Three Ways for Parents to Put Their Marriage First
Author: Alexa Ashworth – MFT, Intern
Throughout quarantine and the continued limitations of summer kids’ camps, school activities, sports, daycares, and planned vacations parents are struggling to carve out time to be with one another. Making the decision to have children already changes the dynamics between a partnership or marriage. Kids take A LOT of energy and are very good at taking up the last bit of your physical or emotional energy, especially when together at home all day. Then, add in the circumstances of COVID19, it has made parental dynamics even more challenging.
Now more than ever, parents have grown distant and it feels nearly impossible for partners to find time to connect. Quarantine has presented obstacles for parents such as creating daily routines that meet their children’s needs, laying new household ground rules, helping children with their schoolwork alongside their own work schedules, and having to replace camps with different housebound “fun” activities. The reality of parents trying to wear several hats during this time and continue to show up as their best selves for their children is incredibly difficult. This journey has been one of chaos and confusion for most parents.
If you are a parent reading this right now, I want you to know you are not alone through the frustrations and internal battle of figuring out how to balance your self-care with providing for your family’s constant needs. Several parents who I work closely with have stated over the last several months they are losing sight of their partner throughout this time in quarantine. It is as if both partners slowly started sinking into quicksand and are reaching out to hold onto one another’s hand again.
Specific personal goals or relationship goals individuals were working on prior to quarantine came to a drastic halt. It is easy to be caught in a constant state of being anxious for “what’s next” and the minute there is space to relax, emotions of one’s reality set in and make one feel lonely or flooded with sadness.
I have noticed in recent conversations with parents that there is an overarching theme of pure exhaustion and loss of self. It is time to put you and your relationship first.
I want to encourage parents that you can make your relationship a priority again and you can start picking up on those goals left behind. No better time to start connecting more intimately with your partner than now.
Keep Your Relationship Thriving and put Your Marriage First.
First and foremost, establish your marriage or relationship as the center of your family’s life.
This should be considered every morning you wake up. When your relationship is the heart of the family, your kids notice, and also follow suit in their own behaviors as they witness their parents making time to focus on the other.
It is important for children to see how their parents align with each other. It is also important for children to see their parents set time aside for one another as you would set time aside to play with them. As partners you have a beautiful opportunity to practice grace, acceptance, communicating inner truths, and loving one another more deeply in front of your children. So, start setting a boundary with your kids at home for having “mom and dad” time and start modeling what a healthy connection looks like.
Second, make sure as parents you are setting up expectations for your kids so they know your relationship is a priority.
I overheard a mother state to her children while out running errands, “Even though we are not spending this time together, I need to go to the gym right now, by myself, so I can show up as a better mom for you two”. I thought hearing the mother say this out loud was a great way to state her truth and let the kids know it is healthy to invest in yourself as an adult. It is okay for your kids to be self-sufficient and them to know you as parents also have needs that allow you to be your best self.
Just as this mother stated this about herself, as a couple, two can state something similar to their children. You can let your children know you both need quality time together and be okay letting your kids come up with activity on their own.
If your kids need more guidance, pre-plan an activity for them to do, so the two of you can focus your attention on one another. Even if it’s fifteen minutes a day you and your spouse have to be present with one another, it is fifteen minutes of feeling welcomed and wanted.
Third, you can still stir up sexual energy with kids at home.
Be creative with the time of the day you plan to arouse your partner. You can use nap times or have kids earn a special treat (like watching a movie or playing at a next-door neighbor friend’s home) so you both can have some special time. If you have grandparents or other relatives that live nearby plan for them to take your son or daughter on a date. Then you both can have a “stay at home date night”.
When we think of date nights, we often think of them as going out to dinner or getting out of the house. Sometimes it may be nice to just enjoy the company of one another in your own home with no distractions. Also, take time to kiss, hug, or squeeze one another’s hand. It is okay to show affection and flirt with one another to slow down the day and acknowledge one another as a couple.
Your kids will benefit from you working on your marriage, so continuing to tackle those relationship goals during this time that you neglected the start of quarantine. As you carve out more time to connect with one another and hold this as a boundary, your kids will get the message. Ask yourself right now what is stopping you from picking these relational goals back up? And if you feel like it is selfish to work on your marriage instead of working on your kids, know it is okay to put the relationship first. One of the best things you can do for your kids is to invest in yourself and your relationship. When the tier of the family (marriage or partnership) is secure, the rest of the family walks in this same security together.