It’s Easier to Stay in Love (Or Do Anything) Without Kids
Ah, marriage before children – those carefree years my husband and I went out several times a week to the movies, dinner, adult get-togethers, and interesting classes and tours. We enjoyed hours of uninterrupted time together every day that strengthened our friendship and love for one another. In many ways, it felt easy to stay in love.
Then we had a baby, and spent our newly limited time together discussing the color and “seediness” of her poop and whose turn it was to wake up with her. With no family and few friends in town, date nights were a rare treat we enjoyed every three to four months.
True fact: Children change the dynamics of a marriage. Couples have to adapt if they want to stay connected and stay in love.
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How Annoying TV Can Help Us Stay in Love
One of the nightly rituals my husband and I enjoy after our daughter’s in bed is relaxing together with a TV show. My vote to watch a Marvel movie for the 147th time is usually vetoed in favor of my husband’s more sophisticated tastes – like Teen Wolf or Dancing with the Stars.
One of his shows I especially disliked was Married at First Sight, where strangers are matched by experts and meet for the first time on their wedding day. After mocking him for the first few episodes, I gained some annoyingly useful insight from it.
The glaring theme of the first of the honeymoon episodes was how intentional each person had to be in building their new relationship. We never had to work very hard to build or maintain our bond before we were parents, but now intentionality was looking pretty promising. There were four key actions couples on the show took that really stuck with me.
They shared experiences, both exciting and mundane.
As you’d expect on any reality TV honeymoon, the couples swam in exotic springs, rode horses to gorgeous waterfalls, and crash landed planes onto islands where they fought off pirates and fell in love. (Or was that last one Six Days Seven Nights? I can’t remember.)
But they also enjoyed casual dinners together and talked for hours on their hotel suite balconies. They knew the more experiences they shared and the more time they spent together, the more they’d strengthen their bond. With that knowledge, they were purposeful about accumulating those experiences.
Before we had a child, this time came naturally to us. Now that we’re a family of three, we must be deliberate in taking date nights whenever possible and capitalizing on any time we can find for ourselves, which is usually after our daughter goes to bed.
It doesn’t matter whether we spend that time working on a home project, playing a board game, or speculating about how Tommy Chong made it so far on Dancing with the Stars. The point is that we’re spending time together to help protect our bond.
They practiced pillow talk.
Every night before bed, the couples were encouraged to ask each other some open-ended questions provided by the team of experts. The questions ranged from sharing favorite memories to divulging life-long dreams. The motive was to move beyond discussing the day’s events to better understand their partner’s personality, values, and goals.
It’s tempting at the end of the day to hold conversations that feel more like briefings, but those updates don’t usually bring us closer. It made me feel closer to my husband when I admitted that I would secretly love to write, but wasn’t sure anyone would want to read what I had to say. It makes him feel closer to me when he shares his ideas for future startups, and what kind of man he wants to be one day. Bonus: This knowledge helps us to better support each other.
Pillow talk doesn’t have to happen in bed if partners are on different schedules. You can reap the same benefits by talking after work, during dinner, while driving together, or whenever your schedule allows.
They touched each other purposely and frequently.
Maybe the most interesting part to me was that the experts coached the couples on purposeful touch. They stressed the importance of holding hands, touching when sitting together, and other frequent physical contact to create a feeling of closeness.
I tend to practice physical contact when I feel a physical connection. But these couples practiced physical contact to create a physical connection. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, said, “If you want a quality, act as if you already have it….and as you act and persevere in acting, so you tend to become.”
If you want a physical connection with your spouse, act like you already have one. No, it’s not the most romantic concept. But it’s a great practice to create and maintain any positive quality in your marriage.
They avoided technology distractions.
Surprise, surprise, no one spent their entire first or second date completely ignoring their new partner to surf Instagram. Over time though, couples grow more comfortable and usually reach a point where they might sit together doing separate things.
I don’t care to watch UFC weigh-ins online with my husband. (Sorry, babe!) He’s not dying to browse Pinterest recipes with me. We have separate interests and that’s healthy, but we shouldn’t spend our entire relationship in this state.
If you’re sharing an experience together or practicing pillow talk, put your phone down. Give your spouse your undivided attention. The times I feel most valued by and closest to my husband, are when he’s present in the moment.
You Can Stay in Love After Kids
I stumbled across a meme today that said, “When love doesn’t come effortlessly, it’s not love”. I can tell you with certainty that no relationship will survive that mindset. Love is effort, especially once you throw kids into the mix.
In order to stay in love, you must become very intentional. Share experiences together, practice pillow talk, touch one another purposely and frequently, and avoid technology distractions.
Great marriages don’t happen on accident. As Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today.”
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