by Kerry Hart, LLMFT
Priorities change as we grow older, and the pieces of our lives start falling into place. Once you find that perfect person to spend your life with, your career falls into place and children enter the picture, milestones become less of a goal and finding that happy balance proves paramount. With kids and work providing the most demanding of schedules, other priorities tend to fall by the wayside, sometimes including your relationship. Failing to pay attention to your relationship can mean big trouble, so try to avoid this particular pitfall. One way to do this is to make your relationship a priority and regularly plan out quality time for you to spend together.
Like most couples, your partnership is most likely emotionally fused. You connect with each other over particular hobbies and interests, thus marking the basis for your relationship. There are reasons you have connected with your current partner, and it is important to nurture those connections to keep your relationship strong. Whether you realize it or not, your emotional balance can be dependent on your partner and how they fulfill you or even how they react to you. You want to be sure to accept these terms of your relationship so you may better nurture it. Plan nights out with each other (yes, find a babysitter!) to ensure quality, one-on-one time. Whatever you decide to do will be time away from the hectic schedules you lead, allowing the two of you to focus on only one another. My recommendation is to find at least one night weekly for you to connect with your partner. Before kids, there was the two of you, and you need to be sure to honor that connection by keeping it fresh and alive.
Additionally, maintaining a sense of self is controlled by how strong your partnership is and how balanced your life is outside of your partnership. Imagine you are finally out with your partner; you two are sitting at a candlelight dinner and find the silence has become palpable. You realize you have absolutely nothing to say because you have no interests outside of your household. Gaining hobbies and participating in extracurricular activities will provide your partnership with more excitement, as you are sure to have more to share than just what the kids did that day or what their schedules will look like tomorrow. As you grow, you want your relationship to grow too. A growing relationship takes more than only spending time with each other; try picking up hobbies with friends, joining a local sport or athletic club, or expressing yourself creatively with an art class. Whatever you end up choosing, know that through fulfilling your needs, you are strengthening your relationship as you find ways to cater to yourself, as opposed to expecting your partner to do it for you.
“Through both example and practice, nurturing your couple relationship can only help nurture your children. ”
In a similar vein, being the best parent you can is often be dependent on your current partnership. Single parents have the opportunity to throw all of their energy into their children, which can be beneficial and sets a good example of how kids should be paramount in a parent’s life. Parents also set an example for children to model their future relationships after when in a partnership. If your child sees you making time for your partner and making their needs a priority, your children will seek partners who treat them that way as well, promoting a healthy cycle of future relationships. Understand that your current relationship is a living, breathing example for your children to model their future relationships after. If you are in an unhealthy relationship, your moods will suffer, which will make your patience wear thin with your children and in other aspects of your life. Through both example and practice, nurturing your couple relationship can only help nurture your children.
Ever hear the expression “happy wife, happy life”? How happy is that wife when her emotional needs are not being met? Make your emotional needs a priority in addition to your relationship. Be honest with your partner about your needs, even if that means saying the words, “I need some attention.” Sometimes it is as simple as that! Do not expect your partner to be a mind-reader, but do participate in the sharing of ideas so you can plan date nights out together. As you find new activities to participate in, or even find new restaurants to try, you will be strengthening your relationship. Trying new things together tends to bond a couple, as well as provides the opportunity to learn new things about that person you sleep next to nightly. Give yourselves the opportunity to grow as you nurture your relationship, and enjoy your journey of becoming closer and more fulfilled as a couple.
Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a family therapist located within Grand Rapids Natural Health. She specializes in the treatment of teens, children, couples, and families.