At The Fathering Project, we get this question all the time, so we decided to ask some experts and bring you the answers.
It’s no secret that having children can put a spanner in the works and a strain on your relationship with your partner. Research finds that 92% of couples described a gradual increase in conflict after having their first baby. By the time their baby was 18 months, almost one of four couples indicated that their marriage was in distress.
Juggling your relationship, family time and spending quality time with the kids is not always an easy feat, throw work into the mix and sometimes it feels impossible. But spending quality time with your partner is crucial not only for the wellbeing of your relationship, but for yourself, your family and children.
- Get up a little earlier in the morning, before the kids are awake and have a quick chat, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Start by telling them one thing you love about them or talk about any weird or funny dreams you had. This doesn’t take long but is quality intimate sharing.
- Schedule in alone time. If you have older teenagers and they’re at the age where they understand the importance of alone time, once a month, organise a time for them to go out and stay at a friend’s place so you can have quality time together. They’ll be happy to know that they’re keeping your relationship healthy.
- Offer to look after your friend’s children and take them for the night. Most of the time the favour is usually returned!
- Make time for each other everyday, even if it’s just for 10 minutes one-on-one talking time. After you put the kids to bed, early in the morning before they wake up, cooking dinner together.
- Try not to become complacent with intimacy. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding. Your relationship, and intimacy needs to be nurtured on a regular basis. It can be easy to get stuck in the cycle of “as soon as I get back in shape” or, “now the kids are here we need to focus on them, our time will come”. Just like you might make it a habit of going to the gym, make it a habit to hug and kiss..
- Slow down and start over. If you’re noticing that it’s harder to be close and intimate, start over and establish a physical connection the same way you might have done when you were first getting to know each other. Kissing and holding each other, is a good way to start.
- Look for little ways to be nice. Express the three a’s affection, appreciation, and admiration. Even little things go a long way. Engaging in feel-good behaviour makes you want to do nice things in return.
- Handle your decision-making processes with respect. The key to marital satisfaction lies in how couples manage the decision-making process. But when babies come along, there are a lot more issues and differences of opinion to negotiate. A couple’s ability to do so with cooperation and respect can make or break the partnership.
- Hear each other out. Conflict will be inevitable, try not to immediately fire back or engage in blame, listen to each other and then respond appropriately.
- Work on issues when you’re calm. If you need to, leave it and bring the issue up again when you both feel calm. This prevents it festering and turning into something bigger over time.
- Have a weekday update. The highlight and the negative, talking about negative things allows you both to open up and understand each other and to learn about each other’s worlds. If you partner comes home in a mood, this will help you empathise and understand why.