I recently posted an article to our Facebook account about the impact of focusing on children on a romantic relationship (you can find the original article here). This article really seemed to strike a chord with people, often with the painful acknowledgement that their relationship had been sorely neglected since the arrival of children. Relationship satisfaction tends to dip (or sometimes plummet!) when a child arrives on the scene.
How can you protect your relationship, while balancing the needs of a family?
- View your romantic relationship as the foundation for your family. Trying to raise emotionally healthy children while the parents’ relationship is suffering is kind of like trying to build your dream home on a foundation of quicksand. Children thrive when they feel secure within their family units and part of that security comes from a healthy parental relationship.
- Make spending time with your partner a priority, even if it means cutting back on activities for your kids. There is an epidemic of over-scheduling our kids, while severely neglecting our own self-care. Kids need the freedom to play, explore and just have down time. While parents often feel guilt about scaling back activities, you are not doing your kids a disservice if they are not in activities every night! They have a lifetime to learn and develop interests. While they are off playing, make couple time a priority. Ask your partner about their day, what is worrying them, what is making them happy. These moments of connection are hugely beneficial for your relationship.
- You and your partner are on the same team, even if you have differences in opinion. Different philosophies towards parenting can create friction and disagreements in a relationship. When you and your partner are feeling frustrated with each other, remind yourselves that you are both working together towards the same goal. You both want well-adjusted, successful and happy kids, but may just different ideas on how to get there. Reminding yourselves of this common goal can help you both feel less defensive, more co-operative and more open to hearing out the other’s perspective.
- Don’t neglect physical intimacy. While your sex life will undoubtedly be affected by parenthood, try to maintain affection within your relationship. Hold hands, give hugs, make a point of kissing each other hello and good-bye. This will also model to your kids the role of physical affection within a healthy relationship.
- Don’t forget what first brought the two of you together. While you’re slogging through the parenting trenches, it can be easy to forget your partner was once a very attractive, appealing human being! Out of all the possible choices, you picked this person to be your partner. Remind yourself what it was about this person that got you excited! That person is still there, you may just need to look a bit harder to see them again.
- Envision what life will be like with your partner once your kids are grown and gone. Will you have anything in common? What activities would you like to do together? What do you want your lives to look like during the empty nest phase? Having goals and visions of the future can help us keep our relationships on track. If we don’t put the effort into our relationships NOW, the likelihood of those visions coming true is relatively low.
As with all worthwhile endeavours, the secret to maintaining a strong romantic relationship while parenting is that the relationship needs to be made a priority. It is so easy to lose sight of our partner for the person that they are when we are mostly seeing them as our co-parent. However, by making our romantic relationship a priority, we are providing our kids with a healthy model of relationships, investing in the future of our relationship, and doing something that makes us feel good! Your relationship is worth it.