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Families tend to hit the ground running the moment a new school year begins. Between academics, homework, jobs, sports and various other time erasers, many families go into survival mode. Routines are established. Tasks are delegated. Lunches are made, backpacks are packed, kids are cheered for at sporting events and the world keeps on spinning. It's all about survival.
With all of the going and doing and surviving, a marriage can really take a hit. How can couples find the time to be couples when kids have needs that demand so much time and attention? How can a marriage truly thrive when the primary focus of each and every day revolves around the little ones that fill your home with so much joy? It's difficult, that's for sure.
Each stage of parenting has its benefits and challenges. The baby snuggles that keep you warm and connected to your newborn feel a little less inviting when that same baby cries for three hours straight, for no discernible reason. The infectious laughter of a toddler playing peek-a-boo seems a little less silly when a temper tantrum in the produce aisle sends you running for cover. There are great days, bad days and murky in-between-days and through all of it there still exists the marriage that started the whole thing. Taking the time to nurture that marriage is a choice, and an important one to make.
It's easy to get caught up in the juggling act that so often defines young families, but that kind of stress can be very difficult to manage long term. At some point, cracks will form in the foundation, and that isn't healthy for anyone.
The elusive weekly date night meant to strengthen a marriage can be an added source of stress for some couples. Work schedules, finances and lack of affordable childcare can all work against couples in their quest to escape for an evening. Turn down the pressure on date night by simply making time, instead.
Connection, time spent together talking, listening and empathizing, strengthens a marriage. You don't need a fancy restaurant and an overpriced bottle of wine to reconnect with your spouse, you just need time. Some of my favorite nights with my husband involve a quiet night under the stars on the back deck with a bottle of wine and the sound of the waves in the distance. No phones. No Netflix. Just conversation and connection. Simplicity has its perks.
Find time each week to connect with your spouse without the kids at your heels. Prioritize time spent together before you pencil in the weekly schedule. When you start there, you can plan the rest around it. If you plan everything else and then attempt to look for time, you might find yourself stressed and overwhelmed. Always start with your moment together.
Pointing fingers comes easily when families are under stress. Blame feels good in the moment because it gives you a reason for the problem. It feels powerful and relieves you of personal responsibility. Until the guilt sets in, because things gone wrong are not always the sole responsibility of one person. When it comes to working on relationships, the blame games rarely helps couples thrive. In fact, if couples want to thrive, they have to learn to look inward.
Love is a partnership. It isn't always easy, challenges will arise and couples need to be willing to recognize and work through their own shortcomings along the way. I often remind parents that even when something seems to be 99 percent the fault of the other person, there's still that one percent to consider. Take the time to consider your one percent instead of pointing fingers and placing blame when the going gets tough. Discover where you can make changes in how you relate to your spouse. Your marriage will be better for it.
Raising kids is a wonderful adventure, but it can be stressful. Obstacles are normal and parents quickly become master problem-solvers when it comes to kid problems. But stress can snowball when left unchecked, and stress can also be contagious. People don't always make the right decisions or say the right things when under stress. Emotions run high when families experience stress, and feelings left unsaid can grow and spread when couples feel disconnected.
Practice forgiveness. Parents often discuss forgiveness with children, but the truth is that forgiveness has to come from the top. Learn to let go of negative energy and focus on the positive. Practice forgiving your spouse for the little things that sometimes feel big. In doing so, you will strengthen your bond while showing your kids that mistakes can be forgiven.
Pay it forward
Compliments always feel good. A positive statement about another fills the air with happiness and positive energy. Compliments make people shine for a moment or two. Be generous with your words and actions.
Compliment your spouse each day. Find the good things and point them out. Highlight the happy moments. Thank your spouse for helping out and being there for you. A marriage full of positive energy is a marriage that thrives, even when obstacles appear out of nowhere.