Keeping the spark alive when you have young children
When life gets in the way and your romance feels a little stale, a few tools can get you out of a relationship rut.
Finding time for yourselves can feel like an impossible task for busy parents. Between work, getting kids to school and a laundry list of extracurriculars, you’re likely pulled in a dozen directions. Add in household responsibilities, and it may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
“We have our day-to-day routines and other responsibilities that soak up our energies,” says Lynne Gallagher, LCSW, clinical psychiatry specialist at Geisinger. “It’s easy to fall into a slump and not prioritize one another.”
If your last hot date was with the back of your eyelids instead of your partner, don’t despair. With a bit of help, you can reignite your connection and strengthen your relationship.
1. Learn your partner’s love language
Love languages are unique ways we can express or receive love. The 5 love languages are:
- Acts of service
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
“Taking time to learn your partner’s love language and communicating your own desires allows each of you to have your needs met,” says Ms. Gallagher.
A simple “I’m grateful for everything you do for us” might not seem like much, but it can make your partner feel seen and appreciated.
2. Date each other
Dating your spouse lets them know they’re a priority. It doesn’t mean you have to plan a big night out. A few minutes to take a walk together or a night in with takeout and conversation can help strengthen your bond. If you’re looking for a traditional date night, hire a babysitter or call on a helpful relative to watch the children. Then enjoy some uninterrupted time together.
Tackle a new activity like ice skating or a paint night to keep things interesting. Or visit a new restaurant you’ve both wanted to try.
3. Pack on the PDA
It’s normal as a parent to feel “touched out.”
“If you have young children crawling on you or commanding your attention, the last thing on your mind might be physical intimacy,” Ms. Gallagher says. To reinforce a closer connection to your spouse, be more affectionate in subtle ways.
Try these ideas to get started:
- Hold hands when you sit on the couch
- Let hello and goodbye kisses linger
- Put your arm around your partner
- Rub their shoulders when they’re cooking
- Send them a flirty text message
4. Schedule sex
Has physical intimacy fallen by the wayside? Add it to the calendar to put it back into your routine. By scheduling it, you’re more likely to commit. And having a date for time together gives you and your partner something to look forward to.
5. Put your phones down
It’s easy to sit with your phone and mindlessly scroll, especially after a long day. You may be aware of the time spent with your head down, looking at your device. Or you might not realize you’re even doing it. Either way, make the effort to put your phones down. Start by leaving them in another room or turning them off. Use the time you’d spend scrolling to connect through conversation or quality time.
6. Ask for help
You don’t need to do everything yourself. If there’s too much on your plate, delegate it. Ask the kids to fold the laundry while you make lunches for tomorrow. Or let your partner handle this week’s grocery shopping. Divide and conquer to lighten the load and reduce your stress.
Focusing on each other helps everyone
As parents, it’s easy to put the focus on our children. “It’s important for children to learn that the parental relationship came first,” says Ms. Gallagher.
Similar to other relationships, like the ones you may have at work or with friends, your romantic relationship is no exception. By strengthening your bond with your partner, you can help your children build a strong foundation for their future relationships.
Take time for yourself, too
Besides focusing on your relationship, take time to practice some self-care. Scheduling some “me” time helps you refocus and clear your head. No matter what the activity is, give yourself a few minutes to do what you enjoy. Looking for a few ideas? Try:
- Going to the gym
- Reading a book
- Watching your favorite show
- Visiting a friend
- Devoting time to a hobby
To help yourself and your partner reenergize, Ms. Gallagher offers this advice:
“Take turns with your partner providing care so each of you can do your own thing. This will also foster the strength of the relationship as a whole.”
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