How Having a Set Bedtime Could Benefit Your Marriage

First question, do you and your spouse go to bed at the same time? Second question, do you have a set bedtime? And last question, would you like to know how you can use bedtime to connect with your spouse and strengthen your marriage? Research has shown that 75% of couples are not going to bed at the same time. Maybe you're one of those couples, but why should you care?

Researcher Jeffry Larson found that: "Couples whose wake and sleep patterns were mismatched (e.g., an evening person married to a morning person) reported significantly less marital adjustment, more marital conflict, less time spent in serious conversation, less time spent in shared activities and less frequent sexual intercourse than matched couples." One of the glorious things about being an adult is that you can stay up as late as you want and sleep in as late as you want, right? While the freedom to choose when you go to bed can be fun, having a set bedtime as an adult will benefit you and as research has shown, it can benefit your marriage.

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I recognize that in your marriage, one of you might be a night owl and the other might be an early bird, so going to bed at the same time might not seem like something that is possible. According to the research, that difference sets you up for less marital happiness. I want to help you find a few ways to prove the research wrong in a way and help bedtime become a time of growth for your marriage while still maintaining the schedules that help you be your personal best. Because if you can make a habit of going to bed at the same time at least a few times a week, your marriage relationship will benefit in many ways. 

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For a large part of our marriage, Joe has been the first one to fall asleep while I sit awake late into the night working on homework or blog projects. But I can honestly say that for 90% of the nights since we got married, we have gone to bed at the same time. Some nights I've stayed up later, listening to Joe and Howie snore for hours while I type furiously on my computer next to them, trying to get a school assignment submitted or to finish editing my blog post for the next day. And sometimes I stay up watching Instagram stories or a few episodes of my current Netflix binge. Ok, so I'm almost always the one who is up way too late... But we make a point to turn off the lights, brush our teeth, change into our pajamas, wind down and climb into bed together each night.

I'll be completely honest, we watch a lot of Netflix after we've gone to bed, and there isn't a lot of pillow talk in our relationship. Joe falls asleep if we try to talk after we've climbed into bed. It's nothing personal, the comfiest spot in our house just isn't his best setting for conversation, especially at the end of a long day. We've got other rituals for connecting conversation, like our rooftop rendezvous. Having a TV in the bedroom is also something that isn't suggested and it's something that I'm leaning toward getting rid of. Every marriage is different, no marriage is perfect and there's always room for improvement. Although we are good about going to bed at the same time, I know that there are things about our routine that could stand to be adjusted. Look at your own bedtime routine and discuss what things you could change to make bedtime more beneficial for your marriage.

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Bedtime Tips

NO PHONES - Couples who look at their phones while talking with each other experience lower relationship satisfaction. I know a lot of couples who have gotten into the habit of putting their phones to bed on the kitchen counter or in a room other than their bedroom. This eliminates the temptation to use your phone at bedtime or spend your waking moments scrolling through social media.

STAY CLOSE - Research shows that couples who sleep less than an inch apart are more content with their relationship. If cuddling while you sleep isn't your thing, hold hands while you fall asleep instead.

GO TO BED EARLY - Rather than starting your bedtime routine when you're tired and ready to sleep, start it half an hour to an hour earlier so that you are awake and alert and ready to connect with your spouse through conversation or physical intimacy.

SHARE A WIND DOWN RITUAL - Did you know that screen time before you go to bed can keep you from falling asleep and sleeping well? Experts suggest that you turn off screens (phones, TV, tablets, etc.) at least an hour before you go to sleep. Instead of watching Netflix at the end of the night, try reading a book together, putting a puzzle together, talking about your day or listening to music or podcasts.

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Challenge: Decide together what time you will go to bed each night and make a goal to stick to that time at least two days over the next week, then three days the week after. If there isn't anything keeping the two of you from going to bed at the same time every single night, work up to seven days a week. If you are one of those couples with a night owl and an early bird, do everything that you can to make shared bedtime a priority as often as possible.

I will be sharing our bedtime routine changes and how they have helped us over on Instagram over the next few months.

How Family Life Education Benefits You

Relationship education, like therapy, is surrounded by a negative stigma. People perceive relationship education and therapy as something that you do only when your marriage is in trouble. Today I want to share a little bit more about my passion and why I have chosen the field of study/work that I did. February is Family Life Education month and I want to raise awareness to this valuable resource for couples and families. Relationship education is really another way that you can make your marriage a priority. By take part in classes and conferences centered on helping you improve your relationship, you are showing that you care and that your marriage matters to you.

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When you are learning a musical instrument, you don't stop practicing after your first big recital, you pick a new piece of music to learn and work on it every single day. Your wedding day is like that first recital, and you have so many years and anniversaries to come. Leading up to your big day, you learn everything that you can about each other and you work every day to make your relationship great. You may even go to premarital education and learn all that you can to help prepare you for the changes that marriage will bring to your life. After you tie the knot and start your lives together, if you continue to work on your relationship and seek to learn new techniques, you will only get better. Professional musicians still practice on a daily basis, probably even more than they did when they were first starting out. And those professionals, even the ones who teach their talent to others, can be found taking lessons themselves.

Relationship education is like taking music lessons for your marriage. You'll learn something new every time you take a class and your marriage relationship will be better because you do. The more you work to implement the concepts you learn, the stronger your marriage relationship will become. You might find that you even enjoy the relationship education opportunities that you take advantage of! When I first started my Family Studies degree, I had a small number of internship hours that were required for a class I was taking. As part of that experience, I helped facilitate a community class on The 5 Love Languages. The class was informative and fun, filled with a lot of learning and some really fun activities and interaction between the couples in attendance. I learned a few things that I'd never thought about before, and that class was what prompted me to retake the love languages quiz and learn that my language had changed from when I took it before we got married.

If you are looking for relationship education opportunities, I have a few suggestions for you!

First, do you have a land grant university in your state and do they have any extensions that provide classes? We have one in our area that provides relationship classes and conferences around the state, and works in connection with Healthy Relationships Utah to provide resources and classes to families.

Next, I'd suggest looking up different relationship education programs, and finding out where they are facilitated near you. Search for marriage conferences, relationship education, premarital relationship classes, etc. There are a lot of good programs out there, many that I've participated in and even more that I'd love to participate in in the future.

I'd also suggest talking to your religious leader and find out what's available to you through the church that you attend. A lot of relationship education is facilitated by those leaders and they have been trained in whatever program they use. Other times, they know about different resources and opportunities that may not be as eay to find online.

Finally, look for experts in the field who provide online resources and courses that you can take without leaving the comfort of your own home. Some licensed marriage and family therapists have platforms that provide valuable training and knowledge to couples. There are a lot of bloggers, like me, who have an educational background in the field, who are passionate about family relationships and who want to help others create the strong marriage that they deserve!

Have you ever participated in relationship education of any kind? What was it and what did you think about it?

The Best Waffles for Breakfast in Bed

I walked into my mom's house the other morning to drop my kids off for the day and was immediately hit with the delicious smell of fresh waffles. I didn't have time to sit down and enjoy a plate of waffles covered in my favorite syrup, but I grabbed a couple and made them into a sandwich with homemade strawberry jam to enjoy on my commute. That waffle sandwich reminded me that I've been wanting to share my favorite recipe with you, and when I remembered that this weekend's prioritizing marriage challenge was to make breakfast in bed for your spouse, I decided the recipe needed to be shared. These are the waffles that we eat 90% of the time, the other 10% being Eggos (Joe introduced me) or this recipe that's more of a dessert and super delicious.

Sour Cream Waffles with Strawberries and Syrup

When we got married, we registered for a waffle maker and we got one, but I was always a little bummed because it wasn't like the one that my mom always used when I was growing up. The waffles that my waffle maker made were round and thick, which are perfect for these Belgian Waffles that I love so much. But the every day waffle recipe that I really love are light and fluffy and seemed to come out too thick in my waffle maker. For years I searched for the perfect waffle maker and right before Christmas, I finally found it!

Someone posted in a Facebook group asking for waffle maker suggestions and they specified that they wanted one that made thinner, square waffles. This is exactly what I'd been looking for, so I followed the post and waited for the suggestions to roll in. One person linked to this waffle maker {affiliate link} and I did a little jig, then sent the link to all of my siblings. That waffle maker ended up on each of our Christmas wish lists and my mom purchased one for each of us. Happy day!!!!

mixing batter for sour cream waffles

I whipped up a batch of Sour Cream Waffles this past weekend and have extra whipping cream left in my fridge to make more this coming weekend. I'm still working to master the perfectly square waffles, but these taste good no matter what shape. My only suggestion is to make them in a thinner waffle maker, like this one, for the best texture.

Whenever I make waffles, or any other breakfast food for that matter, I mix up more than one batch, cook all of the extra batter, and freeze the leftovers. When we're ready to use them, we thaw a few in the microwave, for 30 to 45 seconds, then pop them in the toaster for a few minutes. They come out perfectly crispy and warm, ready to be drizzled with syrup and eaten. This trick means that we can enjoy our favorite breakfast foods every day of the week if we want, without the time, effort and dishes that goes into making them initially. 

pouring batter for sour cream waffles onto the hot waffle griddle

Sour Cream Waffles

1 cup soured whipping cream

2 eggs, separated

1 cup flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

Combine dry ingredients. Beat egg yolks a little and add with soured cream. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Pour 1 cup of batter onto the griddle and cook until light brown.

Tip: If you don't have soured whipping cream, mix 1 cup of whipping cream with 1 Tbls of lemon juice or vinegar and let it sit for half an hour before adding it to the batter.

pouring syrup on sour cream waffles

My very favorite syrup is homemade syrup, but we have store bought syrup in our fridge at all times as well because Joe prefers the thicker syrup consistency. Our syrup preferences from when we were growing up have remained the same in our marriage, and I'm kind of curious to see which kid each of our kids will prefer. If you want to try my homemade kind, I've included the recipe below. I love this syrup because it soaks into the waffles, or whatever breakfast food I'm putting it on, and I don't have to use as much.

Homemade Maple Syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups water

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp maple extract

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and maple extract.

sour cream waffles on a bed tray with strawberries, syrup and soda

These waffles make a great breakfast to surprise your spouse with. Throw a plate of them on a tray with a small cup of syrup, sliced fruit, some whipping cream, bacon or sausage and their favorite drink. I always like to enjoy my Sour Cream Waffles with a big glass of milk. Don't forget to put together a plate for yourself as well. 

I'm sure your spouse will enjoy the opportunity to sleep in and eating a hot breakfast without having to leave the comfort of their bed. After breakfast is over, watch your current favorite Netflix binge, play a board game together or cuddle up and go back to sleep for a bit longer.

breakfast tray with waffles on bed

Life can be busy and you can get stuck in a routine that doesn't leave much room for spontaneity and relaxation. That's how our lives seem to be lately at least. It's nice to make plans to do nothing buy spend time together for an entire morning every once and a while. Serving your spouse, eating breakfast together and slow, quiet mornings at home sound like a great way to spend your weekend.

6 Ideas for Connecting as a Couple After the Kids Are In Bed

I'm a big fan of weekly date night, setting aside a few hours of time to focus on your marriage relationship and connect while doing something outside of your normal routine together. But what about the other six nights of the week? What do you do with those? When Joe and I were dating, we made a concerted effort to see each other every night, even if it was just to cuddle on the couch while I did homework and he watched TV. The nights that we didn't get to hang out, we'd talk on the phone until one of us fell asleep.

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After dinner is cleaned up, the kids are in bed and the dishes are done, what do you and your spouse do at night? Do you binge watch Netflix together or move to opposite sides of the house to do your own thing? Or do you look for ways to connect and have fun together? I'm all for relaxing on the couch together or getting some "me time" in, but I also think that the hours between dinner/the kids' bedtime and your own bedtime are a great opportunity for what I like to refer to as "mini dates". I've made it my goal to find one or two nights each week to set aside my projects and other responsibilities and use that time to connect with my husband instead.

But the question is, what do we do that's going to be fun and encourage connection?! We were watching Parks and Rec this week and April asked Andy, "What are we going to do tonight?" He lists off a bunch of crazy things and she responds, "We do that every night...." Andy's thought is that "Repetition is the key to a successful marriage." April suggest that they "do something weird" and they spend the night crossing things off of their bucket list like making the world's best grilled cheese and hold $1000 in cash. I want to encourage you to do something "weird" a couple of nights a week, something out of the ordinary when compared to your regular weeknight routine.

Ideas for midweek date night activities at home after the kids are in bed.

Talk and Eat Dessert

Who doesn't love dessert at the end of the day? My kids get their treat as soon as they finish eating their dinner but I save mine for later, after they're in bed. And I love making something special for just the two of us. These skillet cookies will always be our favorite and I'll always suggest them as a great date night dessert. I also love those single serve pies and desserts in the freezer section of the grocery store or the brownies in a mug type mixes you can get in the baking aisle. Quick, easy and a little more special than a piece of leftover Halloween candy.

Dance in the Kitchen

Any time I ask Joe, "what do you want to do tonight?", his response is usually, "Dance." Which is ironic, because he doesn't like to dance.... Camille from Friday We're in Love posted the best list of Cute Love Songs You Can Dance To the other day and ever since, all I've wanted to do is put them all onto a playlist on my phone and dance with my husband. Instead of spending 20 minutes watching an episode of a show, turn on some music and dance together instead.

Play Board Games

We have a cupboard in our basement filled with board games that are in practically perfect condition because they never get used. It's just not the first thing that we think of when trying to decide what to do for the night, but I'm determined to change that! Like, is it weird that one of my bucket list dates for an at home night this year is to play Monopoly, all the way through? Click here for a good list of 40 two-player games!

Work on a Project

Four years ago when we bought our house, we spent weeks doing demo work, clean up and projects before we moved in. Every night after work, we'd grab dinner and then run over to our house to get another task crossed off of our list. It was exhausting and not always the most fun, but really satisfying. We enjoyed listening to 90's pop music, working on our individual tasks for the night and then stepping back to see what all we had gotten accomplished. We still have little projects to work on, and have enjoyed dreaming up decor and making our house more of a home with every little detail.

Your projects don't have to be home projects, they can be anything. But it's really fun to work together to accomplish a task, even if it's not the most glamorous thing in the world.

Learn Something New

Have you ever taken a community course together? Or researched something on YouTube? Communities have a wide variety of classes that they offer each semester, and you can spend a few weeks learning something new for a small fee. I've seen everything from learning a language to learning to dance to learning how to garden. You can also find tutorials and courses online for free or relatively cheap on every subject you can think of. What is something you've always wanted to learn to do? Are you planning on travelling abroad and want to learn the language before you go? Maybe you'd like to grow your own fruit and vegetables this year but need some guidance on where to start.

If you sign up for a class together, you'll have the satisfaction of learning something new, you'll be able to work together to grasp concepts and do your homework assignments, and you'll maybe discover a new lifelong hobby that you can enjoy as a couple.

Read a Book Together

I set a goal this year to read three books each month; one fiction, one marriage non-fiction, and one family non-fiction. I also want to ready one book a quarter together as a couple. We've loved listening to the Harry Potter books on audio together and have a few parenting and finance books in a pile that we want to read together. Maybe you set aside one night a week to curl up together and read a few chapters from a book together, listen to something on audio or even read your own individual books. You could create your own little book club, just the two of you.

Joe and I used to walk the dog together every single night, around 10pm. Now that we have kids, we can't go out late every night, so we started enjoying our Rooftop Rendezvous instead. Whatever you do together as a couple, make sure that it's something you'll both enjoy and that you benefit from as a couple. You can still relax together and connect without turning the TV on every single night. I would challenge you to find ways to get to know each other better and strengthen your relationship on a daily basis. 

What other activities do you enjoy for connection as a couple? Share them in the comments below!

Romantic Meal Ideas for Date Night at Home

This year Valentine's is on a Wednesday, smack in the middle of our week. When we were newly married and didn't have kids, this was no problem. We'd go out for a holiday date night no matter what day of the week it fell on. Now things are a little different, not only because we have kids but because of our schedules during the week. Oh, and the fact that we don't like to join the crowds and prefer not to sit for hours waiting for dinner. Although, the first year we were together for Valentines, we went to a popular restaurant on the holiday, which was also a weeknight, and I think we went around 7 or 7:30 and we walked right in and didn't have to wait for our dinner at all.

Over the last few years, we have started celebrating Valentine's day by going on our big date the weekend before or after and then enjoying a low key celebration at home on the actual day. This year I want to start a new tradition with our kids, then enjoy a low key celebration together after they are in bed. However, I know that there are a lot of you out there like us who don't find fighting the crowds to be very romantic but who still want to celebrate on the holiday. Below you'll find a few of my very favorite recipes here on our site, most of them from the Date Night in the Kitchen series from Bethany Grow.

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Belgian Waffles with Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sauce

Whether you choose go out or stay in this year, I hope you find some inspiration for a future at home date night from this post!