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How to Keep Your Relationship Strong, Even After Kids?

The new Mighty Mommy has 9 ways to keep you and your spouse connected (and sizzling), even when kids have turned your lives upside down.

By
Cheryl Butler,
June 3, 2012
Episode #183

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong, Even After Kids?

Whether you have only one child or 8, like I do, after a long day of struggling with dirty diapers, broken appliances, cranky kids, barking dogs, piled up laundry, and just barely surviving the humiliation of meeting your old boyfriend in the bank while wearing your pajamas because you couldn’t find anything else to wear, the last thing on your mind is finding the energy or desire to get intimate with your spouse—that day or for the rest of the month.

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Parenting is exhausting for sure, but we can’t forget that one of the biggest reasons those little angels came into our lives in the first place is because of the love and passion we shared with our mate to help create them. Remember the days when you and your spouse were spontaneous when it came to intimacy, loved to touch one another just because, and couldn’t wait to hear the other’s voice on the other end of the phone? Now that we’re parents, we often find ourselves praying that our partner forgets about getting physical unless it means pulling down the covers of the bed to tuck us in for a 12-hour nap!

While many couples can definitely relate to being so drained at the end of the day that all they want is to be left alone, it doesn’t have to be that way. You may be a parent now, but you were part of a couple before the kids came along, and one of the best things you can provide for your child is a loving, committed relationship with your partner, even if it means you have to work at it.

My husband and I will soon celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Here are a few simple (and sometimes sizzling) suggestions that have helped keep us connected while being in the trenches with eight kids. And don’t worry, these are applicable to both men and women!

Remember the days when you and your spouse were spontaneous?

Tip #1: Woo With the Written Word

Next time you’re in the store, pick up a romantic card or two that you can mail to your honey’s workplace. You can also stick a love note in his briefcase, her lingerie drawer, or on the dashboard of the car. Just because.

Tip #2: Get Physical

Instead of sitting alone in your favorite chair, snuggle up next to your partner while you’re both on the sofa watching TV. Every chance you get, steal a kiss, give a hug, squeeze their leg while you're driving, greet one another with a passionate kiss when returning from work instead of a rote peck on the cheek, make eye contact with one another while you’re sitting amongst your kids or in-laws. Sometimes the little touches mean the most and work to keep you connected.

Tip #3: Get Cooking

Cook your partner’s favorite meal for no reason at all. Drop by the office with a plate of those homemade double chocolate chip cookies that you know he or she loves. Stop by the store and pick up a slice of her favorite cheesecake or a bottle of his favorite wine. Put the kids to bed, cook a meal together, and have a cozy dinner for two in your bedroom!

Tip #4: Pay Attention

When your spouse comes home from work, be interested, really interested in how their day was. We take one another for granted without even realizing it, so get in the habit of learning more about what makes you both tick during the day. And Dad, when you get home, listen to what your stay-at-home spouse or your working-full-or-part-time spouse did all day. Sometimes we just need a friendly ear to share how desperate we felt when our toddler threw a tantrum at the grocery store.

Tip #5: Impromptu Quickies

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not suggesting you take advantage of the clean kitchen island. (Get your mind out of the gutter!). What I mean is, the next time you two are alone in the car, do what you used to do when you were dating—make out! (Front or back seat, your choice.)   Surprise your spouse with a last-minute luncheon date during the work week. Instead of eating at a restaurant, bring along some sandwiches and go eat at the park and just spend time together. If you have young kids that still nap, take advantage of their down time for some grown-up romantic time for the two of you. 

Tip #6: Fake-Out Friday Nights

When our kids were very young, we had a regular “date-night” routine which we called “Fake-Out Friday Nights.” Basically we lied to our kids. Well, we told a little white lie and made them believe it was really an hour later than they thought. Their bedtime was regularly 7 PM but we put them down at 6 PM to give ourselves a little extra (and much needed) alone time at the end of the week.

Tip #7: Keep in Touch

Send a text to your significant other just to say “I love you” or “Can’t wait to see you tonight” or “Your new hairstyle is so sexy.” How often do we base our communications on to do lists, grocery needs, and complaints? Too often.

Tip #8: Surprise!

Not everyone loves surprises, but when it comes out of the blue from your sweetheart, it can make everything all right with the world. Send a written invitation to your spouse suggesting a private rendezvous for the two of you. Make dinner reservations at their favorite restaurant, line up a babysitter, and call them up for a date. This includes ringing the doorbell and standing outside the front door with a pretty little bouquet of daisies instead of just plowing into the house and telling them you’ll be waiting in the car.

Tip #9: Get Talking

When you were dating, the conversations between the two of you were about your goals, dreams, fears, quirks, and hopes for the future. Once married with kids, those stimulating conversations are replaced with to-do lists, the best way to combat the latest outbreak of head lice in the 5th grade, and the outrageous prices of gas these days.

Try to have several intimate conversations throughout the week that revolve around just the two of you.

Use your time together to rediscover your partner. By connecting with personal conversation you can build intimacy back into your marriage. Ask each other personal questions such as: How have your goals changed over the past five years? What does the future look like now? What do we need to do to get to that point? What are your cares and interests today? What can you do to support or encourage these interests?

I hope a few of these suggestions gave you some ideas of your own so that you can start turning up the heat in your relationship once again. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, effort, or money. What it does require is making a consistent effort to stay connected—that’s the real secret to keeping the flame burning red hot instead of slowly flickering out.

If you have a question regarding anything you’ve just read, or have a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy episode, e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Mighty Mommy Facebook wall. You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy.

Good luck and happy parenting!

Couple image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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