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Maintaining your marriage after kids

Posted: January 14, 2014 12:57 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2014 12:57 p.m.

Parents need to put their marriage first if they want it to survive after the birth of a child, experts say.

 

My son is the light of my life. I never believed in love at first sight until the nurse laid him in my arms just minutes after he was born. Appropriately enough, it was Valentine's Day. But having a child also has its attendant challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining a romantic relationship with my husband.

Our schedule is now almost entirely dictated by the sleeping schedule, eating schedule and fussiness of our son. So how do you keep that flame of passion alight once children enter the picture? Is it even possible? The answer is yes, of course, it will just take a little more planning than it once did.

1. Be intentionally personal
Telling each other, "I love you," followed by a swift peck a couple times a day will not be enough to keep the romance alive. You'll need to intentionally do things to show your spouse that he or she is the most important thing in your life. One husband gave his wife a jar for Valentine's Day labeled, "1,000 Reasons Why I Love Her." His wife said it was the best gift she ever received.

2. Speak each other's love languages
The 5 Love Languages is a best-selling book by author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman. It describes five different ways people like to have love shown to them: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts and quality time. It also comes with a test, available for free online, that readers can take to reveal their own love languages. If you're serious about coming up with new or more ways to show one another you care, take this test and then tailor your actions to your spouse's love languages.

3. Make eye contact
I didn't realize it until lately that my husband and I rarely are able to talk face-to-face. We always have a squalling baby, a noisy television or a sink full of dishes in the way when we talk. If this sounds like you, try this exercise: stare into each other's eyes for two minutes. That's all. A 1989 study asked complete strangers to do just this, and they found "in some cases, [eye contact] was enough to produce passionate feelings for each other." This seemingly inexplicable reaction occurs because "when you look someone directly in the eyes the body produces [a] chemical called phenylethylamine," a chemical which makes people feel love.

4. Put each other first
Most of the time, your kids will take all your attention. But remember to save a little of that attention and energy for your spouse. David Code, a family coach and author of To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First, said, "It's a myth that the more attention we give our kids, the better they'll turn out. We seem to be marrying our kids instead of our spouses because we find it easier to be with our kids than our partners." Your spouse should come first in your life and as your relationship improves, so to will your relationship with your children.
Being married isn't easy. If it was the U.S. divorce rate wouldn't be so high. But it can be made beautiful and enriching and exhilarating if you take the time to maintain it, even after the advent of children.

Katie Nielsen is an adjunct English faculty member at Brigham Young University - Idaho and mother of one. Contact her at nielsen.katiec@gmail.com. Copyright 2014 Deseret Digital Media Inc.

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