Do you ever look at your spouse and think, “How did we get here?” or maybe, “What happened to us?” If so, you’re not alone. It’s so easy for parents, particularly those with special needs children, to get so caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle of being a mom or dad, that we forget how to be a husband or wife. We know that it’s important to be a good spouse and to try and keep our marriage healthy and thriving, it can just be very difficult when you’re already so busy and tired from working, parenting, and everything else life requires of us. So how do you keep the romance alive? What’s the secret for maintaining a happy marriage?
As it turns out, there are a number of things to consider when thinking about ways to maintain your relationship with your spouse and help find your marital bliss. Before we talk about the romance, though, let’s focus on practical things that all marriages need to remember – things like initiating and maintaining an open, clear line of communication. Communication, or lack thereof, can be the key to making or breaking any relationship. Also, be honest when you’re struggling, and try to always share the load. Encourage one another, and be mindful to extend grace when one or both of you are having a hard time. Consider setting aside specific times each day or each week to discuss the kids and the household so that your conversations aren’t always revolving around these matters.
Okay, now that we’ve reviewed practical marriage tips, let’s talk about romance and how to save or reinvigorate that spark you once felt for one another. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – you have to take time out for just the two of you. It’s so important to have alone time with just you and your spouse, however that may look. When you have such busy lives to lead and so many responsibilities to take care of, it can become so easy to put off that date night, delay that anniversary trip, give up on having quiet dinners without the kids in tow. We cannot emphasize enough how vital it is, though, to set aside that special time for just the two of you. Sometimes it can be hard, and you will likely have to be very intentional about it, but go ahead and schedule that dinner, that trip, that alone time. It will be so healthy for your relationship.
Once you have that alone time planned, you may find that you don’t know what to do with yourselves anymore. It’s common to forget how to be, just the two of you. That’s when you have to think back and try to remember how you once were together. Try to recall the person you fell in love with and all the things you used to love about them. You’re both still there, you just may have to coax one another back out a bit. It can be very helpful to try and plan new activities – something fun and exciting that you can discover together. New experiences help to create and solidify bonds, and doing something unfamiliar and maybe even a little out of your comfort zones can often make you feel like a new couple again, like the way you were in the beginning.
Speaking of planning activities, you may also want to schedule or plan your “alone time” – you know, your special bedroom time (wink). It may seem awkward or unromantic at first, but it’s far better to plan your special time together than to get so busy that you don’t have it at all. Some couples therapists recommend even going so far as to schedule a particular night every week so that you both know when to expect to have some fun, and that way, you can look forward to it together. You can also try flirting with your spouse, particularly if you know your “alone time” is coming up. Try texting them something sweet, romantic, or even a bit risque, if you’re comfortable. Reminding your spouse that you’re thinking of them, especially if it’s just a normal time of day when they may not expect you to have them on your mind, helps them to feel special and loved.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly – consider your spouse’s love language. If you’ve never read about love languages or discussed it with your spouse, I highly recommend you look it up. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate is a book by Gary Chapman. You can also find lots of information online about love languages with a simple Google search. Basically the premise is that everyone has their own particular “love language”, or ways that you experience and express love, and your love language may not be the same as your spouse’s love language. It’s important to know how your spouse feels loved so that you can try and be intentional about expressing your love to them in a way that they perceive as being loved. For example, my love language is more about hearing my spouse say out loud that they appreciate me or that I’ve done a good job, whereas quality time is my spouse’s love language for sure. Knowing this helps us each be more mindful about expressing our love in a way that speaks to their love language and not just our own.