Anyone who tells you that kids won’t take a toll on romance in your marriage is a fool or someone desperate for grandkids. You do have to try harder to keep that courtship feeling alive when it seems that a needy little voice interrupts every kiss and cuddle. So on this day after Valentine’s Day, I offer ten tips for a happier and more romantic marriage for all our current and future “married with children” readers.
1. Remember that love is a decision, not a feeling.
It’s impossible to keep warm fuzzy feelings for your spouse constantly, especially when little children are taking up so much of your time and energy. Just remember that your relationship with your spouse comes first. Period. If you want the best for your children, and who doesn’t, the success of your marriage is paramount. A google search will point you to scores of studies showing the negative effects of a broken marriage on children. If you want your kids to be happy, keep your spouse happy. Be happy together.
2. Don’t let Robin rule the roost.
If your devotion to your children has gotten to the point where they walk all over you, (Be honest, do things tend in that direction?) there is bound to be tension in your home. It might be with a spouse who disagrees with your discipline methods, or within yourself because you’re whipped by your own two-year-old. When it comes to discipline, it’s imperative that both parents are on the same page. When there are cracks in the foundation of the castle, your Little Prince or Princess will find them and take full advantage, turning you into court jesters.
3. Always be open with communication.
Whether it’s discussing synchronizing your parenting styles or realizing how long it’s been since you last had an intimate moment alone together, you need to be open and honest. "Communication is key," is a cliché, but they’re also words to live by. If you have something to say to your spouse, out with it. Don’t keep anything bottled up where it will only fester and grow, to the point of explosion.
4. When it’s time to speak your mind, do so in a gentle way.
Don’t keep a laundry list and dump all your grievances at once. No one likes being attacked. This is all the more reason to speak up when something is getting you down. And whenever possible, do so in a self-effacing way. This lessens the blow. For instance: "We should probably both work on keeping the kitchen a little tidier." Even if you know full well that it’s the other person who’s a mess in the kitchen, bathroom, or wherever, doesn’t that come off much nicer than, "You need to clean up your mess! I’m tired of picking up after you, you slob!" That’s not going to end well.
5. Put your spouse first.
Even though we all learned to share in kindergarten, we are still selfish beings. We want what we want when we want it. Technology and society as a whole aren’t great at helping and encouraging us to break this habit, but the happily functioning family can be anything but selfish. Always ask yourself, what would your spouse like? Whether it’s what to eat for dinner, what movie to watch, or what dessert you share at a restaurant, let your spouse choose. Having a happy spouse makes you a happy spouse. Let his happiness bring you happiness.
6. Keep dating each other.
Just because you’re married and have kids doesn’t mean your social life is over. You still need to spend quality time alone together, or even out with friends, but especially alone together. Getting out of the house for a date isn’t always possible with sitters or finances, but you can have dates in, too. Rather than spend your evenings in separate rooms, on separate computers, or separate phones, unplug–everything except your tv. Snuggle on the couch with popcorn, a glass of wine, and a good movie. Or, pull out a deck of cards or a board game. Every couple should have one indoor and one outdoor game that they enjoy doing together. Make a point of doing that game or activity. Schedule it on the calendar if necessary.