Picture this- you’re busy. You and your spouse have careers you are jugging, a house to manage, kids and all that comes with them, (school/homework, projects, extracurriculars, keeping them clothed, fed, etc). volunteering, staying connected with family and friends. You know what I am talking about.
So how do you balance it all and not let your marriage suffer? I am sharing some simple ways that encourage you and your spouse in your vows and encourage a healthy and thriving relationship.
1. Don’t check out when you get home.
In my home, my role is to stay home with the kids and my husband goes off to work. So truthfully, my “job” never ends. My husband has a demanding career and travels often. I give him a lot of credit for that and am so proud of him—but I do expect him to engage and switch gears to parent mode once he crosses the threshold. We parent as a team, connect with the kids, and get them to bed together. This encourages unity in front of the kids and support for me as the designated parent. The more supported and connected I feel on the home front will only benefit our marriage.
2. Check in with each other after the kids go to bed.
The desire to kick your feet up and zone out is REAL after a grueling day. But truthfully, you should connect as a couple before you go off to your own zones. Personally I feel that individual hobbies are wonderful, but there needs to be a distinct time of connection before both of you go your separate ways. It is important to catch up on each other’s day (and if one of you stays home with the kids, to let the other spouse know what is happening in their worlds that they might have missed).
So in real terms, put the phones in a separate area in the evening hours, don’t turn the tv on, and focus on being present. I am also a big fan of going to bed at the same time and think there is a lot of value in pillow talk before you both fall asleep. I am not saying you need three hours of connection time a night, but a few minutes of focused attention on each other goes a long way!
And as a note, I am very anti man-cave/she shed and activities that command inappropriate amounts of time such as gaming or hunting- in excess. If you have a hobby that takes up too much of your time or you have a hard time balancing how much you participate in it, quit- for the sake of your marriage! Yes, you both need time to yourselves, just be cognizant of how you are spending your time and if it is adding value to your relationship.
3. Date Nights/Focused Time Together
Extravagant nights out with hired help and a fun destination are always a treat, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Put a night in your calendar (weekly, even!) for you two to spend the entire evening focused on each other. You can even bust out a candle and make yourself a nice spread once those beautiful babies are unconscious… maybe play a board game or read a book together (marriage book suggestions at the bottom of the post!). That time together is really valuable!
A nice dinner out is fun to look forward to as well. Again, speaking as a stay at home mom, I don’t have a lot of reasons to get “done up” and socialize without being interrupted or changing a diaper. So a few hours of decadence can help sustain when the going gets rough. Looking forward to a date is half the excitement! And the refreshment as a human/parent/partner that follows is worth it.
Need ideas? Check out 70+ Date Night Ideas.
4. Get Away Together
A vacation might seem impossible in your phase of life, but it can be life giving. To not wake up to those bouncing, noisy alarm clocks can set yourself straight for a little. Again, the anticipation of a leave of absence is huge, but a longer time away from those little blessings can be a blessing for yourself (and ultimately, them also). An extended amount of time with your spouse can breathe some fresh air into your relationship, rekindle your romance, and remind each other why you are together.
By going on regular date nights and vacations, you are showing your children that the relationship you have with their mother/father is important. Children are absolutely a priority, but the marriage should be the main focus. If you don’t have the healthy marriage, the family dynamic suffers or even dies.
5. Plan Together (Yearly, Monthly, Weekly)
Some things Dustin and I do that really help requires being proactive, but it is helpful to get on the same page. We enjoy doing The Family Playbook at the start of the new year which helps us set goals, budgets, and anticipated needs for the upcoming year. It helps avoid surprises and lets each partner share what is important to them individually and for the family. I am a huge proponent of communication so this helps initiate very proactive and beneficial conversations.
On a monthly basis we try and get on the same page with budget talks. We do YNAB and talk through our transactions/goals for the previous month, and plan ahead for the next. I find that talking about anticipated needs helps take the sting out of purchases the other person wasn’t expecting. Some of these expenses were already on our radars thanks to The Family Playbook (think weddings, anniversaries, vacations, birthdays).
We aim to have weekly meetings (generally on Sunday nights) to take a look at our calendars for the upcoming week. When appointments are made throughout the week that I need Dustin at, I invite him to it so they are already on his calendar. But this is a good time to discuss what our week looks like and where we each need to be and when. Talking ahead of time helps diffuse a possible stressful situation (who is taking who to which practice?!) just by vocalizing the need.
6. Pick Your Battles, Be Humble, and Communicate Fairly
The truth of the matter is that you are two human, imperfect people who have committed your lives to each other. And because we are imperfect, that means we make mistakes. You are going to screw up. So will your partner.
Give each other grace and remember no one is perfect, and to always give the benefit of the doubt. Not every situation is a hill to die on. If both of you give a little and assume the best in each other, it will pave the way to a healthy relationship! Don’t be so proud you can’t receive feedback and improve. But also don’t live to criticize your partner. Try to not hold your partner to a level of expecting perfection they will never hit. Forgive easily and quickly, and put the other person’s needs above your own.
Have rules when you argue. Here are some I have for myself as an example:
admit when you are wrong
never threatening divorce
7. Get Physical
Studies have shown that couples who have an active love life have a much more successful relationship. So maybe getting freaky with your person is something you need to add to your to-do list as well! I know this is a mom blog so I will keep it as p.c. as possible, but make it a priority to connect with your spouse in a physical way. And beyond hitting home runs, more simple things like holding hands, a kiss, hugs, and a touch on the shoulder are also healthy to make a habit of (and bonus in front of the kids. Show them your love and it will only strengthen your family unit)! If you don’t make that kind of connection with your spouse, get into the habit of it. You will be amazed at their response and the benefits in your relationship!
Marriage is not always easy. Marriage is actually a lot of work, and as you can tell by the examples I listed, a healthy marriage takes a lot of intentionality, proactive communication, and attention. Making your marriage a priority will not happen on its own, especially in the busy season of raising children.
If you got anything from this, just remember how far communication and a little bit of planning goes, and prioritizing your spouse’s needs above your own.
I am no marriage expert, just speaking from experience. Dustin and I are approaching year two of marriage, but I am also including experiences from my nine year marriage with my late husband, Marcus. Read more of our story over on my blog or instagram!
Marriage resources I enjoy:
Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les & Leslie Parrott (comes with workbooks!)
Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts by Les & Leslie Parrott (comes with workbooks!)
Marriage by Paul David Tripp
Lots more reading suggestions (parenting, step family, grieving, and more!) over at my blog!