When you decide to start a family your thoughts are normally focused on the new life that you have created. You get caught up in scans, appointments, shopping for clothes and decorating the nursery. Then before you know it, your baby has arrived and you are lost in a sea of nappies, feeds, naps and then the same again and again. You go from being contentedly selfish to being completely selfless as a small person depends upon you entirely. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a time and the last thing that you really think about is your relationship. There is no time to think about it and you haven’t really given any thought to the idea that it might change when your family grew. But it does change, which is why we are sharing these tips today on how to keep your marriage alive with a young family. It is a challenge, but unless you want to find yourself looking around for the best divorce lawyers, it is a challenge worth rising to.
We are talking about communication first because this one is by far the most important item on this list. You absolutely have to communicate effectively in order to keep your marriage alive and thriving.
You should share any concerns, irritations and niggles as soon as they begin to surface, do not bury them and let them bubble away under the surface. By addressing them quickly they can be rectified before they blow up into something much bigger. If you keep every little thing inside, you know that the day will eventually come when you will blow and this is a row that can easily be averted.
Communication isn’t all about airing any grievances, though. Make sure that you are still talking to each other as adults and partners, away from the family chat. It can be easy for all of your conversations to revolve around your children, and whilst many will and should, take the time to talk about your other interests. Fill each other in on work, friendships and the latest news and gossip.
Communication can also be non-verbal, so show your affection all the time to your partner. Remain as demonstrative as you always have been, to reassure them that you are their partner just as much as you are now a parent.
Accept that it will be tough
As you are communicating effectively, you need to talk over acceptance.
Once you both accept and understand that parenthood will be tough, everything else becomes easier. Your expectations shift immediately. You accept that sometimes just getting through the day is enough. You accept that you are not going to be able to get a decent night’s sleep. You embrace the chaos that parenthood brings with it.
If you are fighting against it and maintaining the same pre-baby expectations you are going to find your stress levels rising which will inevitably put a strain on your marriage. You are more likely to resent your partner and pick faults with them if you are stressed yourself.
Sit down together and talk through all that has changed and anything that needs to change going forwards. Agree expectations together and help each other to accept those moments that are frustrating and exhausting.
Agree on the big things
We know that is impossible for you both to agree on absolutely everything, and really, how boring would that be anyway? However, it is important for you to agree on the big things.
Now that you have responsibility for another life, or two or three, you should aim to parent together consistently. Your children should get clear messages and have boundaries set by both of you. Mixed messages will only confuse them, weaken what you are trying to do and cause arguments between you.
It is worth having discussions, away from your children, about how you will handle certain situations in order that you can both agree on them.
Share the responsibilities
Make sure that you are sharing out your responsibilities fairly and evenly. You have a family unit and it should feel that you are both in it together.
You are going to need to share work, home and parenting responsibilities equally so that you are both happy with what you need to do. This will look completely different from one marriage to the next. In yours, one of you might be the primary caregiver while the other works outside of the home each day. Perhaps you both work full time or perhaps you are both at home. You might find that it simply makes sense that one of you does all of the cooking as you are home first or you are the only decent cook. One of you might enjoy taking the kids on the school run, or might need to drive in that direction anyway each day.
Share the tasks according to how practical it is for each of you to take them on, and then share the responsibility of bringing up your family together.
Take the time to be grateful
It can be so very easy to get lost in the day to day when you have a young family. There will be days when you feel that you are just firefighting and are barely making it through each day. It can also feel so tiring and so hard. Relentless is a word that is often associated with parenting, especially with a young family, as it feels as though you never get a moment to step off the treadmill. Whilst this is physically tiring, it also means that you barely have any headspace to think about all that you do have.
It is important then to take the time to be grateful. Remember how much you wanted your children, think about the joy that they bring to your lives and think about how fortunate you are to have one another. There will then easily be dozens more things that you can stop and be grateful for.
Gratitude can help to clear your mind and improve your health and self esteem. Taking the time to do this will help you to appreciate what you have, including your partner and marriage, and it will help you to connect with them once more. Encourage your partner to do the same thing, or talk it over together. You could make it a part of your day to recount a few things that you have been grateful for that day every evening to one another.
Play to your strengths
When you are spending time with your children, look to play to your strengths. This means that you will enjoy your time with them more and it means that you will enjoy seeing your partner with them.
Are you the arty one? Then sit down and help your children to get creative. Painting, sketching, crafting and more can be so much fun for you if you are naturally artistic and your children will love spending time doing this with you.
Perhaps you love your sports? Then get outside with your kids and a ball and have some fun. Take them swimming, tobogganing and cycling and watch as they learn from their experiences.
Think about everything that you enjoy and then get your children involved. Kids normally like to emulate their parents, so if they can see you are enjoying yourself, they will be all in.
By spending quality time with your kids, you will be happier in yourself, which will spill over into your marriage. You will also fall in love with your partner all over again when you see them with your children like this.
Make time for just the two of you
We know that this can be difficult to do when you have children, but it is also absolutely essential to do, so you should prioritize this from time to time. Family time is wonderful, but everyone needs a little one on one time alongside it.
What was your favorite thing to do before you had your kids? Maybe you were always at the cinema, eating out, shopping, visiting museums, watching sports or taking in a show at the theatre. Aim to have a date night doing something that you have always loved doing together.
If getting a sitter and getting out of the house is impossible, then aim to have a date night at home.
You can go all out and plan a romantic meal with candles and both get dressed up for the occasion. Alternatively, maybe there is a new movie out that you both want to see. In that case, get the popcorn and snuggle up together on the sofa to watch it. If you want to have more of a laugh together, then fire up the video games or raid the board game cupboard for an evening of play and interaction.
Make the time to be just a couple from time to time. It does not mean that you love your children any less, do not feel guilty when you are away from them. Instead pay attention to one another, compliment each other and revel in being a couple.