Is your marriage everything you ever hoped it could
be? Or has it been pushed down your list of priorities since having
children? Let's face it, parenthood is a full-time job, and it
dramatically changes your marriage relationship. But marriage is the
foundation upon which your entire family is structured. If your
marriage is strong, your whole family will be strong; your life will
be more peaceful, you'll be a better parent, and you'll, quite
simply, have more fun in your life.
Make a commitment
To create or maintain a strong marriage you will have
to take the first critical step: You must be willing to put time,
effort and thought into your marriage. When I made this statement
during a lecture, one woman spoke up. She had a quiet voice, but she
spoke with determination, "Elizabeth, I hear you, and I know
what you say is right. But I have three preschoolers! I work part
time, do all my own housework, cooking, and laundry. I just don't
have any more energy at the end of the day to "work" on my marriage."
I noticed that several other women in the room were
nodding their heads as she spoke and they waited for my response.
"I certainly understand! I have four children and my own
business, I know how busy life can be. But let me ask you one vital
question: how would you like to have three preschoolers, work part
time, do your own housework, cooking, and laundry, and do it all as a
single mother? Because if you take care of everything else, and
neglect your marriage, that's what could happen."
Suddenly every mother who nodded a minute ago was
looking at me with wide eyes. The thought that their marriage, which
was at the very bottom of their priority list, could be in jeopardy,
hit them very hard. I noticed that I now had the complete attention
of several of the fathers who earlier had been seemed lost in their
Let's take another look at the commitment statement
mentioned earlier. You must be willing to put time, effort and
thought into your marriage. The ideas that follow will help you
follow through on this commitment and will put new life and meaning
into your marriage. A wonderful thing may happen. You may fall in
love with your spouse all over again. In addition, your children will
greatly benefit from your stronger relationship. Children feel secure
when they know that Mom and Dad love each other-particularly in
today's world, where 50 percent of marriages end in divorce; half of
your children's friends have gone, or are going through a divorce; or
maybe it's your kids who have survived a divorce and are now living
in a new family arrangement. Your children need daily proof that
their family life is stable and predictable. When you make a
commitment to your marriage, your children will feel the difference.
No, they won't suffer from neglect! They'll blossom when your
marriage-and their homelife-is thriving.
So here's my challenge to you. Read the following
suggestions and apply them in your marriage for the next 30 days.
Then evaluate your marriage, and I guarantee you'll both be happier.
Look for the good, overlook the bad
You married this person for many good reasons. Your
partner has many wonderful qualities. Your first step in adding
sizzle to your marriage is to look for the good and overlook the bad.
Make it a habit to ignore the little annoying things -
dirty socks on the floor, a day-old coffee cup on the counter, worn
out flannel pajamas, an inelegant burp at the dinner table - and
choose instead to search for those things that make you smile: the
way he rolls on the floor with the baby; the fact that she made your
favorite cookies, the peace in knowing someone so well that you can
wear your worn out flannels or burp at the table.
Give two compliments every day
Now that you've committed to seeing the good in your
partner, it's time to say it! This is a golden key to your mate's
heart. Our world is so full of negative input, and we so rarely get
compliments from other people. When we do get a compliment, it not
only makes us feel great about ourselves, it actually makes us feel
great about the person giving the compliment! Think about it! When
your honey says, "You're the best. I'm so glad I married
you." It not only makes you feel loved, it makes you feel more loving.
Compliments are easy to give and they're free.
Compliments are powerful; you just have to make the effort to say
them. Anything works: "Dinner was great, you make my favorite
sauce." "Thanks for picking up the cleaning. It was very
thoughtful, you saved me a trip." "That sweater looks great
That may sound funny to you, but think about it. How
many times do you see -- or experience -- partners treating each
other in impolite, harsh ways that they'd never even treat a friend?
Sometimes we take our partners for granted and unintentionally
display rudeness. As the saying goes, if you have a choice between
being right and being nice, just choose to be nice. Or to put this in
the wise words of Bambi's friend Thumper, the bunny rabbit -"If
you can't say somethin' nice don't say nothin' at all."
Pick your battles
How often have you heard this advice in relation to
parenting? This is great advice for child-rearing-and it's great
advice to follow in your marriage as well. In any human relationship
there will be disagreement and conflict. The key here is to decide
which issues are worth pursuing and which are better off ignored. By
doing this, you'll find much less negative energy between you.
From now on, anytime you feel annoyed, take a minute
to examine the issue at hand, and ask yourself a few questions.
"How important is this?" "Is this worth picking a
fight over?" "What would be the benefit of choosing this
battle versus letting it go?"
The 60 second cuddle
You can often identify a newly married couple just by
how much they touch each other - holding hands, sitting close,
touching arms, kissing - just as you can spot an
"oldly-married" couple by how little they touch. Mothers,
in particular, often have less need for physical contact with their
partners because their babies and young children provide so much
opportunity for touch and cuddling that day's end finds them
"touched fulfilled". So here's a simple reminder: make the
effort to touch your spouse more often. A pat, a hug, a kiss, a
shoulder massage - the good feeling it produces for both of you far
outweighs the effort.
Here's the deal: Whenever you've been apart make it a
rule that you will take just 60 seconds to cuddle, touch and connect.
This can be addictive! If you follow this advice soon you'll find
yourselves touching each other more often, and increasing the
romantic aspect of your relationship.
Spend more time talking to and listening to your partner.
I don't mean, "Remember to pick up Jimmy's soccer
uniform." Or "I have a PTA meeting tonight." Rather,
get into the habit of sharing your thoughts about what you read in
the paper, what you watch on TV, your hopes, your dreams, your
concerns. Take a special interest in those things that your spouse is
interested in and ask questions. And then listen to the answers.
Spend time with your spouse
It can be very difficult for your marriage to thrive
if you spend all your time being "Mommy" and
"Daddy". You need to spend regular time as
"Husband" and "Wife". This doesn't mean you have
to take a two-week vacation in Hawaii. (Although that might be nice,
too!) Just take small daily snippets of time when you can enjoy
uninterrupted conversation, or even just quiet companionship, without
a baby on your hip, a child tugging your shirtsleeve or a teenager
begging for the car keys. A daily morning walk around the block or a
shared cup of tea after all the children are in bed might work
wonders to re-connect you to each other. And yes, it's quite fine to
talk about your children when you're spending your time together,
because, after all, your children are one of the most important
connections you have in your relationship.
When you and your spouse regularly connect in a way
that nurtures your relationship, you may find a renewed love between
you, as well as a refreshed vigor that will allow you to be a better,
more loving parent. You owe it to yourself - and to your kids - to
nurture your relationship.
So take my challenge and use these ideas for the next
30 days. And watch your marriage take on a whole new glow.