Something strange happens to a marriage when you have a child. The relationship changes drastically from lover and partner to teammate. Suddenly, you go from two love birds on a row boat in a placid lake to getting caught going down a river with rapids. You need to paddle together, steer clear of rocks, and try not to drown. And there are kids in your boat counting on you to not capsize. No pressure.
Those little spats you had about the remote control and hogging the bed pre-children seem pretty ridiculous now, am I right? Now, watching TV is such a luxury, I wouldn’t know what to do with the remove even if I had it. And the bed? I tend to pass out the second my head hits the pillow. I don’t even know how my hubs sleeps anymore. His side? My side? Who cares, we made it to bed!
This month I tried to focus on my marriage as part of the Ultimate Mom Challenge. I read a book on how to put your spouse first when there are kids in the house, and I even took a 21 day relationship challenge by a favorite author of mine, Gretchen Rubin. But I think the most empowering step towards nurturing my relationship with my husband was through our concerted effort at date nights. Just making that time was enough to fortify our bond, get us out of the house and away from the kids, and be “just” a couple again… not mom and dad.
So simple, right? But so easy to skip over, too. After all, it takes planning, hiring a babysitter, dressing up (well, changing out of yoga pants at least), leaving the kids, and staying up late. It’s a bit of effort and sometimes the idea of Netflix and PJ’s sounds just too good. But it’s worth it. It makes all the difference.
I think we can read self-help books on relationships til were blue in the face. If we’re not making the time to see each other — I mean really see — than it doesn’t matter. Which is where I totally got called out.
One of the challenges in Gretchen Rubin’s 21-day challenge was to put down your devices when you’re talking. The iPad, the phone, the laptop, or whatever. The second your spouse tries to communicate, you set it down and make eye contact. Seems easy enough, and my husband and I agreed we would make an effort. I didn’t know we were talking ALL the time though. Well, he thought so, and he called me out for it. Here’s what happened…
My husband started to talk to me and I responded without lifting my head off Facebook.
Him: I thought we were going to try to make eye contact.
Me, dumbstruck: What? I answered your question.
Him: You didn’t look up from your phone, I’m not even sure you really heard what I said.
I started out defensive. Of course I heard what he said, that’s why I answered his question. But he was right. I wasn’t playing by the new rules.
When I was preparing for this monthly challenge, I heavily debated the “Happily Married” theme. After all, this is my Ultimate Mom Challenge, not his. My husband is super supportive of me and my blog, but he has enough on his plate. Adding a monthly challenge to his list of things to tackle isn’t in the cards. But when I asked him if he was game for this topic, he said yes. I think that says a lot about him as a person and a husband. And then — calling me out for not following our agreed upon rules — just another example that this guy’s a keeper.
Marriage takes work. It’s a lifetime of work, and something one month’s challenge can’t even scratch the surface. But this month got the ball rolling, it got the conversations started, and it set forth some good new habits. I’m so glad we did this challenge together, and I can’t wait for our next date night.