For most couples with children, just getting through each week requires almost all of their time and energy. And it never seems to let up - just when they think things might be getting a bit easier, the next phase of parenthood rolls in and presents its requirements and demands. Add in job, home and community responsibilities, and most parents are completely tapped out by the end of each week.
If you're in that position, you probably know how easy it is to lose track of the "couple" part of your life. Even so, you may have assumed that your spouse and marriage don't need the kind of time and attention you devote to your children and other commitments. And in some ways that's true - as adults, the two of you can put aside your needs to meet the needs of your children and handle your responsibilities. But not all the time, and not for extended periods of time. Because if your marriage always comes second or third or last on your list of priorities, you'll lose the "couple" part of your life and become little more than roommates who are co-parenting your children.
If you're looking for ways to build a strong marriage in the midst of the chaos of daily life, here are 10 ways to stay connected with your spouse - even when life gets crazy:
• Establish your marriage as the primary relationship in your family. If you value your marriage and want to keep it strong, set a priority to establish it as the center of your family life. You won't be taking anything away from your children; instead, you'll be adding to their sense of security and helping them understand what it takes to create a lasting marriage.
• Control your family's schedule, rather than letting it control you. Many couples don't think carefully about the time and energy required to participate in sports, lessons, clubs, and volunteer work. As a result, those activities end up devouring most of the family's resources. Yes, you and your children are going to be involved in activities, but you don't have to be involved in every activity. So sit down with your spouse and decide what's reasonable in terms of your family's time, energy and resources, keeping in mind that your marriage is just as important as soccer, baseball and piano lessons.
• Make time to talk every day. When things get busy, it's easy to go for days without talking about anything other than carpools, pick-up times, and errands. So be intentional about talking with your spouse for 15-20 minutes every day about what's going on in both of your lives. Ideally, establish a set time to do this - in the morning, right after work, before bed, or whatever works for the two of you. My husband and I drink coffee in bed for about 20 minutes every morning and talk while we're waking up and preparing to face the day.
• Go to bed at the same time, every night if possible but at least several times a week. Going to bed together allows you to talk and unwind and paves the way for sex and intimacy.
• Make love regularly. Yes, it takes some time and energy, both of which are in short supply. But it's critical if you want to stay connected as a couple. And it doesn't always have to take a lot of time - while a long romantic interlude is great, sometimes a quick romp provides all the connection you need!
• Set one evening a week as "parents' night." Pick one evening each week and let the kids know you won't be available for extracurricular activities, homework help, school projects, or anything else (other than true emergencies) that evening. Put young children to bed as early as reasonable, and let older children work quietly on homework or other activities. Then spend some time relaxing together. Ideally, this should be a set evening every week. But realistically, it may need to change as work and school schedules change.
• Do some everyday tasks or errands together. Once children come along, couples often "divide and conquer" the tasks of everyday life. She gets groceries and runs by the post office, he drops off the dry cleaning and picks up a prescription. It's efficient, but boring. So once in a while, do some of those tasks together. Ask a relative or friend to watch the kids for a couple of hours while you run some errands. Then do something fun on the way home, like stopping for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
• Exercise together. Take a walk or go jogging. Ride bikes. Train together for a charity race. Take a hike. Dance. Lift weights. Don't use the children as an excuse - put younger children in strollers or let older kids ride bikes while you walk, jog or bike. Do anything enjoyable that gets you moving together, preferably outside.
• Speak your spouse's love language. You probably know about the 5 love languages, but are you speaking your spouse's language consistently? When your schedule gets crazy, maximize your connection by loving your spouse in the way he or she is most able to receive it.
• Let go of small things that interfere with your connection. Do you hang onto small annoyances, things your spouse says or does that really bug you? I try not to, but sometimes it requires putting mind over emotions, making a conscious choice to let it go. It's hard to maintain a positive connection if you feel annoyed with him or her frequently, so consider making the choice to let some things go. I'm not talking about serious issues in your marriage, but rather the small things that just aren't worth the anger or frustration you invest in them.
Building a strong marriage is hard, but small acts of love and connection can help you and your spouse stay connected - even when life gets crazy.
Originally published on CalmHealthySexy.
Photo credit - JK Califf @ Flickr