I’d like to give a shout-out to all the mommies these days.
I doubt it’s ever been easy to be a mom, but I honestly feel that today’s technology, extensive approaches to parenting, and plethora of unwarranted opinions makes it especially difficult to bring up a child without feeling some sort of mom guilt.
I mean, can you honestly picture a group of cave-women standing around judging each other for choosing whether the baby sleeps in their bed or in a separate part of the cave?? Yeah, me neither. They probably just hunkered down and got cozy before the saber-tooth tigers came back around…
Seriously though, out of everything we do for our families nowadays, it’s a wonder we have any space to think of anything else. It seems as if the only way to be considered a good mother is to forfeit our entire lives for the sake of our kids; to make them our utmost priority without even the slightest hint of annoyance or resentment.
This is SO unrealistic.
But the really scary thing I’m seeing a lot of with my mom friends (and myself if I’m being real honest) is the tendency to forfeit everything including our marriages so that our children can be happy.
This is a huge head-scratcher for me. Without our relationships, we wouldn’t have our children, right? It’s not like the chicken or the egg, we know which came first.
Yet, we’re willing to put our marriages on the back burner so that every ounce of our time and energy is invested into the tiny beings who sprang forth from our loins.
If I could use my Couples’ Counselor Superpowers for anything it would be to change this mentality, like, right now
Because close to HALF of all marriages already end in divorce.
Speaking from personal experience, being a child of divorce is no fun. There is all kinds of emotional baggage that follows you around for life and really screws with your ability to love and be loved.
So…if we go the common sense route, raising happy, healthy children is a heck of a lot easier if we start them out in a happy, healthy home.
But, with so much to manage these days, how do we make sure our homes are happy and healthy? The answer is, we continue to cultivate intimacy with our partners and prioritize our relationships so they last through our child-raising years and beyond.
Intimacy, What It Is and What It Isn’t
If we go back to basics and take the most narrowed down version of intimacy, we see that it simply means connection or togetherness. Humans used to be a highly intimate species. We used to live as large families with multiple generations working together, communicating, and taking care of each other. There was a village mentality and a great sense of belonging.
As humanity has evolved, so has our sense of connection. We no longer think of intimacy as the way of being together with others. Instead our ideas have been shaped to think of intimacy and physical love synonymously.
While this evolution isn't necessarily a bad thing, living by this strict definition can lead us to miss out on a lot of great experiences with our husbands.
Here’s the truth about connection.
Intimacy is WHATEVER makes you feel loved
·cuddling on the couch
·giving each other back massages
·rubbing fingers while holding hands
·reading the same book and discussing the characters
·writing love notes and leaving them for the other to find
·having each other's back during a discussion with extended family
That high you feel when you wake up to a lovey text message sent by your partner - that closeness - that's intimacy.
3 Reasons Intimacy is Absolutely Necessary
So now that we know we're not just talking about sex, we can see maintaining this closeness is imperative for a lasting marriage for several reasons.
First, you didn’t stay the same once you had your baby, and neither did your marriage. As a person, you are continually learning and growing. This is great for your identity and your self-worth, especially when you sacrifice so much for your children.
However, in a relationship without closeness, couples are likely to grow apart rather than grow together. Maintaining an intimate bond is essential for allowing individuals to achieve personal growth and the couple to navigate highs and lows to be both successful parents and partners.
Second, intimacy meets your emotional needs. In general, women need to feel wanted and men need to feel competent for a relationship to feel "happy." Intimacy can go a long way in establishing these emotions.
Imagine spending quality time together by having your hubby teach you something new. Not only will you feel needed being his assistant, you'll provide an opportunity for hubby to feel capable.
Third, though we’ve established sex is not the end-all-be-all of a marriage it's super important. In fact, a diminished sexual relationship is at the center of the majority of troubled marriages. While some couples can transition to less physicality and more companionship, many cannot.
Consider arousal, most of the time, men are ready to go while women need to be "in the mood." I bet you can imagine how much easier this is to achieve when you're already feeling connected.
So, how do we keep our connections alive? We keep on dating throughout our marriage!!!
Don't Be That Couple!!!
It's so easy to get caught up in work, kids, and life that we forget how to be intimate. We assume our relationship can stand a little neglect. Though it usually takes years of carelessness and pain for couples to consider calling it quits, this is a terrible pattern to get into early on.
There may be many things that are preventing you and your hubby from making more of an effort in your relationship, but here’s a simple Do and Don’t list that can help you see how easy it can be to connect
·Make an effort to spend alone time together
·Be physical in ways other than sex
·Work on your confidence level
·Invest energy in your appearance
·Beat yourself up about your libido (or lack thereof)
·Reject your partner's solicitations for intimacy - physical or emotional
·Forget your other senses
·Engage in one-sided intimacy
Too often, couples believe it takes grand, expensive gestures to rekindle some of that lost romance. However, there are so many quick and inexpensive ways you and your partner can reconnect.
Bring On the Date Nights!!
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of way to help couples keep dating despite being busy parents. Two things I’ve found is common among most new parents are the reluctance to leave baby home and the reluctance to spend money.
So here’s a list of fun and easy dates you can do right from home without spending a ton of money or getting a sitter.
1. Imagine Your Future Together
Often early in a relationship the end goal is to get that diamond ring. Once married, the next big goal is usually to start a family. Well, you've done both of those things. Now what?
Break out the craft supplies!!
Cut out pictures from magazines that represent your next big accomplishments. Would you like to buy or build your dream home? Use some design mags for inspiration. This can get you talking about all kinds of things like finances and future wishes. Have you always wanted to start a business together? Grab Forbes or another business mag and cut out articles/images that can help you get your thoughts together.
Talk about your hopes and dreams as a couple. What are your biggest fears for the next five or ten years? Imagine these together and see if you can encourage each other.
There's no better way to connect than to imagine what life ill be like in the future. ho knows, you both might see another baby down the road and decide tonight is the perfect night to start trying.
2. Cultivate Mutual Excitement
Head to your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or DVR and pick out a brand new show to watch together. This may not seem like a big deal, but choosing something to watch together involves communication skills and compromise.
You want this to be something neither of you has seen, but are both interested in. Because this is a bonding exercise, a show with multiple series is ideal. That way you'll really be able to attach to characters and get involved in the plot. It can even get to the point where you are discussing the show during the day and can't wait to get the kids in bed so you can catch the next episode.
3. Change Your Scenery
After the kids are asleep, take the baby monitor and head somewhere new. This can be the back yard, the garage, or even downstairs. A change of scenery will help you shake up the monotony and will force you out of your couple comfort zone.
By breaking usual patterns, you'll find that you and your hubby are more aware of each other. This can help you become more open and to focus in a way you might not have in a long time.
Leave your phones inside. Take this opportunity to do something together that reminds you of old times. This could be something like putting on a Pandora station of music you loved in high school. You could even crack open a cheap can of beer and reminisce.
4. Eat Alone
Save dinner for your date this week and eat together after the kids are asleep. Perhaps try something new or a recipe you love, but the kids won't touch. This is a chance to have a special dinner date without leaving the house or hiring a sitter.
**Bonus Points if you and your hubby make it together**
Go ahead and break out the good dishes. Light some candles. Get dressed up. Whatever's gonna make it feel like you and hubby went out of your way to create a special night.
Use this as an opportunity to have some deep conversations. Discuss your latest hopes and dreams. You might be surprised how things have changed since baby(s) entered the picture. Don't bring up any hot button issues. This isn't the time to try to hash out any recurring problems in your marriage. Instead it's a time to reconnect.
What ways are you continuing to cultivate intimacy with your partner since starting a family? Which of these date night ideas is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!!
Marissa just launched an amazing online course for new parents called Couples Communication After Baby. Communication is important for the health of your marriage in any stage of life, but it's especially important in the stages of life that involve parenting. If you are committed to working on the communication in your marriage, click here to take Marissa's course!