When you become a mother, the demands on your time and energy increase dramatically. You’re exhausted, sleep-deprived, and working around the clock to take care of your child’s needs. Motherhood can be intense! It’s common to feel like you don’t have much left to give to your spouse and marriage. Having children will certainly change your marriage but it doesn’t have to be for the worse. Raising children, and navigating all the challenges and joys that come with that, can be an opportunity for you to grow and strengthen your marriage
I’ve heard it said that a marriage does not remain static. You’re either growing closer to your spouse or farther apart. You’re either investing in the relationship through communication, quality time, and intentionality or you’re neglecting the relationship. It’s tempting to believe, especially if your marriage was in a good place before having children, that you can coast and things will be fine. However, over time you will find that not attending to your relationship can leave you feeling disconnected. You and your spouse are uniquely able to support and care for one another in this new life stage and both of you will benefit from a stronger relationship.
So how can you continue to work on this important relationship? Below I’ll share some ideas. Don’t feel like you need to do all of these every day. Start by trying out one or two and see how they work for you.
Take time for yourself.
This might seem odd but the reality is when you aren’t taking care of yourself and finding ways to recharge, you have less to give to others, including your spouse. What fills you up? Is it time with friends, solitude, a bubble bath, or going for a run? Let your spouse know you need a break and leave them with the kids. You can also ask a family member to help or swap childcare with a mom friend so each of you can have some self-care time.
Small things can make a big difference.
Oftentimes it’s the little moments that can shift the dynamic in a relationship. Slowing down to share a hug or a kiss, making eye contact, greetings and partings, setting aside the phone, or snuggling up on the couch instead of sitting on opposite ends. How you respond in moments of frustration can also make a big difference. Showing patience and communicating support rather than a harsh word or tone can create an opportunity to draw closer to your spouse.
Express gratitude toward your spouse.
If you’re like most people, it’s pretty easy to find what your spouse did wrong and to let them know about it. It takes effort and intentionality to notice the good things and let them know you appreciate them. Your words have a powerful impact on your spouse. You can use your words to build up your spouse or to tear them down. You will grow closer if you build up your spouse. Say thank you, highlight their strengths, brag about them in front of others, or write them a note.
Believe the best.
This means to assume the best intent and to be generous with your interpretation of your spouse’s actions and words. When you’re tired and stressed you’re more likely to assume the worst but try slowing down and assuming that your spouse did not mean to offend or hurt you. If you’re not sure what your spouse meant, let them know how their words or actions made you feel and give them a chance to clarify.
This is something that can help you and your spouse keep short accounts with each other. Set aside a time to check in with how each of you is doing and to address any issues that have come up during the week. You might need to schedule this time and commit to setting aside distractions, such as phone or TV.
Plan regular date nights where it’s just the two of you and you don’t talk about things related to home, work, or kids. It’s important to continue to date each other and have fun together. Childcare will be challenging but this is an opportunity to get creative. You can do a date night swap with another couple where you take turns dropping your kids off at each others homes so each couple can have one or two date nights a month. You could also do a date night in: put the kids to bed and cook a special meal together or have one of you pick up take-out. Play a game, read a book out loud, give massages, dance, etc.
Connect with other couples.
Invite another couple over for dinner or do a double date. It’s helpful to talk with other couples to realize you are not the only ones struggling to navigate marriage in parenthood. You can also learn about how other couples work through similar issues and find support for both of you.
Sometimes you need additional support to help resolve some marital issues and navigate life transitions. A counselor can help you with communication, family issues, and conflict resolution, among other things.
Your marriage doesn’t just have to survive parenthood. It can grow, deepen, and thrive. If you’d like help getting started on these steps or working on your marriage in general, give me a call today!
Written by therapist Ndunge Marquardt
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