Love, Family

8 Essential Ways Busy Parents MUST Reconnect (Thank Us Later)

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Most of us have heard of the so-called "child-centered marriage", where a couple focuses most of their time, energy and affection on their kids and very little on each other. Of course, those of us with kids at home know that the little darlings are demanding creatures, and prioritizing our relationship is often easier said than done.

Still, I've worked with too many couples who — once that nest is empty — find that they've neglected their relationship for so long that their partnership and passion for each other have seriously waned. That’s a sad thing. It’s heartbreaking to see a couple who has devoted so much time and emotion to raising great kids face divorce at a time when they should want to enjoy their newfound freedom.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can put your relationship “on hold” until the kids are gone. Instead, practice these eight ways to take your marriage “off hold” right now, and keep it alive and well throughout the various stages of your life together:

1. Indulge Your Adult Tastes  

Many parents fall into the rut where every movie and meal revolves around their kids’ preferences. Some parents even feel guilty when they want to watch or eat something their kids don’t like. Trust me, it’s fine to leave the kids with a sitter so you can catch an R-rated movie or dine at a restaurant that doesn’t have a clown painted on the walls.

2. Romance Your Partner   

Whether it’s flowers, spontaneous embraces, flirtatious winks or admiring looks, make sure your partner knows that you desire him or her and that the spark is still there. Model what a loving, long-term romantic partnership looks like for your kids.

3. Fan The Flames Of Passion   

Make sure you’re saving enough time and energy for regular sex. Focus on your partner’s pleasure as well as your own, and try to bring variety into the bedroom. If you’re the partner who always initiates, ask your spouse what you can do (or stop doing) to spark his or her interest. If you rarely initiate, take the lead and do so. (It means more than you think.)

4. Respect Your Partner As A Person 

Your spouse isn’t just a husband or wife and father or mother. Your spouse is a unique individual. Help your spouse find time to pursue his or her interests, socialize with friends or have alone time (and don’t guilt-trip him or her for doing so).   

5. Nourish Your Partnership 

Marriage and family life take teamwork. Work together in all things — from housework to financial planning. Parent as a united front, keeping disagreements behind closed doors. Show appreciation for your partner and praise him or her in front of your kids. If your partner has a complaint about your relationship, listen with an open mind and heart. At the same time, express your own complaints with respect, love and humility.

6. Put Technology In Its Place  

Put your smartphone in a drawer when you get home and make sure Facebook doesn’t replace face-to-face conversation. Nothing is more annoying (or hurtful) than being ignored by partner who's forever texting, posting or updating something. Unplug and reconnect with those who matter. Plus, technology is often the starting point of serious disconnect and trust issues in a relationship.

7. Stay Attractive To Your Partner   

Eating well, staying reasonably fit and dressing nicely doesn’t just keep us looking good for our partner, it keeps us feeling good about ourselves, too. But attraction goes beyond appearance. It’s also about behavior. A spouse who's easygoing, supportive and good-natured is more attractive than one who's short-tempered, negative or self-centered.

8. Think About The Past, Present And Future

Revisit old pictures to remember the good times and establish roots. (A sense of shared history is important.) At the same time, live in the moment and realize that this amazing time in your life — when you and your kids all live under the same roof — will pass faster than you think. Finally, have a shared vision of your future together. It will remind you that life and marriage go on even after the kids have moved on.  

Check out Debra's book: Couples In Crisis: Overcoming Affairs & Opposite-Sex Friendships.

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