“I Miss My Partner”
5 Ways to Date Your Spouse When You Have Small Children (Get Creative!)
Being a parent is not for the faint of heart.
Anyone with small children is all-too-familiar with the hectic nature of raising babies and toddlers. During awake hours, you are teaching, nurturing, preparing meals, eating together, cleaning up food that ended up on the floor (or, if you’re lucky, having your dog do that for you), using baby wipes to “sanitize” the countertops, changing a diaper, giving a bath, reading a story, singing a song, breaking up sibling rivalry, trying not to pull your hair out in the face of another temper tantrum, doing the laundry, cleaning the dishes, and so many other nameless and thankless jobs that come with parenthood.
It takes emotional and physical strength in addition to a sense of resiliency, perseverance, and a general willingness to engage in introspection and grow with your children.
Although the rewards are undeniably amazing, all of these necessities can be exhausting and take up a great deal of our time and energy. In focusing on all the necessary daily tasks, it’s so easy to forget that your marriage needs to be nurtured as well.
The average “happy” couple spends roughly 30 minutes a day paying undivided attention towards one another.
Although this doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting (or even face to face), we feel most connected to one another when we have the opportunity to learn about what is going on in our partners’ world and have the opportunity to feel supported when facing external stressors.
Additionally, the average “happy” couple goes on a “date” at least once per week.
Now… If you’re like me, the idea of going on a weekly “date” with your spouse or partner when you have small children is laughable and completely out of the realm of possibility. I mean, did you see the laundry list of tasks above??? How on Earth is this possible without warping time or adding an extra hour or so into the day? Who’s paying for the babysitter, if you even have one???
Here’s the good news: What’s defined as a “date” or undivided attention is really flexible, and it doesn’t take much to make it happen. Here are some ideas on how you can date your spouse to provide your relationship with some nurturance and begin to feel closer to your partner again:
Create consistent opportunities to connect on a daily basis.
This can be anything that provides you with an opportunity to communicate with your spouse. Remember the goal is to hit 30 minutes per day on average. Think about texting randomly to see how your partner is doing, e-mailing an update over your lunch break, having a cup of tea while your children are playing in the next room, call your partner while you’re in the car, wait until the kid(s) are in bed and have a conversation, wake up early and give each other a pep-talk for the day – the possibilities are endless. Your goal is not only to ensure that your partner knows what’s going on with you, but also to ensure that you each feel understood and supported.
Savor your daily rituals.
Perhaps it’s a big hug and a kiss goodbye, maybe it’s cooking dinner together, or watching a certain show together on the couch– those couples that report being the most satisfied are the ones who have little daily rituals or routines that they do together. Pay attention to these and be purposeful in their use. Make sure your partner knows how much that hug in the morning means to you, or how relaxing and comforting it is for you to snuggle in bed before you go to sleep.
Be flexible on what defines a “date.”
You may not have the opportunity to leave the home for any number of reasons, from financial to logistical. The awesome news is that you really don’t need to leave the house for time together to count as a date. I typically tell couples that I define a “date” as anything that you set apart from a daily ritual or routine. For example, you may sit on the couch together and watch TV at the end of the night – perhaps an in-home date might look like getting some popcorn and renting a movie on-demand. You might typically eat dinner as a family – perhaps you plan to make and eat dessert together after the kids go to bed. If you both work outside of the home, consider establishing a once monthly routine of scheduling lunch together.
Reach out to your parenting network.
A frequent difficulty in spending time together is lack of money – a babysitter and dinner & a movie cost money that many couples just don’t have. Consider starting to build a network of like-minded parents who would be willing to child-swap with you, taking turns watching each other’s’ children while the other goes on a date. They weren’t kidding when they said it takes a village to raise children. By creating a network such as this, you not only generate support for yourself, but you start to increase your child’s ability to socialize outside of your own family.
Remember that your partner is overwhelmed and stressed, like you.
Be patient with one another. When we are emotionally overwhelmed and overloaded, we are more likely to take it out on those we love the most. If your partner is short with you, make the attempt to give them the benefit of the doubt. Before becoming defensive or critical, consider approaching them from the perspective that they are hurting and/or need support.
You are not alone. Many couples are faced with these challenges as early parents, and they can be stressful and overwhelming. Although it can be hard to find the joy amongst the stress, remember that these times are transient. The more you nurture and support your relationship, the happier you will be together for many years to come!
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