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?
This is something that Jason and I need to work on. I mean, our marriage is fine, but with a special needs child who has a lot of therapy (which comes with a lot of stress on us), it’s hard. We are going to commit to more date nights. Alex is 3 on Friday and we’ve never left him with a sitter.
Haley @ Hobson Homestead says
Love this! We seem similar to you guys in many ways—yes it is hard to prioritize marriage with little ones around. Often we have to do simple reminders to our kids not to interrupt Mommy and Daddy while they are talking–basically a reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around them all the time even though it seems that way often 🙂 And finally, we are starting to institute date night just once or twice a month–a huge change for us from years past but much easier now that our kids are a bit older. And you’re right, my husband is the guy I will be with 30 years down the road when my kids are having kids and our home is quiet and empty, so it’s important to prioritize that relationship.
I really loved this post! And I find it refreshing that you are honest about prioritizing your marriage and family over friendship and hobbies during this stage of life. We have a 2 and 4 year old and feel very much the same way. My husband and I only have a few close friends each, and a few couples friends that we go out with a handful of times a year. I love that my husband is my best friend! We talk all the time about how lucky we feel that we truly want to spend our down time together. I also share your philosophy about putting the kids to bed early to have the evenings to ourselves. It makes such a difference in my sanity to have that time to just be me instead of “mom” for a few hours.
I think the area we struggle most wth in our marriage is that we rarely fight, but when we do it tends to blow up and we end up bringing up a lot more than just the issue at hand. One thing we are both working on is being more direct right away when something is bothering us, instead of letting it build up and then explode. Our marriage is always a work in progress, even after 8 years!
Nadia North says
If possible, I recommend doing a date “afternoon”. When my kids were really little, the afternoon was the time of day when everyone was frazzled. Mornings are usually fun, while everyone is fresh and full of energy, and evenings are usually doable with dinner and an early bedtime, but that “witching hour” was a doozy! We did a couple of afternoon get-aways, and the kids loved having the switch-up of a happy and not-frazzled babysitter! (And the not-frazzled mom loved the break)
Beautifully written blog! A strength of our marriage is that we are each other’s best friends. We have fun together whether it is playing a sport (have gone from tennis to golf and biking over the years), working a crossword puzzle, or sitting on the dock in silence. I know he has my back in whatever I do, and I always have his too. We are supportive and appreciative of what each other contributes to the marriage. After 38 years, he still thanks me for dinner and tells me how good it is–although, I don’t cook as much as I use too 😉 And you are so right about after the kids are off on their own raising their families, we still have and enjoy each other!
What a great post! I have a 12 week old and my husband and I have just made the decision that I’m going to be a SAHM for awhile. I’ve been thinking a lot about prioritizing our marriage (and myself, too) with this change and this gave me a lot to think about and talk about with the hubs. Thanks!
Love these shares. I’ve struggled with expanding my friend base now that I’m a SAHM but it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one reserving evenings for family and hubs.
Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) says
Loved this post. Have you ever listened to Marriage is Funny or The Perfect Wife podcast? I’ve learned so much from those podcasts. I always recommend them to my married friends. I’m with you, (my) David is definitely my best friend.
Katy @ Dirt to Delish says
Perfect timing on this post! We’re just over 3 months from baby #1, and this has been a topic of conversation with my husband lately. Your description of life before kids sounds just like us- we really are best friends (and were before we started dating), and our first few years of marriage have just been incredibly fun. I’m so worried to lose that aspect of our relationship, whether it’s traveling or just spending an afternoon with a bottle of wine and a video game. I found all of your advice incredibly reassuring and hope we’re able to implement some of it throughout the coming year! I especially love the idea that your relationship should be a model for your children- so true!
Brittany Dixon says
Congratulations on your baby on the way!! That’s so exciting! You have so much joy ahead of you (and some sleepy times too, so give yourself from grace if your relationship temporarily takes a backseat while you adjust). Congrats again! 🙂
This is something we absolutely need to work on. Between work, side projects and kids I think our marriage is sometimes set on the back burner. I think we need to both be more on the same page in terms of our priorities and that has really been our biggest issues. Our priorities are often very different. Also, I think I’m going to be on your Dad’s blog for the next hour and I have it bookmarked now. Haha!
Brittany K says
LOVED this post! Nothing else, just wanted you to know. 🙂
Just had to share that my husband and I have to decided long ago in our marriage that our kids and our family come first. We didn’t spend weekends hanging out with friends all the time, we really focused on our family of five and would spend time together. We did see friends but it wasn’t all that often and we were Ok with that. Life moves so fast and I love the fact that I consider my husband my best friend and we can go out just the two of us and have the best time. I have friends who can only go out as couples because they have a better time with a group than the two of them. And you know I guess it has worked for us because we are going on 20 years this summer and I couldn’t be any happier !! Love love this post 🙂
Hello 🙂 I’m a long time reader but generally don’t leave comments. I just wanted to say that your blog is my favourite to read right now! It’s always the first one I open up on my blog reader. I love the thought and time you put in to producing quality posts. I really hope you keep blogging for many years to come!
Brittany Dixon says
Erin, Thank you so much for reading for so long and taking the time to comment. It means so much to me to hear your kind words! I hope you have a wonderful day! 🙂
I absolutely agree with this!!
thank you for such an honest post, nd I will be sharing with my I know as a resource.
I love this point and truly love your point about not getting defensive. This is something I really need to work on with myself as I am often insecure that I’m never doing enough in the eyes of my husband, when I know that it is the complete opposite!
Love this post. My husband and I don’t have grandparents that live close by to help but we do a bunch of day dates where we keep my son in day care and take off work and go out to lunch or the movies and next up is snow tubing. It’s def fun and helps us connect especially since my husband goes to the gym at night when my son goes to bed.
I would love to see a post on your 3, 7, 10 year goals and vision for future. Would be an interesting post if you would like to share. I don’t do this with my husband but would prob be a good idea. Thx for this post. 🙂
Love, love, love this post! I’m a dedicated reader but not commenter (sorry!). Having just started a new relationship a few months ago and am almost certain it’s headed down the aisle, I so appreciate the tips and tricks you shared. I also just hopped over to amazon and bought your book recommendation! Thank you for opening up with us as always 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
Congratulations Lesli on the love you found and where it may lead- such an exciting time!!
I loved this post! Such great advice! 🙂 Loved the link to your dad’s blog, too. What does he do?
Nevermind, I see on his blog he has an “about me”. That’s really neat! Obviously he’s set a great example for you and probably has some great advice, too!
Brittany Dixon says
I’ve only appreciated his insight more each year I get older! 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
He is a psychologist with a private practice focusing on family, marriage, and kids (relationships). He’s incredible!
Emily S says
This is a great post, Brittany! Thank you for sharing. My husband and I have been married for almost 2 years now and I would have to agree that these years have actually been nothing short of amazing! We always prioritize our time together and completely agree that we should continue to do so once we start a family. 🙂
John J. says
Great post about such an important facet of our lives, and the lives of our kids. You and David do it well. Thanks for the plug on my blog: drstathas.com. Web site of all my articles, many on marriage and family, is drstathas.googlepages.com
I love this so much!! This is one of my goals for 2017 is to make my marriage more of a priority. Drew and I have both said that. We are planning a date night the last saturday of the month and I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks for this!
Really great post. I think so many people (myself and my husband included) fall into the trap of not making the marriage a priority. This post is a good reminder to do so.
Also, I hope you know how fortunate you are to have kids that go to bed by 7 pm! My kids are similar ages and don’t go to sleep every night until 8 or 8:30. We’ve tried again and again to make it earlier, but it just doesnt happen. It makes it hard to get things done at night and also have some down time. On the other hand, their later bedtime actually is beneficial since my husband and I both work and don’t get home until 5:30 or 6, so if they went to bed at 7, we’d barely see them at night!
Katie @ Live Half Full says
My husband and I are REALLY good about working together to make sure our household runs smoothly. We are good at making time to eat dinner together, hang out on the weekends and date nights at home weekly. The 7:00pm bedtime does help!
We struggle on getting out for dates- we’re averaging probably every two months. How do you guys make it work?
Brittany Dixon says
When we decided a year or two ago to make date nights a priority we set about finding more sitter options, then just booking them! We rarely go out to eat as a family so it’s a special treat in more than one way for us to get a date night out. We sometimes even opt for weekday nights because it’s easier to get sitters and still leaves the weekend totally open for family time!
Wonderful post! Great things to think about. We are coming up on 15 years married and need to re prioritize us. My kids are a little older and busy in actitivies. I miss early bedtimes (although one child is a night owl). We have sports practices that don’t even start til 7pm! But we could totally swing a daytime date while kids were at school. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Marjorie @APinchOfHealthy says
Love this! Marriage is a lot of work. And it does take a lot of intentional effort, humility, patience and prayer. Mark and I have ten years and two kids under our belts. And times can get intense with caring for little kids. I love what you said about the mind reader part. I can SO relate to that. Great insights, and y’all are so cute together. 💖
As a follow up to some of the things you talked about in this post, I’d love to add to your list about what else we would love to read on the blog:
1) The decision to have “only” two children. Was this a tough choice? Did you always envision a family of four? What factors were most important in deciding that two was right for your family? Do you feel complete, or will part of you always wonder “what if”? [signed a mom of two girls, 18 months apart and contemplating #3]
2) Would love to read more about some of your long term family goals (to the extent you feel comfortable sharing).
Brittany Dixon says
Thanks for the post input Fiona! I could go on and on about trying to figure out the right number of children (because I’ve been all over the map for what is the best fit for our family. As for our long term family goals, I really hate being vague but being that this space is public I can’t share too much about them at this point. I really look forward to the day I can!!
Great post! I agree with your assessment of the first year of marriage. I got married relatively late in life (34) so kids were a priority, but I know several couples who had their baby before their first wedding anniversary. It took us over 6 months to get pregnant and we really enjoyed every minute of that time together just the two of us, we did a lot of traveling and just had fun. Kuddos on the date night policy! Getting out of the house is one of our struggles and a focus for later this year. My son never really got into taking bottles, so we’d only manage a date night after bedtime once he was breastfeeding less. With baby #2 coming soon, it’s been hard for me to be interested in going out. But this time around I hope to start pumping earlier and get a better balance.
This was an excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it and thinking about how it applied to our marriage. I’ve been married to my best friend for 25 years! We have been through many phases and our priorities have shifted along with each new phase. We were great about date nights when the kids were little but once they became teens our date nights became almost rare. It was important for us to be home and available whether they were home or not. We do still have “date nights” at home (netflix & dinner together). My older 2 are in college and we’ll be empty nesters when our twins head to college next fall. It’s exciting and scary to be entering the next phase of our life!
Thanks for giving me the reminder to reevaluate our priorities again!
Hena Tayeb says
this was a great post. we just celebrated 9 year and have two kids and making time for us is so important. I agree with everything you listed.
Thanks for sharing.. and stay happy
I am still thinking about this topic weeks later, which to me is the sign of a GREAT post! A few of my thoughts… our hobbies and friendships look a little different with two kids, but not necessarily de-prioritized. We made a decision to not stop traveling (our biggest “hobbie”) after kids, so they have come with us everywhere including road trips and long flights, and I feel because of this they are great little travelers (this probably happens naturally, as they see it is something we are genuinely excited about). Of course there have been adjustments, but traveling still happens. Same with our other hobbies; hiking, cooking, etc. It isn’t any easier with kids, but it does get easier with more exposure. I used to brew beer and I feel like even with a baby and 3 year old I can make it happen again (with the baby napping and the 3 year old “helping”). As far as friendships we do socialize with friends (both with kids and without) but usually again our kids have come along. If the friends have kids then it is easy because the kids play together, and if they don’t it is just more similar to us going out with our kids alone, just more adults around to help/ distract 🙂 if needed.
When I think about the idea of “marriage comes first” I can’t say I really feel this way personally. I definitely would say “family comes first” and would not say “children come before spouse” and maybe I over think it, but to me it is not as straightforward as saying “marriage comes first”. Dads, moms, and children have different needs, and because of this we adjust as a family to make sure we are all cared for, and supporting each other. I guess for me going out on date nights doesn’t mean I am putting my marriage before my kids, just like I also wouldn’t say staying home on a Friday night watching a kids movie is putting my children before my marriage. To me, it is all part of the delicate balancing act of a happy family.
Again, thank you for this post and really helping me with some serious self evaluation, always a good thing!