Ah, the first blush of new romance, when everything your new partner says or does is adorable, brilliant, and sexy. For a moment, close your eyes and remember back to when you first met your love… Remember all the passion, the romance, the excitement!
Now fast forward to a chaotic breakfast in your messy kitchen while you try to discuss the washing machine problem as your screaming toddler demands more peanut butter. Not quite the same, is it?
I know everyone says marriage is hard work… but is it really? Is it work, or just a little healthy maintenance?
For some couples, a good marriage can slip away if they’re not looking. Relationships can feel stale and boring if you don’t make the effort. But keeping it together isn’t as difficult as you think it might be!
Here are 4 tips to give your relationship a tune-up:
1. Take care of yourself: Get a haircut, go for a jog, lock the door and take a long bath, meet friends for happy hour. By making time for yourself, you’ll feel happier, more refreshed and have the energy to put into your relationship.
2. Get enough sleep: The biggest complaint I hear from busy families is that the parents are just too darn tired.
It’s pretty hard to pull on your sexy nightie if you can barely keep your eyes open while trying to brush your teeth! I know… there’s so much to do every day. But if you can commit to a set amount of sleep each night you’ll feel rested and refreshed. It just might be the best thing you can do for your marriage!
And, of course, if the reason YOU’RE not sleeping is because your kids aren’t sleeping,… well, I have a solution for that!
I once did an consultation with a couple that had not shared a bed since their first daughter had arrived. She was 5. One parent slept with the 5 year old and one slept with the 2 year old.
They told me that they felt like their marriage was in trouble and had been talking about a separation. It’s very hard to maintain intimacy when you’re not sharing a bed with your spouse.
So I suggested to them: “Let’s work together at getting these kids sleeping well and the two of you back in the same bed?” They made the commitment to do just that, and the good news is that within two weeks, both kids were in their own bed, and mom and dad were sleeping together again. They knew they had some hard work to do to mend their marriage, but sharing a bed again was a great place to start.
There are many obstructions to your sex life after the little ones arrive. People often complain that they can’t find the time, can’t get any privacy, or that they’re just too distracted with all of the little tasks and obligations that come with being parents. Another reason is that they’ve simply lost the desire. And a big reason for that loss of desire may just be lack of sleep.
A 2011 study from the University of Chicago showed that not getting enough sleep (adults need between 7 and 10 hours a night) resulted in a 15% reduction in testosterone levels. That’s about how much testosterone production goes down after 15 years of aging.
I know that kids can be demanding, but if they could honestly answer the question “Do you want to sleep in your own room, or do you want Mommy and Daddy to live in different houses?” I’m sure we all know what the answer would be.
3. Have interesting conversations: Nothing takes the fun out of a marriage faster than boring chatter about the kids, bills and household tasks.
Make a point of coming up with one interesting piece of conversation a day. It doesn’t have to be big or profound, just something you heard on the news or read in an article. By engaging with your partner in meaningful ways, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, will help you feel more connected.
4. Date nights: I know… you’ve heard it before. If you know it’s important, then why aren’t you doing it? If you leave too much time between “dates” with your spouse you’ll start to feel bored, distant and resentful. And it certainly doesn’t have to be fancy!
Here’s one simple but fun idea: Send your partner a note on Thursday and tell him/her you discovered a really great new band. You’d like to “book” some time with him/her Friday night to listen to them. Then, after the kids are in bed, light a candle or two, open some wine and put on the music. Done! Date night! A nice outfit, a lovely dinner, and some good wine. Trust me. Your marriage will thank you!