Parenting is a full-time job. Anyone with kids (especially more than one) will agree that around the clock, children need supervision and care. Even as your kids grow into teens and young adults, they still turn to their parents for guidance, permission, and as you may know all too well, money.
But being a parent doesn’t just negate your role as a spouse – in fact, to truly keep your marriage in the best possible shape, sometimes you need to pause your role as mom and dad to focus on being husband and wife.
This doesn’t mean just ignoring them, of course, but you should make spending some time together without the kids an important priority for your relationship – and this doesn’t just mean that little while each night when they’ve gone to bed and the two of you watch some TV together…
Instead, plan ahead. Work out a time with a trusted babysitter, friend, or family member to give you and your spouse the occasional “day off” from parenting to focus on being a couple, not just the people who drop the kids off at soccer practice or fix dinner for the family.
You see, it’s all too easy to settle into the routine of parenting and forget about the romantic side of your marriage. As we said, it is truly a full-time job, and that means that it can start to dominate your thinking, even when you aren’t actively doing something for your children.
At work, you might be thinking about that project your daughter needs help with instead of how attractive your husband looked leaving the house that morning. When the kids are away on your day off, you might be thinking more about getting some cleaning done than an afternoon romp in the bedroom with your wife…
The point is, even when they aren’t around, the kids (and all the things you do for them) are on your mind. Unless you make a conscious effort to spend some time focused on your relationship as a couple (not just co-parents), it can be hard to even get yourself in that mindset, even when you spend time away from them.
So, to give your marriage the attention it deserves, spend some time (physically and mentally) away from the kids to focus ONLY on the marriage. This could be retreating into the bedroom for some overdue intimate time, a relaxing dinner date where you make a point not to discuss the kids, a weekend getaway, or anything else where you can disconnect from childrearing for just a little while.
The importance of this kind of time spent together (away from distractions and kids) cannot be overstated. This is where your marriage truly flourishes, where you ensure that you stay connected even as years go by and you both grow and change. It’s when you can truly stay up to date with each other’s lives – each other’s concerns, successes, and opinions. It’s how you make sure you know each other.
Again, to do this effectively you need to plan ahead – otherwise you might not actually focus on each other or the marriage itself. Test the waters with some specific plans, where you can set up (far in advance) somewhere for your little ones to be and “check out” of being parents for a little while.
Once you’ve done so, and see the fun you have can have together just being yourselves, you’ll be able to bring that kind of focus into more of the moments you spend together – even if they are brief or unexpected.
It’s important to be attentive, loving parents – we aren’t trying to take away from that part of your life, just reminding you that no matter how “around the clock” it feels, it’s still only PART of who you are… And another major role you hold is that of spouse. If you want the marriage to stay strong, you can’t trade one for the other.
Dedicate some of your time to each other on a regular basis, away from the kids, away from cell phones and TV, and away from work and household responsibilities. Spend quality time as a couple with the intention of enjoying each other’s company and building the marriage you share.
You’ll be amazed with the results!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com