One constant that never changes in our family is that we are busy. No matter the time of year, we are a busy family. Matt works long hours and has a lot of work commitments that extend beyond the typical 9-5 workday. The kids have multiple extracurricular activities and sports that require practices and lessons and games every week. It’s a lot. Matt and I are often tag teaming with the kids- he’ll be running to pick one up from something while I’m rushing to get another one somewhere on time. The evenings are spent helping with homework, supervising showers, nagging kids to do chores….you know the routine.
It can be difficult to find time for a marriage when your kids seem to take up every minute of your day. You have to make time. You have to find ways to connect with each other, to talk, to put each other first. I know how hard it is- I’m exhausted by 8pm and the last thing I want some days is another person needing my time and attention. But it’s important. We’ve been married for 17 years and throughout that time we’ve found some things that work for us to help keep our marriage strong despite how busy our lives get.
6 Tips To Help Keep A Marriage Strong
1. Enforce bedtime for your kids. This is a relatively new rule in our house. In general we’ve been pretty lax about enforcing bedtime over the years. We’re fortunate to have a late start school which means Ty bus doesn’t come until 8:45 and I don’t leave to drop off Maia and Mase until 9:05. So it wasn’t unusual for the kids to be up until 9:45-10pm even on school nights because they slept until after 8:30. This year we’re trying something new. Zoey and Mase are in bed at 8pm, Maia is in her room at 8pm and lights out by 8:30. Ty is in his room by 8:30 and lights out by 10pm. Matt and I have a solid 3 hours at night all to ourselves. It’s awesome!
2. Plan cheap at-home date nights. So many of the marriage articles make a point of having a regular date night. In our house that just is not feasible. We have 5 kids, folks- even though only 4 of them technically live with us full time it would still cost us over $80 for a babysitter just for us to go out for dinner and maybe a movie. Then we still have to pay for that dinner and movie. That is just not in our budget right now. So we plan date nights at home. We might rent a movie from Redbox, grab some take out for dinner and a bottle of wine and after the kids go to bed we have a date. The phones and computer get turned off and we spend those couple of hours reconnecting.
3. Go ahead and go to bed angry. I know, sounds wrong doesn’t it? Some of the advice I got as a newly married woman was to never go to bed angry. Then a wise older woman who had recently celebrated her 50th anniversary let me know differently and she made sense. Sometimes it better to go to bed angry rather than say something in the heat of the moment that you will regret later. Also, and this happens quite a bit in my own marriage, things that seem like a big deal at 11pm seem rather insignificant in the morning after a good night’s sleep. If we have an argument that is not being resolved we table it until the next day. If we still feel like it’s something we need to resolve the next day then we continue the discussion. Often whatever it was has blown over and we just move on. Not every argument needs a winner.
4. Take time for yourself. A couple of nights a week I like to sneak off and read a book in a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine. Even if I only get half an hour, it helps me recharge. Matt likes to work out by himself- it helps him relax and de-stress. We give each other the space and time to do our own things. He does a guys night about once a month with his friends and I do a girls night out with my friends too. Sometimes a little time apart keeps you close.
5. Find some shared interests. I’m assuming you have shared interests with your spouse, after all your married them. For us, we share a love of sports. We are huge football fanatics. We never miss a NASCAR race (Go #48- shut up Rob). We live for college basketball (Go Duke). We also share a love of music and a serious passion for movies. Point is, there are a whole bunch of things we like to do together and we always have fun together- even if his team is kicking my team’s butt.
6. Don’t keep score. Another gem of advice I got early in my marriage. Marriage is not a basketball game. There is no winner but if you keep score there will be a loser. Matt and I work very well together in the management of our household. Never once have I heard him mention working all day and then coming home and pitching in around the house. He just does it and he does it because he knows it helps me out.
7. Don’t hold a grudge. The quickest way to poison your marriage is to hold a grudge. When we have an argument, we resolve it and move on. It does not get brought up again a month later in another argument. It’s not used as ammunition to win a disagreement. If I find myself needing to bring up something that happened before then I know there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Otherwise- leave the past in the past.
These are just a few of the ways we try to keep our marriage strong while managing life in a busy family. Because let’s face it- without a strong foundation our family would flounder. And our marriage is that strong foundation. I want to set a good example of marriage for my kids. How do you keep your marriage strong?