I am not going to pretend that I'm a marriage therapist or a professional here. I'm just going to direct you to an amazing website that has kept my 8 year marriage alive through some pretty tough times, and tell you about some things I have learned along the way.
CleanLove© is just some simple easy ways to keep love in your life, and to not push each other aside due to a busy life with work and kids.
If you have serious issues in your marriage like any type of mental/physical abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, cheating, etc. You need to seek professional guidance with a marriage counsellor. CleanLove© is not meant to solve issues as big as that!
CleanLove© is about reminding you that love takes work, just like keeping the house clean, and it gives you sometips on how to keep the love alive.
Remember back to when you were dating your spouse?
You made time in your week to see each other, to get to know each other, and looked forward to being together. You enjoyed doing things together like going out to a movie and dinner, dancing, playing pool, going for hikes, or just snuggling on the couch for a movie.
Remember when you spent a half hour putting on make up and getting your hair to look just right, and spent time picking out the right outfit for your dates? Remember the love butterflies in your stomach when he put his hand in yours as you walked to the car? When he kissed you and it took your breathe away?
Do you feel like that was a million years ago?
You can have that back again! Yes you can!
Just because you measure the years of your marriage as BC and AC ( before children and after children) doesn't mean that you cannot feel that way again. It just means you need to work harder at making it happen.
It is true, that before children you had more time to give to each other. You could lounge in your PJ's ( or not) in bed all day on Sunday to enjoy each other's company while sharing the paper, coffee and bagels between snuggling. But having children was not what took away your time from each other.
Getting love lazy is what happened!
You went from "Couple" to "Parents" instead of going from "Couple" to "Couple with Children".
When you have so many things to do in a day, it is easy to let things that seem to be doing ok slide. But what happens when you let things slide because they seem ok? Before you know it, it's a HUGE mess, and needs a lot of work to fix!
Your relationship is the same way. It is kind of like taking care of the tomatos growing in your garden.
Imagine with me for a moment if you will...
You weeded the garden and watered the tomatoes on Sunday, and they look good, and you feel happy and content at where things are right now in the growing tomatoes dapartment.
Since they are growing nicely, and only watered yesterday, you think that you can skip tending to them on Monday.
Tuesday you get really busy with after school projects with the kids, and as you walk past the garden to head to soccer practice, you promise that you'll water them tomorrow when your not so busy.
Then Wednesday comes along and the weeds are starting to grow up around the tomatoes again, and they are getting really thirsty! They are calling to you through the kitchen window as you do the dishes, begging for water. You know you need to go out and water them, but you had a bad day at work, and the kids are driving you nuts running around the kitchen as you try to fix dinner, and you still have laundry to do, lunches to prepare, your 1/2 hour of exercises to do! When you get into bed, you pass out with exhaustion, the last thing you think is "I'm so tired, I promise I'll water them tomorrow"
Now they are starting to shrivel up and the weeds are taking over choking out any new growth! Thursday is a busy day for you, and every time you tried to get outside to water the plants, the phone rang, or a kids needed you, your best friend just broke up with her husband, and she really needed you to talk to today... just a crazy day!!!
Friday you go out to water and weed the tomatoes and you stand there with your gloves on ready to dig in, because now you have time, and you wonder what happened as you find your tomatoes dead and rotting on the ground!
Yep, the tomatoe plant is your spouse, and the water and weeding is spending time together and enjoying each others company. OK, so that's a little fast for tomatoes to die, since it usually rains to water them if you forget, but you DO NOT WANT your husband getting his "water and weeding" from another gardner do you!!!
You get the idea.If you neglect your marriage and push aside spending time together, your love will eventually wither and die and then rot!
As a CWC (couple with children) who follow the attachment/natural parenting philosophy, time alone with young children can be really hard to do.
Somewhere between breastfeeding, bed sharing, kissing booboos and bonding with babies, something was missing. I could tell because my husband was complaining about the baby in the bed still, our daughter climbing in our bed in the morning to cuddle, about me being too tired to be intimate all the time, and his feeling like the children and housework took precedence over him.
My first response was to get defensive and list off all the reasons we are attachment parents, and how it benefits the children. I got defensive about how much I do in a day and listed off all my responsibilities that made me justifiably tired at the end of the day.
I accused him of not noticing just how much I do for the family. I mentioned that perhaps if he could help instead of complaining, that things would be different.
It didn’t help, and instead lead us to an argument yet again, for the fifth time that month.
Feeling unheard and resentful I went to my computer for some justification and proof that I was right. I surfed over to Dr. Sears' website about attachment parenting and started reading the 7 “B’s” of attachment parenting for reassurance.
Suddenly, I felt bad about getting upset with my husband for complaining when it turned out the seventh “B” I couldn’t recall was Balance.
While reading the following quote from the webpage, I realized that things were off balance and needed some immediate attention.
“7. Balance. In your zeal to give so much to your baby, it's easy to neglect the needs of yourself and your marriage. As you will learn, the key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby – knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no," and having the wisdom to say "yes" to yourselves when you need help.”
Oops! I had some mending booboos to do for my husband’s heart, as well as my own! But, how could I fix this? How can we spend time with each other and add some balance so we are all happy, if we don’t believe in baby sitters, still do bed sharing, and have so many responsibilities that pull us in separate directions!?
I googled “romance, marriage and parenting”, did some reading for a few hours and then started on a plan. In just a few short months of putting what I read into practice, I found what worked
1. Air out grievances right away-Don’t let them build resentment. Resentment is a marriage strangler. Take time to share your feelings every day, in a calm setting without the kids. While cooking dinner, or while preparing for bed.
Talk with “I’s” instead of “you’s” when expressing your feelings, and don’t get defensive when hearing your partner’s grievances.
Try really hard to hear your partner and make changes so the topic isn’t a problem anymore.
Look into bettering your effective communication and active listening skills, they help a lot.
2. Make time for each other-Have a date night where you put the kids to bed earlier and play a card game, or a video game, watch a movie, or do a project together.
Spend some time every day talking about stuff not related to the kids. Talk about news and current events you read in the paper, how your favourite sports teams are doing, what you did at work etc.
One of the easiest ways for my husband and I to have “talk time” with kids around, is to go for a late night drive with the kids in pj’s tucked in their car seats in the back seat, sleeping. We drive around looking at houses, dreaming aloud with each other, about how we would build our dream home. We talk about our goals and dreams, or sometimes we are just silly and talk about how we’d spend the money if we won the lottery.
This can also be a time for more serious conversations. I now know that my husband wants to be cremated when he dies, because of one of our driving talk sessions. That talk session also prompted us to look into writing living and estate wills.
3. Do nice things for each other – With day to day living and raising kids, we often forget to do the little things we used to do in the beginning of our relationship to show we love each other.
Make a habit out of doing something nice every day for your partner. Make a list together of things that would make you feel loved, so you both can follow it. This may seem silly to go from a list, but it takes out the guesswork, and guys love not having to guess at what will make their wives feel loved.
Make a list be things that are cheap or free, like: "a hug when you pass by while cooking supper", "Call from work through the day just to say hi", "Grab a towel and dry the dishes for me while we talk", "send me a card in the mail or through email from work", or "leave a love note on the wheel of the car".
My husband picks me wild flowers in the summer with the kids, just because, and sends me e-cards through email every now and again. A few months ago he made me a Lego flower while playing with our daughter. It was sweet and silly, and I loved it! It now sits on my desk.
I pick him up silly treats from the dollar store when I’m out shopping, like a fire truck tooth brush, for the kid at heart he still is, or a sale boat figurine or any Coke memorbilia I can find for our themed kitchen. I also send him e-cards and leave him notes on the bathroom mirror in erasable window markers.
4. Make time to be intimate-There is a saying, “Fake it until you make it”. NO, I’m not saying fake THAT.
When you’re to a point of imbalance in your relationship and you need to get back to basics, doing the first three steps mentioned above for a while will help create a better balance of give and take. It is hard to want to be intimate with someone your resentful of , or angry with.
But, intimacy should not be avoided completly. It can help bring you back to a "goodwill" place. Until your feeling good will openly toward each other again, and are desiring it naturally, plan your intimacy. It is an important part of a marriage, and overall health and wellbeing for both of you. You’ll be surprised at how the honest feelings of wanting intimacy usually follow soon after you initiate an intimacy date.
Right now, desire might not be coming easily due to bed sharing with baby, feeling touched out from breastfeeding on demand, and being tired from working long hours, as well as outside responsibilities like volunteering, church etc. It is ok to admit that your not feeling sexual right now in your marriage. It is a normal cycle relationships go through when the kids are young. But make sure nethier of you are seeking your physical and emotional intimacy elsewhere, and not neglecting each other. It is ok to be honest and schedule intimacy with each other.Trust me, most men will not complain about scheduled intimacy, unless you have not scheduled enough of it!
It may feel awkward at first, but scheduling sex and cuddling time makes sure it happens. It keeps him feeling loved, helps you feel emotionally supported and helps increase your natural desire.
Many studies show that if you go without sex for long periods of time you will feel less like doing it, and that planning it and following through can increase your desire to want to.
Very often you don’t feel like it until you’re in the middle of the session and remember how good it felt to give and get physical love.
Intimacy doesn't have to be just sex either. It can be back messages, washing each others hair in the shower, a foot rub, kissing only, cuddling on the couch while watching a late night movie. Intimacy is any close good physical contact with each other, where you are enjoying making each other feel good.
It is long known that men need sex to feel loved, and women need to feel loved to want to have sex. That can cause a never ending circle of "who starts?" or someone feeling like they need to "give in" and sacrafice their needs for the needs of the other. This can be hard if there is a lot of resentment built up by a recent history of emotional and sexual neglect and being love lazy. So Instead of making it a issue that just builds more resentment, talk about it and both of you make a plan to work together at it.
If he wants intimacy to feel loved, he needs to warm you up all day with cute little notes, or compliments, rather then complaints about stuff not done that day, and a out of the blue offer to be intimate. In return to his promise to warm you up, you need to promise not to shoo him away being tired or getting snippy because your busy when he stops you from vaccumming to hug and kiss for a minute.
You need to make an effort to show him his efforts are working.If he comes up to hug you after supper while your doing the dishes, stop and accept the hug and give one back, rather then keep doing the dishes.
When men feel loved through physical intimacy, they’ll do more to make you feel loved, and that in time will lead to you wanting to be intimate more. It's circular thing and a fine balance of give and take.
I know, you’re asking where and when you do this with kids seemingly at every turn!
You have to get creative. If you wait for bedtime, you're likely to be too tired and fall alseep. Find a time and place that works. Like in the morning in the shower before the kids wake up. An afternoon lunch date at home while the baby is napping and others are at school. or perhaps in the late evening on a blanket in the living room while the kids are sleeping. Or, if your kids are older, a quick moment in your bedroom while they are watching a cartoon in the evening before supper somewhere else, can be fun, enjoyable and even silly. Lock/close your door, institute a knock first policy, keep your ears open, and be sure they are safe and occupied while you’re out of the room.
5. Give each other a “time out”-You need down time from the kids and from each other in order to appreciate the time you do have with each other. Set times when you can go out to a scrap booking or craft class, coffee with a friend or to the library to read a magazine, while he watches the kids in the evening for an hour or two. If you’re very early post partum or still feeling uneasy about going out since the baby was born, go to a different room of the house for a much needed nap, or a bath. Lock yourself in and do a fun project for yourself.
Let him go out to watch the Monday night football game at his friend's place, or a rotating poker night for some “guy” time, or to go tinker in the garage with a hobby etc.
Each of you could use this time with the kids on your spouse’s time out, as a one on one special time with the kids.
Set the time and both make sure that you stick to your time agreement and come home when you say you will. Don’t let outside peer pressure from friends or losing track of time chatting with the girls ( or guys) cause trust issues. This will help ensure neither of you feel resentful of the other’s time out.
Following these few tips should bring back goodwill and affection to your marriage, just as it did for ours. Remember your kids will thank you for showing them how to be in a happy marriage by example, and for having parents that can laugh, love, work and play together well.
Lastly, remember that disagreements do happen, we are only human. It is how you have them that matters.
Just remember a few “fighting rules”. No name calling, no cursing, no threats of divorce, no pushing buttons. If these are your argument tools/styles, look into learning some "good fight" habits. You are not fighting to be a winner, that means your spouse needs to be the "loser". Your looking for a compromise that both of you can accept.
I came from a family that didn't have such "good fight rules", and it took me a long time to get to a place of understanding that my husband was not trying to win and be right, or hurt me on purpose. With lots of talking, reading books on communications styles and how to mediate and negotiate better, things are a lot easier. I still fall back into old patterns at times, and that can make for some loud disagreements, but we take a break and get back to the rules as soon as possible.
In our home the golden rule for every decision is "It takes two yesses". That means if one of you disagrees, it doesn't happen and a discussion needs to take place to understand why you each hold your position. Talk it out to see if either of you can explain where your coming from and one of you, based on the new information can shift your position to the mutual yes or no. If a mutual decision cannot be made, continue talking ( without trying to get your own way) to find a compromise that you both can live with for the situation on the discussion table.
If you get over worked and really upset, take a set timed break and come back to discuss it again if you get to heated and upset. The other person has to allow the break as well, not try to follow each other around the house continuing to argue.This never leads to anything good.
Never go to bed with unresolved anger.
If the kids saw the argument, let them also see you resolve your argument with a hug and kiss.Talk to them about how you were upset with each other because you had a difference of opinion, but you have come to a compromise and worked things out. Ask them how they felt about hearing the argument if they seem upset. Ressure them that things are ok. Let them know that no one is leaving if any such threats were made in the heat of the moment. Some kids have fears of divorce if they know friends who have divorced parents. They might not express it verbally to you, but poor behaviour in your kids can come up for days or even weeks after a fight between you and your spouse and could mean they are feeling vunerable and unsafe from your argument. It could show up in nightmares, regression with potty training, aggression with siblings etc.
You should try to have your arguments away from the kids, but also remember, it is ok if the kids see you disagree; and is a little unhealthy if they NEVER see you argue and resolve situations.
It won't scar them for life if they see arguments and they won’t enter into their own relationships later in life thinking that nobody ever argues, and be suprised and not know how to handle it when they undoubtably do.
It will give them a balanced perspective on relationships, and better communication skills on how to handle disagreements well.
Be well, be loved, and be in balance.
Couples with Children can find it hard to come up with ideas for date night when they are stuck in a rut. Here are some ideas for you.
First off, dress up for your date night even if your not going out of the house, it will make you feel good, and look good too :) have fun.
Plan your date night event a few days in advance so you can start reminding each other about it and look forward to that event. If you don't preplan it you could spend your whole night saying "Ok, so what do you want to do? " with your spouse responding " I don't know, what do you want to do?", and before you know it your date night is over and you didn't enjoy your time together.
Make the planning fun too, get one of you to call up the other in the middle of the day on Wednesday, and ask the other out on a date for Saturday, with a suggested event. Accept the invitation and then start looking forward to it. The person doing the asking must plan the date, by preparing the event. Set a time and place to meet. ( living room, 8 o'clock-movie etc).
Something my husband and I enjoy doing is playing Video games together. Due to his disability we cannot do the things we used to like doing together, like playing pool, bowling, golf etc. So we play them on the video game. It allows us to enjoy things we used to enjoy doing before, but at a physical level my husband can handle. We sit and laugh and talk and play, while enjoying some drinks and snacks. It is a lot of fun. So don't put away the video game system just because the kids are in bed, go invest in some games you'll both enjoy too. Our favorite game is Monkey ball 2 for the game cube.
We dress the kids in their P.J.'s and go for a drive in the car at night, or go 4 wheel driving out old dirt roads in the afternoon with the kids in tow.
During the summer we take lawn chairs and find a quiet dark country road in the middle of the night and just sit and look up for falling stars during peak meteor shower times in August. The kids usually are sound asleep in thier seats in the car.
We go out and drive around so my husband can take photgraphs. He's an amazing photographer. I enjoy seeing what we find to photograph, and making suggestions of subjects for his shoots. The kids nap in the back, or we make it a family time if they are not alseep.
Some other ideas, sent in by other couples with children for at home dates.
•Cook dinner together, enjoying a glass of wine and nice music and talking, then have a picnic in the living room, or a full fancy dinner at the table with the good china. Then dance to "our song" together.
•Play cards, or a board game
•If you have two computers, go online and chat to each other like you don't know each other. Make up fake information about yourselves, and then plan to finally meet in person in a week or two of getting to know each other. have fun planning the fantasy internet date as well.
•Get some art supplies and sketch each other in your room after the kids are in bed.
•Watch the frirst movie you went to see together, again.
•Watch your wedding video together.
•Put those unfinished photoalbums together over a coffee and dessert. Remember the events that took place in the pictures, and laugh and cry together.
•Find a hobby you both like and do it together ( painting, photography, scrapbooking, woodworking etc)
Check out www.MarriageBuilders.com
They are an amazing resource for building and maintaining a happy relationship. Go here before you go to the divorce lawyer. Their books, which I borrowed from my local library, can be a helpful tool.