What are some specific ways of finding time to connect with each other when you have kids?
This simply requires creative thinking.
Some couples schedule these get togethers as they schedule religious education for their kids, sporting practice, or music lessons. Others schedule regular play dates for all of the children and schedule their own marital “play date” at the same time.
For parents of teens, early morning breakfast is often guaranteed private time, but less likely for toddlers. This can be reversed for evening times, when young children head to sleep, but parents often beat the teen to the pillow. Shut off the tv or other electronic devices and plan a special dinner, outdoor star gazing, or early bedtime (one where sleep isn’t on the agenda).
I’ve even known one couple to set a 2am alarm for making love, because it was the one time they could count on being undisturbed.
More traditional approaches do include overnight getaways (Gottman recommends at least 3 a year) and this doesn’t require expensive accommodations. One couple simply trades houses for their kids “sleep over” parties. The kids love it and so do the parents.
With a little determination, parents can make having “adult time” a priority. Fantasize how illicit affairs happen, and decide to have one with your spouse: trysts in a nearby hotel for an afternoon delight? “Mental health” days home from work to help each other put your heads back on straight? An early babysitter weekdays to enjoy a midweek special?
COVID has put a damper on many of these ideas, but that is changing fast as vaccinations become available to all, allowing more social time and babysitting.
You both want to dedicate yourself to finding these times alone, and using it wisely. It shouldn't be a monthly “state of the union” where you talk about how you are feeling in your marriage, or a time to air complaints. Make the majority a special time when you are both on your best behavior, as you would be on a date with a great gal or guy. Show interest, ask good questions, and keep the conversation flowing, avoid “Debbie Downer” conversations.
Ask yourself after these special times if you would want to spend more time or less time with that date (include yourself in that equation) and if the answer is less, do a “state of the union” conversation to find out what’s happening to your love life.
If any of my ideas sound “too expensive” or just not worth the effort, recognize that your marriage is worth the same time and attention you would give your employment, parenting, or a beloved pet. And few things are more expensive to a family than a divorce.
Be in it to win it.
And if you simply can’t do it on your own, schedule a formal “state of the union” assessment with one of our over two dozen skilled couples therapist to figure out exactly what to work on and why. Yes, we can tell you that, with a science-based approach!
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