When I was pregnant for the first time, people were quick to remind me that I needed to take care of myself. New babies were needy and it would be easy to forget that I had needs, too. This was overwhelmingly true. I protected my own physical and emotional health with frequent showers, daily runs, and a stash of York Peppermint Patties and Diet Pepsi. I was prepared to take care of my own health, but I was ill-equipped for the toll that kids would have on my marriage. Marriage after kids requires a new set of tools in the back pocket. Peppermint Patties weren’t going to cut it.
For months after my son’s arrival, my husband and I lived like roommates who happened to share a bed when we weren’t sleeping on the nursery floor. Our conversations were limited to what we were having for dinner, whose turn it was to rock the baby to sleep, and when we’d next have the chance to sleep or shower. When we recognized how our marriage was suffering, we adopted these three habits to ensure the continued health of our marriage.
1. Daily Conversation and Prayer
I’ve committed to a 10 p.m. bedtime most nights and I do everything in my power to make sure it happens. To guarantee that we have enough time to talk and pray before I go to bed, I set an alarm that goes off every night at 9. After I get ready for bed, we pray and share anything on our hearts that day. We discuss our lives, prayer intentions, and whatever we need to get off our chests. This daily practice is probably the single most important activity for the health of our marriage. It only takes a few minutes a night but it single-handedly changed our marriage for the better.
2. Weekly Date Nights
Every Saturday night is date night at our house. And I literally mean at our house. We get out for a “real” date night, such as for dinner at a restaurant, once every few months. We indulge in a full “dinner and a movie” date once or twice a year. But we have in-house date nights every weekend. I make a separate dinner for us after the kids go to bed and we watch a movie or a few episodes of a favorite TV show while we eat dinner and dessert. After a long week, it’s the perfect way to relax, unwind, and reconnect as a couple. This habit does take effort. Both of us have had to rearrange schedules or opt out of social events. But we both believe our marriage must be a priority in our lives.
3. Occasional Acts of Kindness
This might be my personal favorite method for maintaining a healthy marriage after kids (and really, before kids, too). I have a handful of random acts of kindness that I periodically use to show my husband how much I love him. I’ll randomly bake him cookies, buy him a chocolate-frosted donut, or wash the dinner dishes (which is usually his chore). I also send unexpected text messages to remind him that I love him. Andrew really appreciates these acts of kindness and they reignite the spark when either of us is feeling a little disconnected. Nothing reminds you of the love you have for your husband like a thoughtful little sacrifice.
What simple things do you do to keep your marriage on track?