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Put Your Spouse Ahead of Your Kids

Put Your Spouse Ahead of Your Kids

When I was first dating Ryan, he was my whole world. I thought about him all day long. I would count down the minutes until our next date or phone call. We got engaged and later married, and he was my first priority. I wanted to spend all my time with him, do nice things for him, and make sure he felt important (because he was). He did the same for me.

Then we had kids.

I knew nothing about babies. As a teenager I hadn't done much babysitting for kids younger than 3, and I was pretty young when my own sister was born, so I really had no experience with newborns or babies. To say I was a mess when our first baby arrived would be quite an understatement. I had no clue what I was doing. I felt like a disaster and a failure.

When our baby was born, my OBGYN told us that when we came for our 6-week postpartum checkup he would ask if we had gone on a Date Night during that time. He told us that was our assignment. At some point in those first 6 weeks, we needed to go on a Date Night without the baby.

I laughed at him. I really did. Date Night had never been a problem for us. In fact, almost every night was Date Night before we had a baby! 

But the truth is we struggled to get that Date Night in before that 6-week checkup. Rather, I struggled to get that Date Night in. I didn't understand the importance of making sure my husband was getting my time. I didn't realize then that I needed to purposefully position him and our marriage as my #1 priority, even over our children.

I learned my lesson when we finally went on that Date Night. It felt so good to laugh together and focus on each other. It was a huge relief to get a break from a baby crying. We reconnected, and I remembered why I love being married to him. 

Since then, Date Night has been an important part of our marriage success. Yes, there are times that the children need us, and their needs at times must come first. Yes, there are times when too many days go by between Date Nights. But, getting time alone with each other, without children, is a vital part of our marriage. We make each other our #1 priority. We have five children now, and after they all leave home one day, we'll be left with just each other. I don't want to wake up after the kids are gone and realize I don't even know my husband. I want to prioritize him every day to keep our marriage strong.

I spoke about this topic on a podcast episode with Modern Twin Mom, Sunit Suchdev. I'd love for you to listen in as we discuss the importance of prioritizing your marriage over kids. Click here to tune in. It's Episode 3.

Ryan and Carrie Sharpe
Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying connected with your spouse while having small children in the home can be a major challenge for many couples. Often one or both of you is working full-time, or staying at home with the kids (which is tons of work), and the sheer physical exhaustion from caring for the home and kids can leave you feeling disconnected from your spouse.

So how does a couple with young children in the home stay connected?

First, you need to have the right mindset.

Accept the phase of life you are in, and realize that it is a phase.

Often I have become very frustrated about the challenges of staying connected with my husband during this time in our marriage. What has helped me, though, is to recognize that this is a phase, and that it does get easier over time.

    Now that our daughter is slightly older, it is easier to do some of the things that were more difficult when she was an infant and toddler.

    So keep in mind, first of all, that this phase of life will change. And recognize that there may be things you WANT to do as a married couple that are just not possible right now. Instead of wishing the time away, do your best to enjoy the phase you are in currently, and try not to become resentful of the demands that young children place on you and your spouse.

    Prioritize your marriage.

    Although the phase of having young children in the house may mean that life will look different than at other times in your marriage, it also is a very good idea to prioritize your marriage.

      As a couple, you need to decide that you will make your marriage a priority. It is often said that many divorces take place once the children are grown and moved out the house. Why? Because the married couple didn’t stay connected while the kids were living at home. They focused so much on the children and their needs that they lost their identity as a married couple.

      If you want to avoid this, then you must mentally make the decision that your marriage will come first-- before your relationship with your children.

      Once you’ve accepted the phase of life you are in, and you’ve made a decision to prioritize your marriage, it’s time to begin putting into action some steps to stay connected as a couple.

      Here are a few strategies that have worked really well for me and my husband:

      1. Date Nights. I am a firm believer that having a regular date night--even when the children are young--is absolutely essential to staying connected and maintaining your communication.

        My husband and I often attempt to have conversations around the house. I say attempt because we are inevitably interrupted by our 7-year-old, who loves to talk non-stop. We have learned that it’s basically pointless to try and discuss anything of importance when she is awake.

        I'm sure we're not alone in this situation. That's why date nights are so essential. Having a specific time when you go out together allows you to have a full conversation without being constantly interrupted or having to run and change a diaper, get someone a drink, or clean up puke.

        In our marriage, Saturday nights are reserved for each other. Once a month we go out, and the other Saturday nights we do something together at home. After our daughter is in bed, we make an effort to talk, play a game, watch a movie, or do something else that helps us stay connected.

        Having this time reserved for date night--whether at home or out and about--allows us to look forward to that time together where we are not dealing with other responsibilities. 

        2. Weekly Meeting. Okay, this one is not as exciting or sexy as date nights. But it can be very beneficial.

          My husband and I have often run into challenges over our schedules. He works part-time as a pastor at our church and runs his own business. I homeschool our daughter and run my own business as well.

          So, very often, there are events, plans, and situations that arise on one of our schedules that affects the other person. However, sometimes we do not communicate about these things until the last minute. For me, last minute communication about events equals stress.

          So this year, we began touching base once a week about our upcoming events and schedules. Our goal is to sit down once a week and review the next week’s schedule. We discuss any changes outside of the normal routine. We talk about whether either one of us will be doing an activity with friends, or if there is a date night to plan, or a church activity going on.

          This also is a time when we often discuss how we are doing in terms of our own needs and our needs as a couple. These conversations have helped us to stay connected and stay on the same page about our marriage and our family life.

          3. Show Appreciation. The years of raising young children are incredibly demanding on both parents. There are sleepless nights, loads and loads of laundry, bills to pay, and mouths to feed. Especially when the kids are too young to really help out, and all they do is make a mess-- this can be emotionally and physically exhausting.

            That’s why it is SO important, during these years, to show appreciation to your spouse for what they do.

            It is very easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to do that you neglect to notice what your spouse is doing. This happened with me and my husband after our daughter was born, and we both ended up feeling unappreciated and unloved.

            It took a couple years of feeling very frustrated in our marriage and finally going to therapy to realize that lack of appreciation was a major cause of our unhappiness.

            I also realized that I needed to change my attitude towards my husband in order to improve our marriage. I needed to begin recognizing what he WAS doing for our marriage instead of focusing on what he wasn't doing.

            So taking the time to notice, and appreciate, the little things your spouse does is vitally important to staying connected. When you feel appreciated, you are more likely to feel connected to your spouse.

            4. Schedule Sex. Often, in the midst of raising young children, your physical intimacy as a married couple can suffer. In the busyness of life, sometimes having sex becomes an item on your long list of “to-dos” instead of an important aspect of your relationship.

              But maintaining your physical intimacy is vital to the health of your marriage. It may seem strange, but scheduling sex can truly help to keep that connection healthy. Rather than just waiting for the right moment to happen--which, let’s face it, with kids around, is unlikely to take place--you can take control of this as a couple and actually plan it.

              I first heard of this idea at a marriage retreat that my husband and I attended, and then I’ve heard it a few other times from other couples and on podcasts. My husband and I have implemented this practice and it has helped us to stay connected even during challenging times in our lives.

              5. Have fun together. Humor and laughter in a relationship is truly beneficial to maintaining a strong connection.

                During the times that have been the most difficult in my marriage, I have noticed that we have not had very much fun together. On the other hand, when we are doing things we enjoy together and having fun, we tend to be more connected emotionally as well.

                So make an effort to do fun things that you both enjoy! Sometimes these can be the simplest of activities, but they can produce great amounts of joy.

                A few ideas: Play a board game together, either as a couple or as a family. Play a sport outside together-- kick a soccer ball around, play a game of toss, or badmiton, or go for a bike ride. These activities often result in laughter and fun naturally.

                Allow yourselves to be silly. Some of me and my husband’s funniest moments are late at night, when we are both exhausted, but we just start laughing and making crazy jokes. It can be a fun way to end a day if you are able to laugh together.

                Staying connected as a couple while you have small children running about is challenging, but not impossible. If you have the right mindset, and you put some simple habits into place, you are likely to see improvements in your relationship.


                 

                Esther LittlefieldEsther Littlefield is a feisty pastor’s wife to her husband, Scott, and mom to her spirited daughter, KJ. They live in Maine where they enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible in the midst of homeschooling, business, and church life. In her free time, you’d probably find her with a cup of coffee, a good friend, and a sink full of dishes. Esther is the founder of WellnessMomLife, helping moms balance marriage, motherhood, and ministry by caring for their personal, physical, spiritual, and relational wellness. Please visit her blog at www.wellnessmomlife.com, and join her FREE 5-Day Better Attitude Marriage Challenge. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

                Mistakes Wives Make

                Mistakes Wives Make

                In our previous article, Ryan wrote 10 Mistakes Husbands Make, so we decided to follow it up with this article discussing the most common mistakes made by wives.

                Here are the top 5 mistakes wives make:

                1.

                2.

                3.

                4.

                5.

                There aren't any! That's right... wives don't make mistakes.

                Anything that goes wrong in a marriage is clearly the fault of the husband!

                Just kidding.

                We work with couples all the time, and we see a few issues over and over again. These are not true of all wives, of course, but they are the most common ones we see.

                Lack of Communication

                Many times, wives think they're communicating just fine, but when we dig down deeper we find bitterness, resentment, grudges, and unexpressed issues. A wife will tell us a whole litany of things that are going wrong in her marriage, but when we ask if she's talked to her husband about it, she looks like a deer in the headlights. Sometimes she's talked so much about the issue with everyone except her husband she doesn't even realize she hasn't talked to him.

                Ladies, we absolutely have to get good at talking to our husbands. 

                When an issue arises, we need to be lovingly honest and tell him.

                If he doesn't hear it the first time, tell him again. And again. And again, until he hears it, understands it, and acts on it. Do not stop communicating.

                I'm not talking about nagging him. Nagging is not an effective form of communication. The sound of nagging is like nails on a chalkboard. Instead, sit down with your husband without distractions, and be direct about whatever the issue is. Be kind, respectful, and polite, but be honest and direct.

                Afterward, show grace and let it go. 

                Lack of Respect

                Men need respect, even in the middle of a time when they have screwed up big time. In fact, that's probably a time when they need it most. In those instances, your husband is probably already doubting himself and needs to be built up. Men need respect like women need unconditional love. If you don't believe me, there's a whole book about it called Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. All couples should read that book.

                Nothing good gets accomplished when wives treat their husbands with disrespect.

                Screaming at him, embarrassing him in public, telling his secrets, scolding him, treating him like a child, or questioning his abilities all show disrespect. None of those things will make your marriage better and could tear it apart instead.

                Your husband probably married you because of the way you made him feel about himself. Back when you were just dating, you probably made him feel like the king of your life. He relies so much on you for his self-worth, so be gentle and respectful.

                Your words are powerful. Use them wisely.

                Lack of Interest

                Many wives get so busy with children or with their careers that their marriage gets put on the backburner. Obviously, this isn't just the fault of the wife, and husbands can be just as guilty, but it's definitely an issue we see in couples we've worked with. Most times, it's not intentional.

                Let's face it, ladies... we're busy.

                We're busy driving kids around. We're busy paying bills. We're busy writing books and baking cakes and doing laundry. We're busy with work and with church and with volunteering. By the end of the day, we're completely exhausted.

                If we aren't careful, our busy-ness can translate into lack of interest in our husbands.

                Husbands and wives alike need to make their marriage a priority. Your marriage is important, so you need to intentionally make time for it.

                Schedule a date night or a weekend getaway. Go for lunch together on a weekday. Fill a thermos with coffee, go for a drive, and have a coffee break with some beautiful scenery. Show your spouse you care by spending time together.

                Time = Love. 

                Turn it Around

                If any of these issues resonate with you, turn it around. Identify the areas in your marriage that need improvement, discuss them honestly with your spouse, and then make the necessary corrections. It's never too late to make your marriage everything you want it to be.