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A funny thing happens to marriages after you start a family. Romance becomes less of a priority. You get lost in diapers and feedings and then chasing and teaching, appointments and activities. Our roles as “man and wife” can get put on the backburner when we become “Mom” and “Dad.”
But it’s crucial that we don’t neglect our marriages while we’re raising our kids. Someday your kids will move out and you’ll be left alone with your husband again. You don’t want to be strangers when that happens. Plus, making your relationship a priority will prevent many difficulties in your home and set a good example for your children.
Here are some tips to have a strong marriage after having kids:
1. Talk about the Past
When you’ve been together for a long time, it’s easy to forget the butterfly feeling you had when you first started dating. But it’s fun to remember it (and maybe even rekindle it!) by talking about when you first started dating. Remember what you felt when you first saw your husband. Talk about your feelings going into that first date. Think about how nervous you were, or how you decided what to wear, or what your thoughts were afterward. Talk about the funny moments, the romantic moments, and even the awkward ones.
You can also talk about the proposal, wedding planning, your honeymoon, moving in together, or any other favorite memories.
Bringing yourself back to these times reminds you of who you are as a couple and not just as parents. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love being Mom and Dad, but that you value your relationship outside of those roles.
2. Think Win-Win
This tip might sound a little like “compromise” but it’s better than that, I promise. In your marriage, try to think in terms of Win-Win rather than Win-Lose. When one spouse wants something and the other doesn’t, it can feel like you’re at two opposing ends of a rope, each tugging on your side until one of you wins. When one side concedes, they lose and the other wins.
Instead, try to think of your spouse and you on the same side of the rope and your problem on the opposite end. You are working together to pull. You’re not against each other, you’re a team. And you won’t consider your problem solved until it’s solved in a way that benefits both parties. Sometimes that solution may look like a “compromise” (where each of you concedes a bit) and sometimes it may call for more creativity, where you keep coming up with different solutions until one of them looks like a “win” to both of you.
The biggest point here is that you recognize that you and your spouse are on the same side. You are fighting not for yourselves, but for each other.
There may be times when you feel like the best solution to a problem is to give up what you want and do what your spouse wants. Selfless love is a beautiful thing. I would never talk you out of that. However, make sure that you’re not going to harbor resentment and later use this situation to win future arguments. Because that’s not really selfless at all, is it?
3. Listen. Really Listen.
When you’re talking to your spouse (or anyone for that matter), are you listening? Like REALLY listening? Meaning that you are looking in their eyes (not away or at your phone) and you’re trying to truly understand what they’re saying? Your mind isn’t thinking about what you’re going to say next? Stephen Covey, author The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this “listening without the intent to reply” and “striving to understand before being understood.”
We are all guilty of being bad listeners at times. But we can get better with practice and determination. Try to get really curious about what your spouse has to say. When they’re talking, ask related questions and dig deeper. If something doesn’t make sense to you, ask for their thought process. Doing this will help you to know your spouse better, and they’ll appreciate your effort.
4. Gross the Kids Out By Being Affectionate.
This one’s for your kids as much as it is for you. Studies have shown the kids grow up feeling more secure when they have parents who are affectionate to one another. If your children see you and your husband hugging, kissing, or even rubbing each other’s backs– even if they act like they’re grossed out– it’s a sign that all is right with their world.
Physical affection also strengthens your bond with your spouse, lowers your blood pressure, and releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone.”
Affection is also free, takes no extra time, and has no downside. So, try to make showing your spouse affection a priority every day.
Don’t miss this related post: Do This One Thing to Improve Your Marriage
5. Study Each Other.
This might be my favorite tip because it’s directly impacted my marriage in a huge way. Study each other like your life depends on it (because your marriage just might)! Part of this process is self-discovery. Take some personality tests and learn more about what makes you tick. The more you understand about yourself, the better. Once you start learning about your spouse’s personality, you’ll start to understand your differences and relate to each other in a whole new way.
Here’s an example: If one of you is more extroverted and the other is introverted, you’ll recharge in completely different ways. The extroverted spouse might feel refreshed after spending time with other people, while the introverted spouse requires time alone to feel their best. If you don’t understand one another’s needs, you’ll constantly fight over these issues. But when you understand that you both need different things and neither one is “wrong”–it’s just how you’re wired– you’ll be better equipped to handle any problem.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in my marriage came after I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you haven’t read it or you don’t know what I mean when I say “love language,” you need to check it out. The premise is that there are five different love languages in which we express and receive love. Many of the problems we experience in our relationships is a result of a lack of translation.
For example, my love language is “acts of service.” Nothing speaks love to me more than coming home to a clean house. But my husband’s love language is physical touch. If I wasn’t aware of this, then I might try to express my love to him by doing things around the house, when that isn’t how he receives love.
To ensure that your spouse feels the love you want to express, you need to give it to them in a way they can receive it. This starts with knowing their love language and then learning to “speak” it if it isn’t one that comes naturally to you.
The five love languages are acts of service, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, and gifts. You can read more about the love languages and take a quiz to discover yours at 5lovelanguages.com.
Enneagram and Myers-Briggs
Enneagram and Myers-Briggs are personality typing systems. I won’t go too far into them in this post, but I encourage you to do your research. Take the assessments, learn about your own personality profiles, and then ask your husband to take them too.
Since diving into these systems, I’ve learned that I am a Type 9 (Enneagram) and INFP (Myers-Briggs), which has helped me to understand more about myself and how I deal with conflict, how I recharge, and how I relate to others. For example, Type 9’s core desire is for inner peace and they will do almost anything to avoid conflict, including pushing their own needs aside. If I didn’t recognize this about myself, it could be a source of conflict in the future. But since I’m aware of it, I can address it and prevent future problems.
My husband is a Type 5. He deals with conflict by researching everything. Although I’m sometimes annoyed that he’s on his phone so much, I’ve realized that he needs to be free to research any and everything. (As a result, he’s a great source for random information!) If didn’t realize that this is how he’s wired, it would continue to be a source of frustration in our marriage. But since I know research is important to him, it’s no longer a problem.
After you know your types, you’ll probably be able to find some posts about your personality types working together. Ben and I enjoy reading posts about Type 9 and Types 5 relationships. These posts provide extra insight that is usual for understanding our differences.
6. Work on Yourself!
Be committed to your own personal growth. You can’t control your spouse, but you can make sure that you’re learning, growing, and maturing. If you’re a Christian, devote yourself to your faith. As you grow closer to God, you’ll grow closer to your husband too.
I spend time reading my Bible most mornings, as well as praying and exercising. I also read a lot of books relating to personal growth (you can find all my favorites the Recommended Reading section). As I grow as a person, I become a better wife and mom too.
I hope you find these tips helpful and that your marriage grows stronger year after year!
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