The dynamics of marriage certainly shift once kids come in the picture! Here is what helps us with prioritizing marriage while raising young kids.
Yesterday I combed through all your (fantastic!) comments on topics you’d like to see on this post. I made a draft for every single question asked and am excited to dive into them. One that came up quite often is marriage. Funny enough, it’s also the topic we just started to discuss in my women’s small group too. And I totally get why it’s on so many of our minds.
When David and I first got married, the world was our oyster. Every night was basically date night. We could sleep in on the weekends, still knock out projects, and then enjoy a night out on the town with our other newlywed (childless) friends. I’ve heard it said that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but in my experience, it was quite the opposite. Ours was pretty amazing.
Now life still feels amazing, in many ways even more so, but it doesn’t look the same. This phase of life is cray. Between managing the household, caring for two young kids, working, and making sure everyone has food to eat and clothes to wear, by the end of the day we are all flat out exhausted.
Still, I would venture to say that we still have a really great marriage. Perfect? No such thing in my opinion, but our marriage is strong and we are happy.
And for the most part, I am happy to talk about our strengths and struggles, so let’s get straight to the comment that sparked this post!
I’d love a post on how you and David prioritize your relationship while having two young kids. How often do you do date nights? Do you do couples therapy? How do you manage to create “me time” for one another?
Such great questions! I’ve been trying to figure out an organized way to present my thoughts (goodness help you if we ever meet for coffee; I’m quite loquacious). For simplicity’s sake, here are a few things that help us prioritize our marriage in bullet form.
7:00 pm Bedtime for the Kids
I know it’s not for everyone, but for us, the evenings are our time. Our time to each share our days, discuss household matters, open up about whatever is on our mind, and connect in other ways. I am not comfortable opening up about the physical aspect to our relationship but I can tell you that it is an important part of a marriage and 7:00 pm bedtimes for the kids helps.
We Let the Kids Know Our Marriage Comes First
I know it seems counter-intuitive but having your kids know that mom and dad’s relationship is paramount actually makes them feel more secure and loved, not less. I know this from my own experience growing up. The kids (break my heart) are going to grow up and hopefully go on to lead happy, fulfilling lives. And when they leave the proverbial nest, David and I will still have each other and I want us to still be holding hands, excited to continue on this adventure together when that day comes.
We Make Parenting (and other) Decisions Together
On many day to day issues, I am the parent at home and I make a lot of the calls. I appreciate that David generally lets me lead on the parenting front, but our approach to how we parent is the same because we have discussed how we want to handle situations and then we stick to it. We both feel our opinions are valued in making decisions that affect our lives, family, and future.
We Talk About the Future
We have a really solid idea of what we want our next 3, 7, 10, 20 years and more together to look like. It’s honestly our favorite date night conversation topic! Having a strong vision and “why” helps us both to stay excited about life and bringing our A-game to our marriage, family, and life.
We Ask Each Other for What We Need
I finally gave up on David being a mind reader and I wish it wouldn’t had taken me so long. David is a super reasonable guy, but he’s not a psychic. If I need time to myself, help with housecleaning or anything really, I’ve learned I need to ask for it. We always figure out a way to make it happen because we know we need both of us feeling fulfilled, respected, and appreciated and to keep things smooth sailing.
We Go the Extra Mile for Each Other
Some days I do better than others, but I try. I make his breakfast. I fill up the Keurig with water. I stick almonds and bars in his car. I scratch his back while we watch a show. Little things, but they let him know I’m thinking of him. I hope it’s the same way I feel super appreciative when he handles taxes, car inspection stickers, or pumps my gas when we’re together. Not because I’m not capable, but because it’s just nice to feel taken care of sometimes.
We Don’t Get Defensive
Well, I really try not too. I remind myself that when David says “Oh I’m out of socks” that he is just stating that he has no socks even if in my head I hear “what do you do all day woman? can you not even throw on a load of laundry?!” (and the answer is no… sometimes I can not manage to throw on a load of laundry)
We Plan Date Nights
A year or few ago we decided we needed to prioritize date nights out and have done a pretty good job at this. We love date nights in, but there is something invigorating about leaving the house, enjoying a new experience together (whether it be food or an activity) and reconnecting as David and Brittany, not as just mom and dad. I’d say we average 2 date nights a month, and I really love when we can make one of them a breakfast date. I love sitting with tea and chatting in the morning when my mind is most alert.
I Remember What I Love About Him
It’s so easy to take someone you are close with for granted. I know I’ve done it countless times. However, every so often I stop and think back to when we first we dated. I get butterflies again thinking about his wit, his smile, his strong work ethic, his devotion to us, and his adventurous spirit. It helps me forget the clothes he leaves everywhere but the hamper.
Anytime you prioritize something in your life, you knowingly or unknowingly are making less time for other things. I recently heard that it’s important to know what areas of life you want to win in, but you also need to choose which areas you are willing to lose in, at least for a little while. Marriage and family are at the top of our priority list. This means other areas of life must sacrifice, at least a little at this phase of life. In our situation, I think it’s clear that two areas we “give” in are friendships and hobbies.
It does not mean we want to give these things up, but the fact is you can’t have everything all at once. I have a lot of good acquaintances but only a few really close friends. We don’t go out regularly with other couples, even though we’d like to. In fact, we get together with one of our favorite local couples probably less than 4 times a year. I don’t love that, but it is what works for our priority system right now. We are lucky that David and I are each others’ best friends. I’ve heard a lot of conflicting opinions on a spouse being a best friend, but for us, it’s incredible that the person I share my deepest hopes, fears, and dreams with is the same person I am building a life with. I feel really lucky.
I really encourage you to check out my dad’s blog and practice. It’s a no frills site that is full of bite-sized insight that can truly change your life and marriage for the better if you apply it. I know I’ve gotten so many great tips that have given me perspective over the years!
Couples counseling. Part of the original question was if we have ever been. No, we have not, but I’m a huge supporter of couples therapy and would absolutely go if we ever reached a point I felt we needed it.
Making connecting fun is important to me. When David and I were dating, I had this book and though I’m sure I laughed it off when I first brought it out, it served as a great way to get deeper conversations rolling. It also comes in a Love & Sex version, which has great reviews.
As usual, this was about 10x longer than I intended. I hope I answered the questions adequately, but if you have anything else you are curious about, or want to see MORE pictures of us as a couple (I kid… I kid… ;)) please just ask in the comments!
What is one struggle or strength in your marriage?