Protecting Your Relationship
“Make time for all of your important relationships. When I read the previous guest blogs, I noticed very few mention their partner and if they did, it was in passing. Let me be clear. The craziness will end. Things will slow down. The quiet will return. You will get your life back. There will be fewer distractions. There will only be the two of you rattling around in your previously bustling abode. You better like each other. You need to guard that relationship. Cherish it. Put it right up at the top of your priority list.”
~ Val Chessell
The quote above is from the blog post my mom did for the YFFL weekly guest blog series. Her post was all about the importance of maintaining a solid relationship with your spouse so that after the chaos of kids and kids activities slows….. you remember how much you still like each other.
Newlyweds, or even couples new to the world of parenthood may be reading this thinking – how could that possibly happen? How could you find yourself disconnected from the person you chose to spend your life with?
It’s simple really – it happens when you don’t see each other and don’t make any effort to connect in the few minutes you do get together.
A typical week in our home has my husband (Todd) leaving for work early and me taking the morning duties of getting the kids off to school and me to work for 9:00am. Todd arrives home around the same time the kids get home from school and does the after school/supper thing and then takes the kids to their extracurricular activity (right now it’s hockey practice). I generally stay at the office until after practice so I can do the pick-up. This means I arrive home anywhere from 7pm to 8:30pm depending on how late the practice runs (photo's included are me on the bus going to a hockey game and Todd on the ice for a practice). No, this is not every night – but it is most nights. And weekends are just as hectic with my husband typically needing to be at work for a few hours one morning and then we generally have four hockey games between our two kids to shuttle to and enjoy watching. This is our life 7 months of the year (the other 5 include a slightly less ridiculous extracurricular schedule for the kids so we do enjoy more evenings with free time which is nice and very much needed!)
For us, denying our kids extracurricular activities is not a solution for creating more time for us to be together as a couple (and sometimes even limiting the kids to one activity per season like we do, doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to have a less hectic schedule – dance moms, I know you get what this hockey mom is saying!)
I would say Todd and I disagree on some things, agree on most things and work really well together to manage our home, finances and children’s extracurricular schedule. But that does not make us a couple. That makes us roommates. Responsible roommates.
We try. We have good intentions. We still like each other. But it's our reality these days that we often spend more time with our co-workers, our kids, and the parents on the kid’s hockey teams than we’ve spent with each other.
I absolutely do NOT have all of the answers to this problem (seriously, not even close!) But as the kid chaos started to overtake our lives I began to understand the point mom was so clearly making in her guest post and I began to think about the formula I could create to help me stay connected with my husband right now amidst the chaos. What I came up with was pretty simple. Like, REALLY SIMPLE and it’s just plain stupid or lazy if we can’t be committed enough to put this effort into one of the most important relationships in our life! Here’s what super simple relationship maintenance looks like in our home:
I can admit I’m a pretty serious gal and what you see is really what you get. But I bet people that don’t know Todd very well think he’s a pretty quiet, low-key kind of guy. That’s not the case at home. When it’s just the four of us, he’s by FAR the biggest goofball of all of us. He’s constantly joking around, playing, attempting to wrestle someone….. and sometimes at the end of a long day a giggle at someone you love acting like a dork is exactly what the doctor ordered. I was recently asked to describe qualities in my husband that I admire the most and his playfulness was the first thing that came to mind. Play doesn’t come as naturally to me as work does, unless I’m with Todd.
Being able to laugh with your significant other just opens the door for connection because laughing simply reduces stress. I think learning to laugh through the life you created together is key to having true open hearted connection amidst all of the hairiness.
Another simple piece of advice we’ve been given lately that is allowing us to stay connected, literally takes a few seconds per day. It’s the simple act of sharing a hug the first time we see each other at the end of the day. It’s ridiculously simple. So simple in fact that you think it might not make a difference. But I promise you – it does! A hug just feels SO nice. I’ve found since we’ve started following this daily hug ritual, I’m giving way more hugs to our kids as well. I mean, if a hug feels good to us, a hug has to feel good to them too right? My kids are both still a bit apprehensive about my newfound need to reach out and hug them, but they are becoming more accepting of my hugs “just because” versus a hug for a specific purpose like before bed or if they are upset.
The third and final simple tip I have has sort of fallen into our laps in the past few months. It’s paying attention to the moments we do have to fit in real conversations. This summer we had many trips back and forth to a city about an hour away for Todd’s cancer appointments. It was the most time we’d spent alone together for many years. We were able to have conversations with each other that were more than just the general tactics of managing a busy family life. Really listening to how things are going at work (that place where we spend so much of our time), getting caught up on what is going on with friends and family, and having those deeper conversations (this summer those deeper conversations were sort of forced upon us due to our circumstances, but it was good to have them nonetheless).
Recently we both had a day off work to take our daughter to a hockey tournament (of course!) and we had a really great time hanging out in between games, just the two of us – doing a bit of Christmas shopping. We laughed, we talked, we hung out – just like good friends do – and it felt really good to connect like that with no tactical talk about managing our home or our schedule. Acknowledging those moments of real conversation and being aware of how much I enjoy them is important to continuing to feel connected to my spouse.
14 years into this marriage, and I now understand there always needs to be an effort to connect with your significant other, even when you are feeling pulled in 100 different directions. But I don’t think this effort has to be complicated or as structured as a weekly date night – it can be as simple as a daily hug, paying attention to all of the times your spouse shows you those qualities you admire most in him, and grabbing any opportunity to have real conversations with him and enjoying those conversations!
And like Mom says…… this level of crazy is going to end and eventually it will be just the two of us – I know when we get to that less distracted stage of life, I want to be excited for the extra time I get to spend with him one-on-one and that means I have to guard the specialness of our relationship right now.
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