Being parents, working and trying to stay bonded in your relationship is not as easy as any book or TV show make it out to be. You may look at your friends and wonder how their relationships still seem so strong and intimate when you and your partner barely have one real conversation a week. Whether you are married or not, couples who live together need to work hard to stay connected. Ironically, moving in together can create more emotional distance. When you add children into the mix, priorities naturally shift, and you may struggle to put each other first. The feeling of drifting apart is frightening, and it can even cause you to retreat further instead of reach out and risk the discomfort of addressing the distance.
Don’t let the initial discomfort stop you from tackling your troubles. More than that, you have to believe that your feelings are valid and worth sharing with your partner. It does not matter if there are other problems or other people think your relationship is great. If you feel like you two are not as close as you used to be, accepting this is the first step toward recapturing your connection. Below are some additional tips that you might take to begin reigniting the passion in your relationship after children.
Equalize Your Parenting Approach
In some households, one parent tends to be the fun one while the other is solely responsible for discipline and maintaining structure. This not only leads to a rift between partners but it disrupts the unit as a whole. Families should be seen as a cohesive system, each person with their own special role and talents but all equally valued and appreciated by one another. You can be a fun parent and still implement boundaries and rules. For the parent who says they simply can’t discipline, perhaps they haven’t found a method that works for them.
If they’re unable to assert any rules at all, this is a deeper problem that should be addressed with a therapist. However, you can both work together to discuss methods of communication and discipline that would work for your family. Consider positive discipline, which is a method for helping children develop necessary skills without enforcing harsh punishments or relying on negative emotions, like shame, as reinforcement.
Consider Couples Counseling
Therapy is not only for those recovering from infidelity or whose marriages are on the brink of collapse. Parents can benefit from couples counseling in order to improve their communication, grow closer as a team and reconnect intimately. Counseling also gives you both space to share thoughts and feelings you may not feel comfortable doing on your own. A therapist can also serve as an unbiased third-party who mediates conversations and guides them to closure instead of further into conflict. This can be immensely helpful if you and your partner always fight about the same things and have started avoiding each other as a result.
Whether its physical or emotional avoidance, distance grows when partners are not fully open and honest with one another. Being transparent requires vulnerability, something that is often lost or hurt when people begin to grow apart. This is something that can be recovered, so long as there is a willingness on both parts to try. Becoming a parent and raising a family can also cause many unresolved, past emotional hurts to come to the surface. You or your partner could struggle in ways you aren’t sure how to vocalize. If that is the case, therapy is an ideal setting to begin identifying the causes of certain habits or emotions and moving in a more positive direction.
Remember when the two of you had your thing? Maybe it was a favorite restaurant you went to every week or a show you only watched together. These small details are what make relationships feel so personal. When they start to fall to the wayside, couples’ lives become more fractured and consumed by their own responsibilities, problems and priorities. While you should always maintain your own identity in a relationship, it’s equally important to recognize that you are part of a couple.
Happy relationships are made up of lots of shared little things. This can be sharing coffee in the morning, without smartphones, before the kids have to be woken up for school. It can be a video game you both play or show you watch when the children have gone to bed. You can even start a new hobby together, like playing cards or trying new foods. A subscription from MunchAddict can give your taste buds a surprise every month as a hand curated collection of snacks from around the world are shipped straight to your door. Sampling the assorted collection in your downtime together can be a fun way to reconnect and make new memories.
Spend Time Together Without Children
One of the worst things for parents to do is only interact when they are with their children. There are simply too many conversations you can’t have with a child present, and even a toddler who may not understand the subject matter still influences how you engage. Children are not meant to consume your entire relationship or identity. You both still need to recognize one another as the person you fell in love with, not just the parent to your children.
Some couples dread reaching the point in their relationship where they need to have scheduled dates and intimacy, but there is nothing wrong with that. It shows commitment and dedication, especially when there are so many other things demanding your attention. Have weekly nights that are set aside entirely for the two of you. If your kids can spend the weekend at their grandparents, have a staycation and focus on each other. Use the time you are alone to really put in face time instead of sitting side by side on your own phones or ignoring one another. It may all start with you going to your significant other and telling them you miss spending time with them and are looking to do something, just the two of you, this week.