I was recently listening to the RISE Together podcast with Rachel and Dave Hollis. As I write this, I am currently running 8 miles trying to do talk to text because I have a million thoughts for this blog post. During this podcast and this especially hard run, I realized dude, I can do this this whole thing called life, this whole thing called marriage, and this whole thing called parenthood. And I tell you all of those things are the hardest but also the most beautiful things in this life.
The one thing that stuck out most to me in the podcast was how to make a relationship work with kids. There are three magic strategies they used and one I took from another book, however they may be different for everyone. The first strategy they mentioned was to come up with five core values that make the relationship work; not “values for you individually because let’s face it, in a marriage it’s the two of you together as one, not coming together individually. Sidenote, I need mega help in my relationship with my husband right now. We have 2 kids ages 1 and 3 and by the grace of God we are all still alive, but my husband and I are really only co-existing. We pass by each other in this season of life, but we aren’t growing anymore. We are drowning in the chaos of everyday life. Develop core values that make your relationship stay afloat, that make you feel happy and excited, and most importantly feel all those feelings, etc. Close your eyes, and imagine being with your husband. Where are you? What are you guys doing? Where are you going? If you recognize that your relationship is dying (and Rachel talks a lot about relationships either grow or die, nothing in between), commit to making a change and wanting this to work. Before you start anything big, try to come up with your own core values with your partner. Some of our core values are quality time with each other/making time, doing little things for each other, and treating each other how we want to be treated. They will look different for everyone.
The second thing that stood out to me was that to make a relationship work when you have kids especially is to start scheduling EVERYTHING from sex to grocery shopping. But the best advice she mentioned was to schedule a weekly review, a quarterly review, and an annual review with your partner. Make time (tapping into one of those core values for us). Owe it to yourself and your partner to make time for each other. For example, for the weekly review, I heard Rachel say that they meet every Sunday night to discuss the week: who will bring the kids to day care, who will bring the kids to school, when are we penciling in time for ourselves and time together, what should we make for dinner on Thursday etc. you get the point. For the quarterly review, check in with your partner every so often- how was the last 3-4 months? How are you? How are we? Can we do something better to help us grow? I also heard Rachel and Dave say to ask yourself if the relationship is growing or dying. Ask your partner if you think you guys are growing and trying to be the best versions of yourself. It all sounds corny, but if you are in a rut like us, hopefully you will try anything. Communication and respect goes along way and with kids and chaos that can often get lost. The annual reviews should happen once or twice a year and they don’t need to be expensive. Plan a weekend getaway with NO kids. Beg your in laws or babysitter. It’s just as important to take care of the relationship as it is to take care of yourself individually.
Another thing I learned and this wasn’t from their amazing podcast, but from the book “Five Languages of Love.” Know your partners love language. The five languages of love that Dr. Chapman talks about are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Without getting too corny and two in depth about the actual book, I have learned that every individual perceives love differently. For example, my husband speaks the love language of words of affirmation. He likes it when I tell him that he’s doing a good job, that he is a hard worker, that I appreciate him, that he is amazing, etc. However, I speak the love language quality time. I want to spend time with my husband and feel loved. I don’t want to be in the same room as we are both scrolling Instagram or Facebook. I want to know that I am a priority. I want him to schedule spontaneous date nights with no phones. I want to feel like I exist. Howie is always planning and building our future, but he often forgets the present and over the years I started to resent him. Then you add kids and the daily responsibility’s of adulthood and we just co-exist. And when we bicker, we can only see our point of view, not our partners. When you learn your partners love language, life can become much more enjoyable- start trying to speak their language and eventually it will be reciprocated. Don’t get me wrong, this is hard shit. It’s like going against the current and battling all of your reflexes, especially if you’re at a point of resentment or you feel as if you have settled. Just remember that his or her perception of love is most likely totally different than yours. Howie thinks by building a huge barn in our yard and working around the clock makes me happy because he is “securing our future,” but in reality I just want a damn minute with my husband. He can take time off of the firehouse to work on the barn, but he can’t take time off to go to therapy with me or spend some time. Of course now I go into defense mode and immediately shut down and really just give up asking. I don’t want to hear that there is no time or it needs to be planned. I want to feel like a priority. But if I can speak in his language (first- which kills me because I’m the most stubborn person on earth), then eventually he will speak in mine.
Lastly, I learned to treat your partner as a best friend first, then a husband/wife. We tend to treat our friends better than our partners most of the time. We want to go out with friends and laugh and have fun. Personally, I spent most of the time arguing about disciplining the kids, lack of sleep, who gets more time, and who will pick the kids up from daycare with Howie than anything else. It’s soul sucking and it’s exhausting. And when I am exhausted and mentally drained, I suck as a mom and I definitely suck more at being a wife.
From my own personal experience, a strategy that Howie and I are both involved in is couples therapy. Maintaining a romantic relationship/marriage while having kids, especially when they are so young can be difficult and draining. You can either be a team or you can be enemies and a lot of couples aren’t strong enough to make it through. The resentment can build up over the years as you settle with this person and the chaos and it compresses until you just can’t take it anymore. NO couple is perfect and everyone has their own shit, but if you really dig deep and ask if your relationship is growing or dying (Thank you Dave and Rachel Hollis), then you probably have a good idea where you stand in the marriage. As human beings, especially in this day and age, we are all wired to think we have to control the chaos and everything needs to be compartmentalized and perfect, but in reality, we need to learn to embrace the chaos. Life isn’t supposed to be orderly and quiet. And when you have kids, the last thing life can be is orderly and quiet. So if you recognize you need help, seek out a couples counselor; I prefer a doctor with a lot of experience because Howie and I together are fifty shades of hot mess. This can be part of your weekly review or quarterly review. Make it priority because you don’t want the relationship to drown- you want to battle the seasons of chaos together as a team.
If your relationship is worth it and you truly want to spend forever with this person, commit to speaking their language- with the expectation of it not being reciprocated. Honestly, most couples don’t speak the same language and that’s why so many couples get divorced or break up. We get on such a euphoric high in the beginning of romantic relationships that once we settle into the relationship, that in love shit goes right out the window. Treat the relationship like a person. Sounds weird, but try to treat it like you would treat yourself. Water it and let it grow. Make sure it’s growing and not dying.
I am no expert at relationships AT ALL and Howie and I need help, but join us in this journey. Don’t worry, as I type this he is downstairs in his workaholic state of mind and I am upstairs half naked in bed writing this. We have a ways to go, but I want to be a better wife and I want our relationship to grow instead of die. I have written so many blog posts on how important self-care is. Treat the relationship the same way.
Be better together. And if that’s not enough, do it for your kids. They watch how you interact and this will impact them the rest of their life. Marriage is hard ass work, but it’s worth it.