Be aware and accept that relationships change when you have children. This can come a as a shock. It’s very important not to go totally into the roles of mum and dad, and to retain an adult connection.
- I recommend that couples spend at least two hours a week outside the home – not necessarily on expensive nights out – an ice cream or coffee in the park will do. Don’t talk about kids or work; talk about music, film, or holidays – the subjects you discussed when you first met. Connect on an adult-to-adult basis and recharge your batteries.
- Don’t forget the things you used to do for one another before kids came along. Perhaps you’d buy your partner a bar of his favourite chocolate, or he’d pick up a copy of a magazine you liked. It could be as simple as making each other a cup of tea in the morning or sending a caring text. We can make the mistake of assuming that because adults are grown up, they can take care of themselves emotionally, but we all need to be nurtured.
- Your tastes and energy levels may change when you become parents – you may not be able to go rock climbing together at weekends any more! Readjust your ideas of fun things you can still do together. Come up with six plans that involve interaction. Perhaps you could pack up and go on a trip to the coast, or go out to see a film and discuss it afterwards, then do at least one of these a month. One couple I counselled pulled an idea from a hat every couple of weeks to keep things fresh and exciting.
The biggest challenge for most couples with a family is creating quality time without the children and the 1001 things-long ’to do’ list. Most couples trip up because they think it has to be a big chunk of time and because they can’t manage that they don’t do anything at all. In fact, even three minutes of heartfelt connection can make a universe of a difference to the day ahead, how you feel about each other and how much energy this gives you to cope with the demands of the day.
- Make a quality connection. Either upon waking or as you get into bed at night, set your mobile phone timer for 3 minutes and turn to face each other and take a moment to close your eyes and focus on a memory of a good time together, then open your eyes and look at your partner while holding that memory in your heart. Keep eye contact for the whole 3 minutes without breaking it even for a second and stay silent.
- Gratitude. It’s the language of love and a little bit goes a long way. Upon waking or when you go to bed take a moment to look at each other, take three breaths and give three gratitudes to each other. They can be big or small – from “Thank you for taking the bins out this morning”, to “I am still happy after all these years that I married you, even with the ups and downs.” Simple little things expressed genuinely.
- Physical loving touch. Commit to having three, non-sexual, non-verbal hugs per day that last for at least a minute, and do this for three days