Growing Together Instead of Apart

A lot of the things that we've gone through together could have easily pushed us apart. We could have let the stress, frustrations and disagreements get to us, but instead we used them to make us a stronger and better couple. The journey that we've been on together encouraged me to make my marriage more of a priority and has taught me not to take the little moments and the things that my husband does for me for granted.

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Five Conversations to Have Before You Get Married

When we were preparing to get married, we talked about a lot of things. Our lives were busy with work, school, and wedding plans. Most of what we talked about was related to the wedding or our lives together immediately afterward. We had conversations about some far future topics, but there are a lot of things that we've talked about since or situations that we've gone through together that I wish were part of our discussions before we were in the moment and before we got married. As I've watched other couples around me get married, I can't help but think about these topics even more, so I decided to put together this post as a point of reference for engaged couples.

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How to Support Your Spouse While They're in School

A lot of people are talking about back to school right now and back to school preparations seem to be the focus of every store in the area. College students are going back to school in September as well and married college students are cramming in a lot of quality time before homework takes over their evenings. If you our your spouse will be heading back to college this coming semester, this post is for you. Seven tips for supporting your spouse through school, and I’m not talking about working to pay for tuition. These tips will help you be there for your spouse mentally, emotionally and physically as they work to finish their degree.

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Why You Should Take a Marriage Moon Together

You've heard of the honeymoon and the babymoon, but have you ever been on a marriagemoon? We have been on a lot but until now, we've never called them that. At least twice a year, we take a night or two and get away for a romantic weekend, or I guess a second honeymoon together. We usually stay close and we don't spend much money, but we make it special and we use the time to connect with each other. We've been doing this since the beginning of our marriage and it's always been a game changer.

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The Man I Didn't Even Know I Needed

In the seven years that I've been married to Joe, I've realized that there are things that I needed in a husband and didn't even know I needed. Joe is the perfect man for me. I fell in love with him for who he is and I fall more in love with him every year that we are married. He's the perfect match for me on every level. Whether we're out on a date laughing together or working our way through one of our trials in life, he compliments me and helps make us the good team that we are.

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The 5 Minute Marriage Challenge

I recently had a friend and marriage counselor share with me that she challenges couples to spend 15 minutes of uninterrupted time together daily. This time should be distraction free meaning no phones, TV, or other electronics and no personal or house projects. 15 minutes is totally doable and most days you could probably give your spouse more of your day than that. Today I'm only asking you to commit to five minutes a day, with the challenge to go above and beyond that time if you can.

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Are You Investing in Your Marriage?

When you plan for your future, you decide the age that you want to retire, what type of lifestyle you want to live after retirement, and how much money you'll need to live that way. From there you decide how much money you need to be investing now in order to reach your goal. The sooner you start investing for your future, the better off you will be when you get to that point. When I think about marriage as an investment, I view it in a similar way. I envision what I want my marriage to look like years from now and determine what I need to be doing every day to make sure that happens

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Six Apps Every Couple Should Have on Their Phone

Smartphones have been getting beat up a bit recently in our world, and for good reason. I agree with all of the reasons that people are turning away from their smartphones and have been trying to limit the time I spend on my phone recently as well. Modern technology has made a lot of things in life more convenient and it has brought a lot of good to the world. But with that good comes a lot of issues as well. I wanted to share a few of my favorite apps that you can use to strengthen your marriage and that will do a lot of good for your relationship if you choose to use them!

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Why We're Choosing to Make Family Meal Times a Priority

A couple of weeks ago, I sat the kids down for lunch and walked to the other side of the kitchen to empty and load the dishwasher. As I started to unload the clean dishes, I heard Bensen say, "So Emmy, how is your day?" I couldn't help but smile, and I may or may not have teared up a little bit. Since then I've noticed that it's become a consistent thing when the two of them are at the table together. There was one meal when I'd set something on the middle of the table and Bensen asked nobody in particular to "please move that thing so I can see my sister!" As soon as I'd moved it out of the way, their usual conversation resumed. Emmy has even started to take the lead and ask Bensen questions. These are the moments when I'm grateful that we've made family mealtime a priority.

The importance of family mealtime

Family mealtime hasn't always been easy for us to make happen. It seemed easier when it was just the two of us, even though our schedules were so opposite, because we could adjust our mealtime to match up with when we'd both be home. Kids make everything more challenging, because they need that routine and aren't going to be ok with waiting even 15 more minutes for everyone to be home. In an ideal world, we'd sit down at the kitchen table together for three meals a day, but we all know that's a perfect world scenario and not realistic for most families, including ours. Each stage of life will bring new obstacles for our family dinners, but I know that by making it a priority now, we'll have an easier time making it a priority later when it becomes harder and harder to do.

Research has shown that when kids eat dinner with their family, school performance, literacy, family wellness and overall health improve. The studies have also shown that regular family dinners lead to a decrease in substance abuse, bullying, family divorce and obesity. Everyone has to eat, and food is usually at the center of any social get together. Turn mealtime into a social event in your home on a regular basis and you'll find that your connections deepen and your kids will make that time with you a priority, no matter how old they get.

Our goal is to enjoy a meal together as an entire family at least five times a week. Some weeks that's five dinners, other weeks we throw in a lunch or two or even weekend breakfast. Our meal times vary depending on the day and what we have going on, but you can usually count on dinner starting sometime around 6:00pm every night. If Joe is still at work, I'll call to find out what his ETA is, and a lot of times we'll start eating without him, knowing that he'll join us as soon as he gets home. 

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We've set boundaries for our family mealtimes, boundaries that help increase our connection and ensure that we're all fully present and making that time together quality. Our biggest boundary deals with technology because it seeps into our lives more and more every day and I'm sure it will only become more apart of who we are as a people in future years. I remember when we were growing up, if the phone rang during dinner, we'd let it ring. Most people don't have house phones now, but they can turn their cell phones on silent, leave them in the other room or simply ignore them when they ring. I've seen families who have a cell phone stack in the middle of the table and the first person to grab their phone off the stack has to do the dishes and I love that! The same boundary can apply to answering the door if someone knocks, unless you know that you're planning on someone dropping by. 

Boundaries are specific to your family and the things that are making family mealtime a struggle. Maybe it's putting one meal a week on the calendar and communicating that every member of the family is expected to be there. If you're having trouble getting everyone to the table, make a game out of it, maybe setting the parameters to be that the first person to the table gets to pick the next night's dinner or gets an extra serving of dessert after dinner.  As our kids get older, we'll add more boundaries and come up with creative ways to make them stick.

One thing I've noticed since I've been home more is that I can get a lot done in the living spaces of the house when both kids are buckled into their booster seats, enjoying food and giggling with each other. It's the best time to empty and load the dishwasher and I can do a quick pick up of toys and clutter downstairs or fold towels and laundry on the kitchen counter. I've decided that it's ok if I'm not sitting at the table with my kids for every meal, especially since they can draw a meal out for more than an hour sometimes. I make a point to turn on fun music and be in the kitchen or the next room for the entire meal. I dance, laugh, and talk with them while they eat and one or two times a week, I make it a priority to sit down at the table and spend the entire meal eating with them. But I also love the opportunity that those meals give them to have time with each other and I hope that they continue talk and laugh together like that for the rest of their lives.

As your family grows and the different activities that each member is involved with infringe on precious mealtime hours, you'll have to get creative! For some families that might mean packing a picnic lunch and eating it while you cheer on a family member at their sports event each week. Other families might start a tradition of going out for ice cream as a group after musical performances (band/choir concerts, piano recitals, etc.) when rehearsals or check-in time before the show get in the way of your regular dinners. Even on nights when Joe and I plan to have dinner together for date night after the kids are in bed, we'll sit down for dinner with them and take advantage of that quality time that we have together as a family.

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The memories that we've made and the things that our kids have learned, all because of mealtime, are priceless. I couldn't stop laughing when Bensen came up to me the other night and said, "Mom, I'm hungry right now, but I'm not angry yet." I took that as my cue to get dinner on the table ASAP. The second the kids are in their chairs, they fold their arms and both say a prayer. It's my second cue to get moving because the toddlers don't want to wait much longer to get food in their bellies. Joe sat down to help Bensen finish his dinner one night before bed, and it was just the two of them at the table. He told me later that Bensen has started up the conversation, asking Joe about work and naming people by name.

It doesn't matter how young or old your kids are, or even if they're all living under your roof. Make family mealtime a priority as often as you can and you'll reap the benefits.

Four Ways That Becoming Parents Can Strengthen Your Marriage

There's a common belief that if you are struggling in your marriage, having a baby will bring you together. I want to preface this post by saying that if you feel that your relationship with your spouse is in trouble, having a baby is not the way to fix that. I would urge you to seek counseling and professional help. Any of you who have kids can attest to the fact that your role as parents challenged your marriage in ways you didn't know were possible and that it was definitely not as fairy tale as some people would have you believe.

That being said, I have seen parenthood strengthen my marriage in ways that I wasn't expecting and that is what I wanted to share with you today. Those of you who are in the trenches with newborn babies, young toddlers, lots of little kids, teenagers and even adult children, I know that life can be hard and it can wear on your marriage. I would encourage you to look at these ways that your roles as parents can actually bless and build up your marriage and strive to do what you can to achieve that in your marriage!

Parenthood can strengthen your marriage

Whether you're having your first kid or your sixth, the addition of a new baby to the family is an event that can bring stress to your marriage. I will be the first to tell you that parenthood is one of the most challenging stages to adjust to in your marriage. It will stretch you as a couple and as an individual and at times, it will feel like you've given all that you can possibly give. Even though parenthood can be hard, it is also one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures that you will ever embark on in your marriage. Working together in this new stage of life will also strengthen your relationship and make you a better team in every other area of your marriage.

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Love takes on a whole new meaning.

Watching my husband be a dad makes my love for him grow more and more every day. And the love and excitement that our kids have for their daddy only adds to that love. Romance used to be about taking each other out to dinner and long kisses. Now I get butterflies when I hear my husband reading silly books to the kids or teaching them how to play a board game. I still love all of those things that we did when we were dating, engaged and newly married but there's something about watching him be a dad that makes me swoon.

Another growth of love came when I had to lean on my husband while I was sick during my pregnancies and after I gave birth. I learned to depend on Joe for the things that I couldn't do for myself or our family. I'd never had to rely on my husband in that way and his service added a new dimension to the love that I have for him.

Related: What Happens to the Love in Your Marriage After Baby

Time alone as a couple won't be taken for granted.

Before you become parents, time alone together is something that you get used to, even if your schedules don't allow for a lot of it. When it was just the two of us, we got used to having time together every single day, even if it was just for an hour before bed every night.  Now we always have our cute kiddos around, and they need a lot of our attention. A lot of nights we're exhausted from our day of work and parenting and we fall asleep before we've even had time to talk. Other nights we have sick or sad kids to take care of when we would usually be spending time alone. We only get an hour or two alone together each night and we try not to take that time for granted. If you're anything like us, you look forward to those moments when you get to connect as a couple.

Your time together will be more intentional.

Because time together is so rare, you'll find yourself being more intentional with it. There will still be nights when you sit down with a bowl of popcorn and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix together, but now more than ever, you need to put effort into making your marriage a priority. Whether you have an hour at the end of the day together, are out for your weekly date night or enjoying a weekend away without the kids, make the most of your time together. The more intentional you are when you are together, the more your relationship will grow.

I shared with a group of ladies a couple of weeks ago that I wish I could shake newly married me and yell, "Why are you staying home on a Friday night?!?! Go out!!! Have fun!!!" because more often than not, we were home eating takeout and watching Netflix on the weekend, the same activity we did every night. We were not as intentional with our time together as we could have been. Now we make the most of that time, even if we're just relaxing, and look for any opportunity to connect with each other.

Related: 10 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse in 10 Minutes or Less

You will see your spouse in a new light.

I'd seen my husband interact with kids before, but watching him play and interact with our kids on a daily basis has been a different experience. Both Bensen and Emmy love their daddy and get excited every day when he comes home from work. Days when dad doesn't have to go to work are their favorite because they get lots of play time. They have their own games, inside jokes and cute little rituals. I love overhearing him reading stories to the kids, adding his own little spin. I never knew I could get butterflies from watching my husband read 'That's Not My Princess' with enthusiasm to his daughter.

One of the things that has impressed me the most as Joe has become a father was the way that he teaches our kids about life on a daily basis. He takes the time to explain new concepts and introduce them to things that they've never seen before. When he finds something that really interests them, he gets just as excited as they do and continues to share that enthusiasm every time they bring it up. He always has time for them and pauses what he's doing to respond or help them out.

Related: How to Keep the Romance Alive Postpartum

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Adjusting to your new stage in life together can be a challenge, but challenges are meant to make us stronger. Find ways to make your spouse a priority every single day and communicate often about the obstacles that you are facing as a couple. If you work together, the hard times will benefit your marriage as much, if not more, than the good times do. Don't put your relationship on the back burner because a little one comes along or because your kids and their activities are taking up a lot of your time. Continue to work on your marriage relationship so that it will continue to get better!

Becoming parents comes with lots of challenges, but these four things that come with parenthood could actually strengthen your marriage in this stage of life.

8 Things to do for Yourself and Your Marriage When It Feels Like Your Spouse is Never Home

For the last year, Joe's work schedule and hours have been a little insane. It all started with lawn care season, lots of wet weather and a huge increase in the number of lawns that the company had on its schedule each week. On top of his full time job, Joe spent his nights and weekends fixing sprinklers and helping his crew stay caught up on mowing lawns. It was a busy season but we powered through and were excited when it ended. Then the busy holiday time hit at work and they were short team members and just starting to train others. For two months Joe was working 12-15 hours a day, some nights heading back to the store after our kids were in bed and staying until well after midnight to stay caught up. I missed having him home and we missed out on a few of our regular holiday traditions. Joe was worn out and the nights when he was home, he was exhausted so we didn't do much. After a couple months of a "back to normal" schedule, we're back to 12 hour days and there are potential six day weeks in our future over the next month or two.

Couple cuddling on the couch

In the midst of the holiday chaos, a few of you asked me to write a post sharing ways to keep a positive attitude when your spouse works long hours and I chuckled because I did not have a very positive attitude about our situation at the time. I have worked on my attitude a lot over the past couple of months and although I wish Joe's work hours were different, I can tell you that my attitude and the way I've chosen to manage our situation is a lot better. Some other requests for posts were how to stay connected in your marriage when one of you works long/late hours or when you and your spouse work opposite schedules, such as graveyard shifts. Since so many of the requests had a similar theme, I thought I'd combine them into one post with all of my best suggestions and the things that I've learned over the years. If you have things you do that are not on the list, feel free to share them in the comment section at the end of this post!

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For Your Marriage

Make The Moments You Have Together Count

This is one of those things that I learned to do during the three weeks that Emmy was in the NICU. It seems like such a short time frame now that I look back on it, especially when compared to the weeks that he's been working so much overtime over these last few months. But in the moment, we had no idea how long we'd be balancing life between the hospital and home so we had to do something to make sure that we were still making time for each other and our marriage.

Each day we had a total of maybe 2 hours with each other if we were lucky. We made sure that we took a 30 minute break from life to eat dinner together. That was the only guaranteed time that we'd have together each day, so we talked about our feelings, funny moments from our day, and made plans for the fun things that we wanted to do after our time in the hospital was over. We used that time to connect, rather than talking about the business side of our relationship. We left those conversations for the other times that we had together or if it absolutely needed to be discussed right then, we would take five minutes after our dinner to have those talks. But the most important thing for us to do each day was to find time to just be there for each other and strengthen our relationship.

Those three weeks taught me so many things, but mostly this one important one, that the most important thing in life is family and you need to do whatever it takes to put them first. When you have the power to change your schedule, do it, but in those phases of life when you don't have much say, you can still make time for each other. If you don't have the luxury of spending hours together every single day, make every single minute that you do have together count.

Related: 10 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse in 10 Minutes or Less

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Sit Down Weekly to Talk Business

Weekly business meetings can make a huge difference for your marriage! I love having designated time to sit down and talk about our schedule for the next week, review the status of our monthly budget, make plans for getting things done around our house in the next week and talk about anything else that's come up. We will talk about things that come up during the week if needed, but I love having the time set aside to talk. I've found that my husband doesn't love to sit down with the purpose of having a meeting, so we've done some other things that work better for us instead. We have our meetings in the car when we are driving to visit our families every Sunday.

On our drive there, while it's still light outside, I pull on my planner and we talk about our week. I like to make sure we're both on the same page and know what each other has on the calendar. Knowing what Joe's schedule is and what his expectations are for the week helps me plan my week out better and not become frustrated if I've planned something assuming that he'll be home and he's not. This also means that I can tell him what I need to do and find out when he'll be around, and let him know that I'm planning things so that he knows I'm counting on him to be home for certain things. On our drive home, I open up the Every Dollar app, where I've already input all of our purchases from the week, and we talk about bills that are coming up, purchases we want or need to make, and what our budget looks like at that point in the month. If there are any other issues we need to address, we'll talk about them then, after the kids are in bed or when we're on a walk sometime over the weekend.

Related: Why We Started a Tradition of Weekly Meetings in our Marriage

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Find Little Ways to Serve Your Spouse

When it feels like your spouse is never home, it can be easy to expect them to serve you whenever they are. I know that I felt that way a lot when Joe was working so much. The times that he was home, I wanted him to change all of the messy diapers or spend his entire day off helping me with the projects I'd been waiting for him to complete. While I still pass diaper duty off to him as much as possible on the weekends, I have been looking for more ways that I can serve him daily rather than focusing so much on what I need him to do for me. Most of the ways I have found to serve him have been simple, but I hope that they make a big difference for him. I try to make sure he always has something to take for lunch, whether it's leftovers or a sandwich that I get up early to make. On weeks when I know that work is particularly stressful or long, the kids and I will drop off a drink to him or meet him one day for lunch. When Joe is home, I let him sleep in and have some down time, and I try to take care of a few of the things that he'd generally do around the house.

Related: Five Ways to Be More Intentional in Your Thought Toward Your Spouse

Talk About Things Throughout the Day

One thing I love about technology today is the ability it gives us to stay connected throughout the day. I know a lot of wives who use Snapchat to share videos and what they are doing with the kids throughout the day with their husbands. Another wife I know has mentioned that she and her husband will e-mail each other a couple of times during the day because it's hard for him to check his phone. I like to send texts to my husband with the funny things our kids say and pictures of things I know he'll appreciate. I know that for some couples contact throughout the day isn't always possible, but if it is an option for you, make use of it!

For a while I was only texting my husband to share the struggles of my day. One day when I was reading back through our texts, I realized how negative my messages were. Joe couldn't help his situation and was doing his best to be home as much as possible, but my texts and attitude were making him feel guilty and not making home life seem very appealing at the same time. I still share the not so good parts of my day, but I've started to share more of the happy, the fun and the things that we're looking forward to doing when he gets home. Not only has my attitude improved, but I think I'm a better, more supportive wife that way too.

Related: Why You Might Want to Text Your Spouse More Often

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For Yourself

Look for the Good in Each Day

My goal for this year has been to work on myself and to become a more positive person. At the end of 2017, especially when Joe was working so many late hours, I was a very negative person and I had a hard time finding the positive in life. I kept thinking back to the times when Emmy was in the NICU and how grateful I was for things each day. There was so much that I could have been discouraged by and not every minute of the day was positive, but when I'd look back on the day overall, I'd cry tears of overwhelm and happiness because there was so much good. That's the attitude that I've wanted to adopt every single day of my life, but especially when things are tough.

A lot of people have a gratitude journal that they write in at the end of every day. I think this can be a great tool, even if the things that you list that you're grateful for aren't all sunshine and roses. You can find good in anything, even your spouse being gone a lot. That time apart can make you appreciate more the times that you have together. It can give you more opportunities to enjoy meals and activities that aren't your spouse's favorite. And the extra time that your spouse is putting in at work may be adding extra money to your bank account to help pay for a big trip you've planned for the summer or to put toward a big house project or other purchase that you've been wanting to make.

Take Time to Do Something for Yourself

This can be hard if you're a mom of young kids, but it's still possible. I remember when I was single and had nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday night, I'd pick up my favorite food, a few snacks, a chick flick and spend the night in the basement paint my nails and wearing a face mask. Now I do the same thing when Joe works late or is gone for scouts, after the kids are in bed. Food delivery services have made it a lot easier to get the food I'm craving and not have to pick it up before bedtime only to be eating it cold when the kids are finally asleep. You could plan a fun girl's night, spend the night pampering yourself or even go to bed when the kids do.

Related: Finding Balance in My Life - Making Time for Me

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Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

I found myself so exhausted at the end of the year when Joe was working all of his overtime. But I felt guilty asking for help because I was working full time as well and felt like I was failing as a mom if I needed an extra break from the kids. I quickly realized that on days when I was feeling down, it was ok to take a break! Your family will benefit more when you are at your best, and you will function better when you've made time to take care of yourself as well. I was lucky because my mom often invited us to stay for dinner and take leftovers for Joe to eat when he got home. You might also consider hiring a babysitter one or two nights a week after your kids are asleep so you can go grocery shopping, out with some friends, or even out on a mini date if that's the time your spouse has free.

Maintain Your Daily Routines

When Joe isn't home, I find myself wanting to ditch my dinner plans, stay up later than I should, and throw all of my regular plans to the wind. Now that I stick to my daily routine, I function better and feel less resentful for the times that Joe is away. When the kids and I want to do something fun but dad isn't able to join us, we go on our own or invite grandparents or friends to come with us instead. We have dinner and bedtime the same way we would every night, whether Joe is home or not. My day goes more smoothly when I stick to my regular schedule and I don't focus so much on the fact that Joe isn't able to be there like we wish he could be.

Every stage of life is different and I hope that this one is brief for your marriage. Whether it's short term or a new way of life that might last a few years, you can decide to make the best of it. Adjusting your traditions and the things that you're used to to fit your new normal will make things better. You won't be as disappointed that you don't get to each breakfast or dinner together every day if you have found a new daily or weekly ritual to take its place, like enjoying a small treat as a family every night before the kids go to bed or a big brunch every Sunday. When you feel like life is so busy that you don't have time for your marriage or yourself, that's usually when you need to make those things a priority more than ever. Whatever you do, find what works for your family and make the most of it!

When your spouse works long hours or a schedule opposite yours, it might feel like you never get to see each other. Here are a few things you can do to save your marriage and your sanity.

Why Your Kids Need You to Prioritize Your Marriage

Whenever I talk to people about my passion for putting marriage first, the most push back I get comes from parents of young kids. I can't tell you how many times I have heard something along the lines of, "I can't make my spouse my top priority or even a priority because I have young kids and they need me." To any of you who feel that way when you read my posts or the mission behind my writing I want to say, I completely understand where you are coming from! I have young kids and I know just how easy it can be and how important it can feel to focus all of your time and energy on them each day. I also know that as they get older and we have homework, school and extracurricular activities to worry about, they will take up even more of our time. But I am here to tell you that you can make your marriage a priority and it is VERY important that you do, not only for the sake of your marriage, but for your kids as well.

Young couple with kids.

Before you read any further, I want you to click here to read my post on why you need to make your spouse a priority every day. In the very first paragraph of the post, I explain to you what it means to make your marriage a priority, and I will tell you now that you can still put your spouse first while taking care of your children and their needs. Yes, there will be times when your kids are going to take up the majority of your time, energy and attention. I've been there multiple times with sick kids, newborns, etc. The three weeks that Emmy was in the NICU was one of those times. Our entire schedule was built around making sure that we both got time with each of our kids daily and that we were caring for Emmy and giving Bensen the love and attention that he needed daily as well. But our marriage was important and I knew that I didn't want to let it take a backseat so we did little things to make it a priority. We would sit in our room together for 30 minutes each day while we ate dinner, I would make Joe a homemade lunch every morning while Bensen was napping and drop it off to him on my way to visit Emmy, and we even made time for weekly date nights.

Not only does your marriage need you to make it a priority, your kids need you to make your marriage a priority as well. I know, most of the time our kids seem like they'd want nothing more than to have our full, undivided attention. But I promise that they will appreciate the time and effort that you put into your relationship and one day, they will thank you. I see adults, teenagers and even some young children thanking their parents on social media all the time for the great marriage that they worked so hard to build.

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Your kids are watching your example for what a healthy relationship looks like.

Don't hide your affection from your kids. Let them see how much you love each other and make sure they hear how much you love each other as well. They should see you dating one another and pursuing each other daily. Your relationship is the biggest example that they have for what marriage looks like. They will look to your marriage as a blueprint for the type of relationship that they aspire to have in the future. I can't tell you how many times I hear people say that they have adopted certain traditions in their family because it was what they saw their parents doing growing up and they always knew that they wanted the kind of love that their parents had. I've also heard people say that they watched their parents argue over certain things or do certain things that they knew they didn't want to carry over into their marriage and they are doing what they do to avoid that. We hear statistics all the time surrounding the number of people who are in abusive relationships because that's what they saw growing up and that's the only type of relationship that they know. Be the good example for your children, make them want a marriage just like yours!

Your kids need your marriage to be strong so that you can be the best parenting team.

There are a lot of couples who are not on the same page when it comes to parenting their children, don't be one of them! If you are working on your marriage daily and communicating often, you will be more likely to know what your parenting boundaries look like and quicker to support your spouse on a decision that they've made regarding the kids, even if it's something that you haven't discussed yet. 

Your kids want a strong and happy family. Your marriage is the foundation of that family, don't let it fall apart.

Before the kids came along, it was just the two of you and after the kids have moved out to start families of their own, it will be just the two of you again. Don't lose yourselves in the years in between, focusing so much on your roles as parents that you forget who you are as a couple. If you work to build your relationship with each other, through small moments every single day, you won't have to get to the empty-nester stage of your lives only to find out that you don't know the person you are married to anymore. Instead you will grow in life together, your relationship will be even stronger in retirement and you'll be even more in love than you were when you were newlyweds.

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When you head out the door for date night and your little one starts to cry, don't feel guilty! If you plan a mom and dad only getaway for a night or two or more, don't feel bad that you aren't taking the kids with you. When you look forward to their bedtime every night so that the two of you can have some one on one time and peace and quiet, it's ok!

Date night is one of the nights of the week that our kids look forward to. They love playing with their cousins, who tend them, and they know that they will get to go on a date with mom and dad sometime during the month as well. When he finds out that a babysitter is coming over, our three year old always asks, "Are you going on a date?" When we walk out the door, for date night he tells us to "have fun on your date!" And the next morning when he wakes up, one of the first things he asks is, "Did you have a good date mom and dad?" usually right after he tells us how much fun he had with the babysitter. As he gets older and understands the meaning behind date night, I hope that he continues to have just as much enthusiasm and excitement for us when we have one planned.

We've made weekend getaways a priority in our marriage from the beginning and they've been something that we look forward to even more now that we have kids. Sure, it's hard to leave them sometimes and we miss them when we're gone, but it does wonders for our marriage to have a day or two of uninterrupted quality time when we have nothing to worry about but each other. After our first kid free weekend away, I shared this post with a few tips for enjoying your time away and minimizing the worry that you have for your kids back home. We call our kids once or twice a day when we're gone, for sure right before we know they'll be going to bed, and never once have they asked us to come back; In fact, they usually cut the conversation short and run off to finish whatever fun thing they were doing with grandma and grandpa when we called.

One of the biggest things that I remember talking about in a few of my parenting classes in school was set bedtime for kids. Our kids are always in bed sometime between 7 and 8pm at night, and we don't let them get back up for any reason, unless of course they are really sick. We reserve that time between their bedtime and ours for "mom and dad time". A lot of parenting books will use that term when talking about how to get the kids to go to bed. I remember that being discussed in Love & Logic Parenting specifically as a tool to use when telling your child that they cannot come out of their room after they've been tucked in for the night. Be selfish with your evenings, it's ok!! You deserve to relax, have a mini date, watch some Netflix and enjoy a little dessert together. 

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I hope that our kids see the moments when we're laughing together, kissing in front of them and doing life as husband and wife and recognize how much we love each other. I hope that they appreciate the time that we put into our relationship and strive to do the same in their future marriages as well. I know that we won't regret any of the efforts that we make to make our marriage a priority and keep that love that we have for each other alive.

What things are you doing on a regular basis to make your marriage a priority?

It can be easy to put your kids, household duties, work and other responsibilities first. Your kids need you to make your marriage a priority.

Three Different Ways to Divide Household Tasks in Your Marriage

There is a lot of research being done right now involving the division of household chores and relationship dynamic. This article suggests some interesting theories on the dynamic of household tasks and how emotions and couple dynamics in the modern culture come into play. I wish I could tell you that I have a great, end all disagreements, idea for dividing the housework in your marriage. But I do have a few different ideas that you can try out to and see which one works best for the two of you! We're still working to find the process that works best with our new dynamic now that I'm not working and Joe is temporarily working a lot of overtime. If you have something that works well for you or if you find one of these ways that works, let me know! These ideas are written specifically for couples with really young kids or no kids at all, who are responsible for the majority of housework all on their own. These could easily be adjusted to fit your family's stage of life and include your kids if you'd like!

Dividing household tasks in your marriage

Divide and Conquer

Just like you'd have a chore chart for your kids, create one for the two of you, separating the chores so that you know things are getting done and everyone has their own responsibility. This is something that Joe and I tried out when we were both working full time. There never seemed to be a day when we could get all of the cleaning done at once. We both worked and had the kids to take care of and play with after we got home from work at night. Our day off was rarely ever the same day, so one of us was either busy with the kid on our days off or spending time as a family. The last thing we wanted to do was spend hours cleaning.

We sat down together one night and listed out all of the things that needed to be done around the house on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Then we went through each day of the week and decided how much time we were willing and able to dedicate to cleaning and divided the tasks accordingly. We also took into consideration our strengths and the tasks that we enjoy or dislike doing. On the days that we had more time, we'd tackle the big projects like cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom, one of us on each room. Other days we'd take less than half an hour to dust and vacuum the house, letting the kids help us with our tasks because those are their favorites. We had monthly tasks like cleaning out our cars or wiping down the fridge and we'd tackle one of those each week, usually on our day off.

Couple cleaning the kitchen together

Have a "Cleaning Party" Date Each Month

We have loved having cleaning parties and tackling the entire house once each month. We'd send the kids to grandma's house for a few hours, blast 90's pop music and get to work. It wasn't the most romantic date, but working together to tackle all of the household cleaning was somehow satisfying. We'd always treat ourselves to takeout and a movie on the couch after we'd finished and the kids were back home and in bed. Then throughout the next month, we'd keep surfaces wiped down, vacuum every few days and tackle messes as they happen. Every once in a while, we treat ourselves to professional cleaners and have them come in for an hour and tackle all of that stuff for us while we play with the kids in the backyard. I kind of feel like we need to get back to this once a month cleaning party thing...

Couple cleaning together.

Create a Shared Checklist

A friend of mine shared on her Instagram story the other day that she and her husband have a shared list on an app on their phones that lists all of the tasks that need to be done around the house. She said that ever since they started doing that, she'll find her husband using his free time to do things like clean the fridge. I started brainstorming how we could make this work in our home. You could use an app like Trello or print out a "chore chart" of sorts and have it laminated to hang somewhere in your home next to a marker. As you have time or during the time that you've set aside for cleaning, pick one chore off of the list, complete it and then note that it's been done. I thought that having a daily, weekly and monthly list would be a great idea, since some things are done daily and others are not done as often.

The next day I read this article about how couples are using Google spreadsheets or other apps and "chore charts" to strengthen their marriage and lessen the conflict that can come from disagreeing on chores. I loved the idea that not only do you mark that you have done the task, but that the other partner writes a thank you note or acknowledges your work in the column next to your initials. As the article notes, "recording what each person does around the house can make you realize you're not actually doing everything." 

Couple kissing in the kitchen

This article mentioned that having shared lists for things like household tasks "allows couples to save in-person time for talking about the really meaningful time." How true is that though? It might take a few months to get the hang of and to get a good routine down, just like setting up a budget that works, but as time goes on, you'll have a good idea of who is doing what and can add tasks to the list as they need to be done, leaving more time to talk to connect and strengthen your relationship. I know that our relationship would flourish even more if we weren't spending any of the precious moments that we have together talking about who is going to do which tasks and when they are going to get done.

P.S. The Dating Divas put together this amazing Spring Cleaning Kit {affiliate link} that will help you get your house in tip top shape and keep it clean all year round! The files are completely editable so you can make them fit your family's needs while still maintaining the look of the printable that The Divas put together. I'm really excited to start using it in our home!

How do you tackle and divide household responsibilities in your marriage?

Household responsibilities can become a dividing factor for couples. Here are three ways you can tackle chores together and strengthen your marriage instead.

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.