities, then we can survive anything. It is fight or flight, you either make it or you don’t. Sadly, so many of us don’t make it.
My husband and I are certainly not relationship experts, and we certainly do not have a perfect marriage, however, through the ups and downs of life, parenthood, and bickering about who forgot to turn off the air conditioner before we left for vacation (yes, we just left our AC on for 7 days straight while on vacation…we are currently accepting monetary donations if you would like to help with our electric bill…kidding…sort of…), we remain best friends through all of it, even if we drive each other insane at times (and we definitely do). Despite the bickering and our very unromantic conversations about our bodily functions, we also still have spontaneous sex on the kitchen floor even 12 years into our relationship. So how do we balance it all, and keep things interesting? We are both genuinely 100% in it for the long haul. That’s it. In order to be committed, and stay committed, it is important to make time for our relationship despite all the chaos around us. Below I have shared what keeps us afloat through one of the most trying times in our lives: raising small children and learning how to be a grown up.
Have Sex, Lots of It
As you battle the day to day of commuting, work, kids, meltdowns, dinner, paying bills, and realizing the cleanest thing you have to wear to bed is a shirt balled on the floor from last week, sex is generally the last thing on your mind. “Maybe tomorrow,” you tell each other, but tomorrow will be just as chaotic as today, and before you know it, you will be asking yourself when was the last time. Sex does not define a marriage, nor does it determine happiness, however sex brings you back to home base, it keeps you connected, it reminds you of your relationship aside from children, chores, and bills. Not to mention it is a fantastic stress reliever (and lord knows all of us busy mamas deserve some de-stressing). With that said, it may feel impossible to find the time and the energy for it, but we all manage to find the time and energy for lots of other activities in our lives. Sex is no different, and let’s face it, it does not need to be a big production. And if it helps, schedule it. Yes, it may not be the spontaneous sex on a beach in your 20s, but you and your partner are making a commitment to connect with one another, and there is nothing wrong with that!
It is important for me to note that I recognize sex is very personal, and there are very serious issues associated with sex such as past trauma, medical issues, or unhealthy relationships. So please do what you are comfortable with, always. There are other forms of intimacy available that can have the same effects. What I am trying to convey is, don’t let the chaos of day to day life get in the way of staying connected with your partner because when the intimacy starts to fade in a relationship, many other sacred aspects of the relationship start to fade with it, and before you know it, you may find your relationship feels more like a friendship instead of a marriage.
Make an Effort
It would be incredibly hard to get A on a test you didn’t study for or a promotion at a job you do the bare minimum for. A marriage is no different. If you don’t work at it, and make an effort, then it will never continue to flourish. No matter how long you have been together, and how many disgusting bodily functions you share in front of one another, it is still so important to make an effort in your relationship every single day. Just because you have established you love each other and you want to be together forever doesn’t mean you stop putting in the work. Make an effort in what you do for one another, make an effort saying I love you everyday, make an effort in kissing each other hello and goodbye, make an effort learning more about each other’s passions, and even make an effort in looking nice for one another from time to time.
This may sound silly, but after being together for 12 years and having 2 kids, the details of how I look everyday can sometimes not be a priority. No matter if I wear a sexy dress or leggings and a basic tee, this obviously does not change how my husband feels about me (and if it did, then obviously we have bigger issues), just how it does not change the way I feel about him whether he is in lounge shorts or a crisp button up shirt. However, the times he does put on that button up shirt, and the times I do put on that dress, it naturally reignites that spark, it makes us flirty, it makes it fun. Obviously this does not determine if our marriage is successful or not, but it is still important to make an effort. It is nice to feel good about yourself, it is nice to feel confident, and it is nice to feel desirable.
Find a Moment, Everyday
Finding time to connect one on one with your significant other each day is crucial. My husband’s and my work schedule have always been significantly different. He wakes up at 2:30am to get ready for work, and I oftentimes do not go to bed until 12am. Therefore, by the time we eat dinner, do the kids’ bedtime and bath, clean up the kitchen, and pack lunches, my husband needs to race off to bed just to get 4 hours of sleep. Which leaves us essentially zero time to connect on the weekdays. However, it is so, so important to find that time, face to face each day, sans kids. For us, most of the times this is only 15 minutes, but during this time we like to just take pause, catch up, and reconnect. It is important to be present, share your thoughts, and listen. Without these moments each day, even as brief as they can sometimes be, I think I would go absolutely crazy.
Date Nights: Out & At Home
This post is called Date Your Spouse for a reason. This one is hard to keep up with, but oh so incredibly important. Honestly, all components of this post feed into here. As relationships evolve over time, especially after children, date night typically consists of watching Netflix on the couch, with someone falling asleep before whatever you are watching is over. Even going out becomes more casual, and oftentimes that date feel is something you both say “remember when,” instead of keeping that alive and present. There are so many incredible benefits of incorporating a date night on a routine basis, however what I appreciate the most is the way it keeps the romance alive.
We have found 1 proper date night a month is perfect. Even though that sounds all fine and dandy, we know first hand that is easier said than done. Although our families are local, the logistics of arranging childcare can be tricky. We sometimes throw in the towel to going out because of this, but it is something we both have committed to making more of an effort on. Yes, we have to plan a few weeks ahead of time, but let me tell you, the times we do go out, it is so worth it. We dress up, we treat ourselves to a nice meal, and usually grab a drink at a trendy bar that make us feel young at heart again; it is fun, silly, romantic, and most importantly there are no poopy diaper disruptions, no staring at our phones, and no stress. It is just us.
Going out once a month can be really hard to make happen, trust me, I know first hand. What we started doing after our 2nd child was born was plan date nights at home. It is easy to order take out, put on Netflix, and call it a date, however, that is not a true date night. A date night needs to feel extra special, something separate from the regular. We still dress up as if we are going out, but instead we keep it at home. Typically on these nights we get the kids to bed early, we ensure it is a night the kids aren’t getting over being sick or anything else that may cause some sort of disruption. Then once they are in bed we start our date. We started using Date Nite in a Box for these at home date nights. This may sound cheesy, and honestly I was worried it was going to be, but we have had some of the best nights in recent years doing these boxes. The boxes include a cocktail, meal, and dessert recipes you make together (and honestly all of it has been DELICIOUS), then you open up your themed date with a ton of activities that have you engage with your partner in a way you normally would never do. I could not recommend these boxes enough. Also, this is not sponsored – just an honest recommendation.
No matter if you go out or stay in, the two most important aspects is that your date nights become routine, and are truly special. Dating your spouse keeps the romance alive no matter how crazy and chaotic life can be.
Play for the Same Team
I recently wrote a post solely about resentment towards your partner because resentment has the power to completely unfold a marriage. As damaging as resentment is, it unfortunately rears its ugly head in almost every relationship, including mine. Trust me, I have more than once glanced over at my husband casually lounging and watching stupid videos on his phone while I am meal prepping everyone’s lunches and dinners, cleaning the kitchen, reorganizing the spice cabinet, have laundry going, mentally deciding my next home project, and paying bills online (all at the same time!), and feel that surge of resentment come over me. In the past, that has not ended pretty. As I have grown up, and learned to take a step back, I have been able to better navigate the balance of life and what role both my husband and I play. Does my husband lounge more than me? Yes. Is my husband’s job more demanding and physically harder than mine? Yes. Do I ask my husband to stop watching stupid videos and get up and help me? Hell yes.
When you play for the same team, it no longer becomes a back and forth of who does more, taking out your ruler to see who measures higher. It becomes, how can you help each other balance this chaos together, “if I do this, then you can do that,” because we are in this together. And if something does feel out of balance or you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important to speak up before resentment sets in because calm, non-stress or unemotionally charged communication is much more efficient and pleasant. Plus, who the hell has time to fight? Remember, marriage is a union, and your life should be one too.
As important as it is to be present with one another, it is just as important to recharge without one another as well. With the busy and hectic lives we live, it may feel incredibly hard to find any down time, especially alone. With a little bit of teamwork though, it is actually pretty simple to make this happen. For instance, I like to go to a certain yoga class on Sundays. I need to lean on my husband to take care of the kids so I can do this. It is so important for me to go to this class because it allows me to embrace self care, recharge my body and mind, and also just get a dash of alone time and peace. My husband never makes me feel bad about this, and encourages me to do this. Just how I encourage him to escape the house on the weekends alone, or leave him alone when he watching his favorite war movie. Being able to recharge (with a partner who does not make you feel guilty about it), not only helps your own self, but has such as positive impact on your relationship as well.
There is obviously much more than this that goes into a happy and healthy marriage, however we have found these key areas necessary for our survival through parenthood and chaos. With all that said, ALL relationships take work, even non-romantic ones. The longer you are together, the more life challenges you are likely to face together, the more likely you are to get on one another’s nerves, and also the easier it is to let your effort in a relationship take a back seat. Remember why you fell in love in the first place, remember to always look at the big picture, and remember your marriage deserves to take priority.