My wife and I recently went to a counselor for a little tune-up on our communication skills.
With two little ones running around the house, we needed it. Our marriage is strong and we have a solid foundation, but sometimes our communication slips among the demands of chores, cooking, and raising our children. We needed a communication refresher.
The counselor reminded us that a marriage is like the roof of a house and everything underneath it is protected by the marriage. Therefore, if the marriage falls apart, everything underneath it will also likely fall apart. The analogy means that mom and dad need to make time for each other, each day, every day. If the marriage is strong and thriving, the children will thrive and feel secure in the home.
There are many ways to work on your marriage and each couple knows how best to communicate with their spouse. One option is to find a therapist to work with you. The goal is to understand that sometimes our communication gets out of whack as we focus on our children and their needs, forgetting about our own or our partners'.
Here are a few ideas to explore if you need a communication refresher like we did.
1. Remember the love.
List ten things that you love about the other person and share the list with your spouse. Take some time to come up with a few ideas and really examine the depth of your love for the person sharing your life.
2. Make time.
Try to find at least 30 uninterrupted minutes each day to spend with your spouse. No kids, no television, no cell phones — just quality time to talk, play a game, or sit and enjoy a glass of wine.
3. Date nights/days.
Possibly the best thing you and your spouse can do is take a break from your role as parents and reconnect with your roles as husband and wife. Date nights can be costly — hiring a sitter, going to dinner, etc. — but even just a few hours to window shop or browse in a bookstore can help breathe new life into your relationship.
4. Write it down.
With all the demands on us there simply isn't enough time to deal each issue as it arises. Don't sweep your feelings under the rug, however. If the issue is important enough, take a moment to write down a few notes so you can discuss it with your spouse later.
5. Be demonstrative.
This is a must every day. Give your spouse a kiss or a hug, especially in front of the children. It will help show your kids how a strong relationship works and give you and your spouse time to connect multiple times a day.
6. Time out.
We all know about putting our children in time out. However, this time out is for the adults. When you and your spouse are having difficulty communicating, use an agreed-upon time out sign to take a break in your conversation if things get overheated. You can finish your conversation once the kids are in bed or once things cool down.
7. Be private.
We all know the triggers that set off our spouse. It's common sense to avoid using those triggers in front of your children. When there's an issue in your marriage, try your best to keep it from interfering with your relationship with your children. Discuss issues away from the children.
8. Get away.
Each year try to build a short getaway into your calendar for you and your spouse. This doesn't have to be outrageously expensive — you can even stay in a hotel a town or two away. You also have to find a patient and trustworthy family member or babysitter to spend a few days with your children. Focus on your marriage — get back to enjoying the things that made you fall in love in the first place.
Bottom line, maintaining your relationship with your wife or husband takes time and effort. But it is the most important work you will ever do.