I won’t mince words here: marriage can be freaking HARD. Sure, in the beginning it’s easy to keep the spark alive while everything is still new and you don’t have little miniature humans running around. But throw parenting on top of marriage and it’s a million times harder … and often your spouse takes the backseat.
I am a mother to three little girls: I have twin 4-year-olds and a 1-year-old. My husband and I have been married for 6 years (together for 10). I also work nights as a Labor & Delivery nurse. So while I’m no expert, and 10 years is not an eternity, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of the chaos of juggling marriage, motherhood, and everything in between.
I think as mothers our first instinct is usually to think: “We have babies now! Little ones to care for! Shouldn’t that be our first priority?” Let me to challenge you, though, and say no. Because if you keep your spouse your first priority, the rest of your family life tends to run SO much more smoothly. So how can you love your spouse well and keep that spark alive?
Here are 8 tips that work for us:
1. Expect it to be hard.
Expectations are so important. You simply cannot expect your marriage to look like The Brady Bunch, because that just doesn’t happen. Know that you are both constantly learning and growing and evolving. And that’s okay. You are not the same person today that you were 5 years ago, nor that you will be in 10 years. So you will not have the same needs, and neither will your spouse.
Be willing to adapt and change and learn about your significant other. Every day you have another chance to be a better wife. Don’t waste it. If you didn’t do so great yesterday (and we ALL have those days), know that today is a new day. Love is a choice, so choose to love your spouse well.
2. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong and apologize.
I will admit, I am STILL bad at this. It’s not an easy thing to admit that you lost your temper, or that you were wrong, or that you yelled, or whatever it might be. Parenting involves a lot of sleepless nights. You will be tired, depleted, and at the end of your rope. Our first instinct is often to take it out on the one closest to us. But once you’ve had time to cool off and think it over, whether it’s the next day or even a week later, it’s so important to say sorry. Your spouse will appreciate it so much.
3. Date Nights!!
You have GOT to get time away from kids, together. And don’t just hope it’s going to happen on its own. You have to schedule it! Weekly would be amazing if you can swing it, but if not, then at least once or twice a month. Find a babysitter or a family member and make. it. happen. Try a new restaurant, go bowling, putt-putt, shopping, try something you’ve both never done. ANYTHING. Just get away and remind each other why you fell in love in the first place.
To take it to another level, if you can schedule one trip away together every year that is even better! I know not everyone can afford that, but even if you send the kids to the grandparents and have a staycation, you and your marriage will be better because of it!
4. Mom’s Night Out.
I know this seems counterintuitive. I’m talking about how to improve your marriage and telling you to spend time away from your spouse. But, you have got to fill your own cup! Sometimes time away with other mamas or friends can fill you up and relate to you in ways your spouse can’t. You need to find your tribe! While motherhood is definitely one of the most amazing things us Mamas have ever done, it can also be isolating if you don’t make a point to find mom friends! I tell my girlfriends all the time, just take the plunge and say hi! Likely, those other mamas around you at Chick-Fil-A want genuine mom friends just as much as you do! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Or if that sounds insane to you, find one of the millions of mom groups on Facebook or Instagram. I have found some of my best friends over social media. Most groups have meet-ups. Go to one, meet your tribe, and schedule time out with those girlfriends! Trust me, you will be a better mama AND wife because of it.
5. I’m just going to say it because we all know it’s true. Have more sex!
I know it can be embarrassing to talk about and I’ll admit I’m blushing while I write this…but we all know how important this is to most men (and a lot of women, too!). It’s true that after you have a baby, even up to a year after, a lot of people don’t feel ready. You might still be healing from your delivery and with hormonal changes things just don’t work the same as they used to! Let me put my nurse’s hat on for a second and say: if it hurts, don’t be afraid to ask your OB-GYN doctor about it. Likely, they can help. But, if you simply don’t feel like it, hear me out. After ten years with my amazing husband I have learned this: the more you do it, the more you want to do it! Try it! And be OPEN with your spouse, tell them how you’re feeling or why you don’t feel like doing it so they aren’t in the dark. I found especially when I was in the postpartum phase, the more open I was with Dusty the more understanding he was and he gave me as much time as I needed.
6. Ask for help.
This goes for marriage AND motherhood. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Motherhood is not meant to be tackled alone. It truly takes a village, so don’t let yourself drown. We all have busy periods and when my twins were newborns, I was asking for help left and right.Have someone come over and watch the baby so you can sleep. If someone offers to bring dinner, let them!
Also, ask for advice! Find women who are more experienced in marriage and motherhood and ask them what worked for them. Most people are more than happy to share their experiences and someday you’ll be able to do the same for someone else.
7. Make a list of what you love about your spouse and why you are grateful for them.
Something about the act of writing it down and seeing it on paper, helps you remember what made you fall in love with them in the first place. You will find a whole new appreciation for them and remember how you can’t imagine doing life without them. After you make it, consider giving it to them! Imagine how good that would make you feel. Gratitude is everything and you HAVE to look for it! Another way to do this is to send random texts or leave notes for your spouse letting them know how much you love them or that their butt looks good! Anytime Dusty does this for me it makes my day, and literally only takes a few seconds to do.
8. You and your spouse are a TEAM! It’s you two against the world.
This is SO important. If you approach big decisions, problems, new territory, and challenges TOGETHER it will seem much less daunting. Also, you should never tolerate friends that put down their spouse. That is a slippery slope that you don’t want to get involved in. You would be so hurt to hear your spouse talking bad about you to his friends so make sure you are never in a situation where you would find yourself doing that. Now remember, give yourself grace. My marriage is far from perfect and likely yours is too. You ARE going to have fights and bad days. Just remember you are a team, take it on together and be willing to improve. You got this, girl!