When I first met my wife I found it easy to make her happy. We were both hopelessly in love, feeling giddy when we saw each other, not wanting to put the phone down at the end of telephone calls. I would tear open the letters she’d send me, in eager anticipation of reading how great I was in her eyes and then enjoy, the satisfaction of, writing some beautiful words back. Now, 15 years later, in contrast I find it easier to make her unhappy and feel pain. I’m more likely to feel giddy from staying up after 9pm, I can never find my mobile to call her when I should and have pretty much forgotten how to write with a pen!
I have found that as time goes on, keeping our love alive just feels like hard work. It’s taken me a while to realise this and to admit that it’s okay to say that. It’s okay for me to say out loud, “LOVING EACH OTHER IS HARD WORK!” The problem is, nowadays, most people clear off at the thought of hard work.When I first met my wife I found it easy to make her happy. We were both hopelessly in love, feeling giddy when we saw each other, not wanting to put the phone down at the end of telephone calls (“No, you go first”, “No, you go first..”). I would tear open the letters she’d send me, in eager anticipation of reading how great I was in her eyes and then enjoy, the satisfaction of, writing some beautiful words back.
In the early years (before marriage) I was the kind of man who would prefer to poke my eyes out with a blunt knife than dig deep into my heart and express my feelings. So it has been a steep, but necessary, learning curve to learn to ask my wife about her feelings. On top of that, we now have 4 kids, aged between 13 and 3 years old. The fact I’m still married, proves to me that I have learnt one or two things along the way about striving for a healthy relationship. I thought I’d offer some things I’ve learnt along the way:
One. Affection in front of the kids
Not being afraid to show affection in front of our kids. I’m not talking about playing tongue tennis at the dinner table but hug and kiss whenever you want. I have one daughter that just about gags every time I hold my wife’s hand and one that tries to get between us whenever we hug. If one of the kids makes a comment, tell them it’s because you love each other and they’ll understand one day. Believe me, they will.
Two. Conflict resolution in front of the kids
We try not to argue in front of the kids. It’s healthy to disagree and to model to your kids how to maturely resolve conflict. However, if you find you’re not going to resolve it there and then, both decide to talk about it later on and call a truce. It doesn’t help anyone to see or hear parents shouting at each other. They’ll think its okay to shout to win an argument.
Three. What goes on in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom
Get a lock for the bedroom door. The excuse of ‘Mummy and Daddy were just playing doctors and nurses’ soon wears thin on a 12 yr old and needlessly causes decades of nightmares!
Four. Family night
We have a weekly family night. If our kids feel loved and part of a strong family unit, they will be much happier to see their parents get a night together too once a week.
Five. Date night
We have a weekly date night together. Go anywhere as long as it’s together. Me and my wife once spent a date night in our car outside our house (and no we didn’t, if you’re wondering!). It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any money. Go for a walk, go for a drive, go anywhere.
Six. Kids’ date night
I take our kids on regular dates. I take my 3 daughters on dates and my son on (what he likes to call) ‘Dudes Club’. Get in the habit of getting one on one time with every member of your family and talking about their days and weeks. It will help your family and help your marriage as you learn to communicate and connect.
Seven. Say Sorry
Sorry I haven’t been able to say it’s been easy working at our marriage. But it’s definitely worth it, for our sake and our kids.