The best gift you can give your children is not 50 hours a week spent in soccer practice. It is not technology, which will help them succeed in school. It is not the right address or the right school chosen to help them make important social connections, which will make a difference later in life.
The best gift you can give your children is parents who stay married.
Even when the children are grown and gone, your intact marriage will help them. Notice I didn’t say you needed to be happily married. There will be times in your marriage that are not happy.
So, how do you do that? It is easy to let the children take up all your time. But your marriage needs time just for the two of you. This together time needs to be protected from the demands of your children. It’s not a date if you spend most of your time together discussing your children. Here are some tips (pick and choose, adapt, or use these as a springboard to create your own list) to help you re-connect with your spouse:
- If possible, sign up for a class together. Consider yoga or a cooking class. Perhaps you would like to learn Italian together, and then go out for pasta. Sign up for a fun class, in other words, not a class on parenting, or home improvement, unless you just love home improvement.
- Develop a private, shared joke just between the two of you. Don’t let the children in on it, no matter how much they beg.
- Go on a short trip together if possible. It could just be overnight. Perhaps you could return the favor for a parent who invited your child for a sleepover.
- Simply touch your spouse in a gentle, tender way. Husbands, brush your wife’s hair away from her face. Wives, lean your head on your husband’s shoulder.
- Ask questions that let your spouse know you would like to learn more about him/her. For example, what’s your favorite____? Or what was your favorite activity in the 6th grade?
- Get serious about building in some relaxing time at home. Put the kids to bed and share a glass of wine at the end of the day. Don’t talk about stuff you need to get done, or schedules, etc. Go outside. Look at the sunset. Snuggle.
- If you are furiously angry with your spouse most of the time, ask yourself why. The first thing that pops up may be “He doesn’t spend enough time with the children”, or “She has let herself go”, or something like that. Okay. Dig a little deeper. And then ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. Your spouse is not a combination of the mother you never had and Santa Claus. (S)he’s just a person, complete with faults. Practice looking at the good things about your spouse. When you feel ready, tell your spouse what you appreciate about him/her. This will go a long way toward reconnecting and rebuilding your marriage. Maybe he doesn’t spend enough time with the children, but you can appreciate how hard he works to support his family. Maybe she has gained weight, but you love her sense of humor.
Pay attention to your marriage. Feed it and take care of it. Even if it appears dead, there could be new life under the surface which could surprise you.