The last 5 months have been an absolute whirlwind for our family: transitioning into new businesses, moving across the country (and into my parent’s house temporarily), juggling the needs of two little people, building a house, and grooming the perfect Fantasy Football team, it’s been easy lately to let the stress of change and life creep into our marriage. We’re fortunate in that we have spent almost every moment together for the past 4 years: we work together, travel together, play together, we’re always together. But even while spending every waking second together; it’s easy to let the humdrum of every day grind on our relationship. These are my top 7 ways to stay connected to your husband:
1.Have a common interest or hobby you both enjoy
As I’ve talked about before, we both love football. We make it a point to watch games together, send each other articles about our teams or Fantasy players, and have fun teasing each other about disappointments or victories shared during the season. Whatever your thing is, just make sure you have one. Spending time together working or parenting isn’t the same as spending time partaking in a common interest. We spend so much time together in high-stress situations that we could easily forget how amazingly fun and entertaining the other is! We are reminded of the fun, lighter version of each other when we get to participate in things that don’t seem like work—unless it’s the week that we are playing each other in Fantasy Football. That week probably seems a lot like work to Keith as he has to pretend to not be happy about stomping my team into the ground.
2. Speak (and think) highly of each other
I completely believe in the power of positive thinking. I wake up each morning and actively choose to think the best of Keith. Even if we’ve had a rough night with the baby the night before, or haven’t had the greatest week together. I choose to REMEMBER that he really is loving and caring and generous with his time but that he’s also HUMAN. I also never, ever speak negatively of him to my friends or family. If he does something that annoys me and I choose to tell others about it, they will remember his fault long after I’ve forgotten: that’s what people do. It’s not fair to Keith or our marriage if our friends/families are holding a grudge against him he doesn’t even know existed. When I get to tell my girlfriends about a sweet gesture Keith made or send my granny a picture of him with our babies, I get to relive the mushy feelings all over again, falling more in love each step of the way. We, of course, have disagreements and don’t see eye to eye on everything all the time- we’re both incredibly opinionated, hard headed people, but we choose our battles, only delving into issues that actually have an impact on our lives and relationship.
3. Communicate. Then over-communicate
For us at least, the majority of our frustrations aren’t what has been said, but what hasn’t been. In the hustle and bustle or every day, conversations are left unspoken because it’s just too busy, inconvenient, or heavy to bring up. Keith and I have adjoining offices and we have missed opportunities for communication all day long so I really can’t imagine how couples who don’t spend all day together ever get this down. There are at least a dozen times during the day when I think to myself “oh, make sure you remind Keith that picture day is tomorrow”, “Ask Keith if he’s heard back from the insurance guy”, etc. without actually communicating these thoughts or questions out loud. Then, at some point when I convince myself that I have actually had these conversations…confusion abounds. I’m trying to make a point to have a mini-meeting with Keith about any work projects or house building questions I have before he leaves to pick the babies up from day care. It’s a good time of day to draw the line from “work” to “home” and to get anything I’ve thought about during the day resolved before the babies come home. This also seems to work well because we can wrap up our work day smoothly before we switch our brains off for the evening. (Note: Keith’s brain is never actually switched off from work but he loves me and understands that I will probably need a refresher the next day if he chooses to get into heavy work talk past 1 glass of wine) If we have a conversation that gets interrupted by bath time or a phone call, we make a point to come back to it to get final resolution for each other. This kind of communication strategy that requires “meetings” with your spouse might seem strange, but for our schedules, and sanity, it seems to be the best route to ensure we get everything wrapped up nicely.
4. Let them be a parent, too
Our kids are SO lucky to have two parents who are completely obsessed with them. There isn’t one thing that I do for our babies that Keith doesn’t do. Well, I do buy all of their clothes…but that’s only because I’m extremely particular about their wardrobe while he would put them both in Tennessee t-shirts (Go Vols) until they left for college. Oh, and Keith is the only parent who cuts their nails- I clipped Annabelle’s wick when she was 5 weeks old- it was the most awful thing EVER- and have never been brave enough to try again. Other than those two things, though, we are both pretty capable of doing this gig on our own. But we don’t. I don’t tell him when I think he’s being too strict on Annabelle for not eating yet another homemade dinner and he doesn’t tell me when he thinks I should just put Graham down and make him play on his own (as opposed to be carrying him around on my hip until he’s 15). We let each other handle our babies the best way each of us know how because we understand that we really only want and will do what we believe is best for them. I love watching Keith play with and teach our babies new things and every time I take the time to notice what a truly great daddy he is, I fall in love with him a little bit more. Moms seem to have control issues more frequently than Dads (though I’ve known some hyper critical Daddys too) when it comes to handling their babies. I’m not sure if this is because they spend more time with the kids or have an idea that their husbands can’t provide the same level of care for their kids. If you have a husband who is willing to get in there and change diapers, feed a 10 month-old pureed nastiness, or play with them, does it really matter if he’s not doing it EXACTLY how you would? NO! It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if the baby’s clothes don’t match. It doesn’t matter if baby food is on the ceiling. It doesn’t matter if the toy room is a disaster at the end of playtime. What matters is that the father of your children is involved, around, and loving them in his own way. Step away from the control panel and let them be a parent! It’s SO nice to be able to split duty and it will encourage them to help MORE because they have the freedom to do it in their own way without fear of ridicule at each turn.
5. Take a trip down memory lane
If you really want to get your feels flowing, try pulling out your wedding pictures. Any time I bring out pictures that remind me of our beginning, I get a little fuzzy inside. If you get caught in a rough patch, try getting your partner to talk about some of the best memories they have of you. Then switch sides and do the same for them. A lot of bruised feelings can be healed by remembering where you started, looking back at how far you’ve come, and reminding each other that you still want to keep going on this journey together for all the years to come.
6. BE TOGETHER.
Our lives are FILLED with distractions. As I sit writing this I have a TV on in the other room, two computer monitors displaying online shopping, Facebook, and Word, am carrying on a text conversation with my aunt (Hey, Jess J), and am listening to Keith on the phone with the bank…this to say, it is HARD to just be quiet with someone. It’s especially hard to tune the world out when you’re super annoyed with your husband and it’s Real Housewives night on Bravo. But I really think it’s so, so important to take a break from reading or watching TV in bed to really be together for a few minutes each night, recap the day, and enjoy each other. If you don’t have schedules that allow you to go to bed at the same time, try getting up together or catching 5-10 minutes when you are in the same place to have your quiet time. A small time investment up front will pay you back tenfold every time.
7. Pray Together
A cord of three strands is not easily broken. I know that when I am feeling further from Keith, it’s because I’m really pushing further from God. Drawing close to Him brings me closer to Keith. I pray for Keith as part of my own, unspoken prayers, of course but the connectivity of praying together and over each other, our children, our family, is unparalleled. Revealing wishes and prayers to each other through prayer is the most intimate part of any relationship and is a reminder that no matter what roles we play in each other’s lives, we are God’s children first.
There are SO many more ways to get back on track with your loved one. The important thing is that you both continue on the same path, together. Don’t forget: the grass is always greener where you water it.