Today, May 2, is David’s and my anniversary! Nine years go we said I do in the North Georgia mountains surrounded by family, friends, and the remnants of a seriously angry rain storm. Ah, spring weddings! Though we are currently in the phase of life where we celebrate anniversaries with high-fives as we pass by each other tackling kids, work, and home tasks, love should always be celebrated and acknowledged, so babe, consider this my happy anniversary shout-out. You still make my heart flutter!
You may also like: The Story of Us: 5 1/2 Years in the Making
We are nine years, two houses, and two kids into marriage, and… we are still happy. Happier I’d even venture to say. It didn’t happen by chance because marriage takes work. And work we have, especially during those tumultuous years of babies and toddlers when sleep becomes scarce and roles get redefined. Here are a few tips we’ve taken to heart and implemented to help keep a strong marriage after kids.
Touch Each Other. Yes, it that way, but not just in that way. Snuggle on the couch, hold hands when you walk to dinner, give each other a real two-arm-wrapped-around-ya kind of hug, rub her feet (that last one was for you, David). It can be challenging at first as a new mom when you feel like someone is touching us ALL DAY LONG, but we are touched all day long because it’s an important way for babies and children to connect with us. Humans need touch, so it is also vital for a marriage. Even just finding 5 or 10 minutes to snuggle up together can make a big impact because tactile physical affection is highly correlated with overall relationship and partner satisfaction. Touch can calm nerves, foster connection, and provide comfort, so go ahead and touch, snuggle, massage, and heck, flirt a little too.
Renegotiate the division of labor. Before kid, the necessary chores are usually understood and accomplished without too much strife, even if it means one person takes on a little more. However, when kids come into the picture, there is a huge amount of new responsibilities, some obvious, but others not so much. A study found that in the weeks after a baby is born, men cut back their household chores by five hours a week, while women only cut back by an hour a week. Not only that, having a child only added 10 hours a week to a man’s workload—but it added 21 hours a week to a woman’s.
To help with this transition, all roles and responsibilities should be put back on the table for negotiation after kids. Finding a time to sit down and outline what, when, and how household tasks and responsibilities should be carried out is important. Once everything is out there in the open, it’s easier to delegate responsibilities with open communication and understanding.
Recognize that life is full for both of you. Avoiding the resentment game once babies come into the picture is vital. I sometimes would find myself keeping track of everything I did in a day and comparing it to the mental list of what he did (spoiler: mine was always seemingly much longer). But guess what- it got us nowhere. Improving communication, complimenting each other on what we are doing well, and realizing my spouse is not solely responsible for my happiness made the difference. It took me a while to realize that when I was feeling burned out, I automatically blamed David. By learning to better communicate what I was feeling before I hit rock bottom, we were then able to adjust our lifestyle as needed, or hire a sitter, or let the girls have a movie watching afternoon while I played catch up. Basically, we found a solution instead together instead of wallowing in resentment.
In a recent post, Christina mentioned that once a week she and her husband give each other a “hall pass”- a night off of responsibilities to use however they please, whether that be a dinner out with a friend, pleasure shopping at Target, or just a quiet bath at home. What a cool idea!
Plan and dream about the future. This is our favorite. Planning and dreaming creates a virtual playground where you can run through a million different scenarios and learn about what you each value and look forward to. When you find a path you both find exciting and fulfilling, you can build on by making it more vivid with details. Where will you be living? What will you do to fill your time? How will you make money? Once we are able to taste a dream because it feels so real, we make actionable plans, timetables, and checkpoints. Not only does all this dreaming about future plans make for fun conversation, it helps us develop an action plan for goals we both are energized to work towards. We’ve found that being on the same page about where we want to go in life helps add to the strength of our marriage. We are both excited and grateful to be on this journey together!
I don’t think a perfect marriage exists, but if both people are open and willing to continue to adjust as needed and work toward the common goal of happiness, marriage is a pretty wonderful and special thing. And I sure am grateful to be married to my best friend. Happy anniversary, babe! <3
What helps keep your marriage strong?