When I first met my husband, Ben, in January of 2010 (we were BABIES!!), I knew that he could very well be the one that I would marry. I didn’t know what adventures we would have in store for us though! We have lived in Florida, West Virginia, Florida again, and now Ohio. We’ve gone through some trying times with health issues, bought our first house, and have had both good and bad times financially. There are days where we get on each other’s nerves and days where we can’t get enough of each other. One of the biggest joys AND the biggest trials of our marriage has been our 3 little munchkins.
Everyone who has children knows that there’s a shift in a marriage that happens once you have kids. I thought today I would share some things I have learned about how to make a marriage thriving, full of joy, love, and life… after kids.
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1. Marriage Comes First
Have you heard the saying “A babysitter is cheaper than a divorce lawyer”? While we don’t have date nights as often as we would like (mainly because I don’t have the energy to change out of my mom uniform of being a hot mess), we have date nights in frequently. Some of our favorite things to do are relax on our patio, watch a movie, cook together, or play games.
We also go on vacation without our children and while we miss them (SO much!!), we make some of our best memories. Nothing else can help us refresh and focus on each other like having several days in a row of not having to take care of anyone. We wake up in the morning, whenever we want! Meals are luxurious without cutting up food into small pieces and securing bibs around necks. When we are on vacation we truly relax and enjoy each other’s company.
2. Give Yourself a Pass
Putting your marriage first is hard, right?? When you have people that literally depend on you to survive, you can’t always do it. Sometimes you need to put your children first and give yourselves a pass. When our girls were in the NICU, we certainly weren’t planning date nights and surprises for each other. When they came home from the hospital and had to eat every 3 hours round the clock, and we also had a two-year-old to care for, we were not saying “Honey, you relax and I’ll wash the dishes!” No, it was more like “I’ll wash the bottles while you put Theo to bed, then I’ll pump while you prepare the bottles for the nighttime feedings, then we’ll both feed the girls and then sleep for 45 minutes before we do it again.”
For the first several months after our twins were born, we didn’t focus on our marriage, and that was OK. We knew it was the season we were in, and not to take things personally. Since then, we have been able to shift our focus back to our marriage.
3. Be Kind, Even When You Don’t Want To
We had heard the statistics that divorce rate is higher among parents of multiples, and I absolutely can see why. During the newborn phase when we gave ourselves a pass on putting our marriage first, we weren’t just complete jerks to each other. We really focused on letting things go and showing each other kindness. It was a season where we literally couldn’t put each other first, we were sleep deprived and the littlest thing could set us off. While we tried not to snap and scream at each other for little things, it definitely happened a few times; we’re not perfect over here. When it did happen, the other person (would try!!) to understand and not be offended.
The few times I snapped and Ben responded in kindness really opened my eyes to what true love looks like. True love isn’t flowers and picnics; it isn’t pretty jewelry and scratch made desserts; True love is when your wife screams at you for something absolutely ludicrous, and you put your pride aside and forgive her before she’s even done screaming. It isn’t screaming back, even when someone is totally out of line. True love is being kind,
even when, especially when, you don’t want to. It’s realizing that this crazy person screaming at you really does love you, but they have a temporary lapse in judgment due to lack of sleep (or children being crazy, or a long day at work, etc.). We’re human, and we’re allowed to not be perfect. My husband always responding in kindness makes me in turn apologize profusely (when I’ve come to my senses), and it makes me want to be kind the next time he does something ridiculous.
With twins and a toddler, we find ourselves in many situations that are pure chaos. We have two choices: we can cry together or we can laugh together. We choose the latter… and then drink wine and eat chocolate after they’ve gone to bed. Circumstances that would have totally stressed us out when we first had kids, we have learned to laugh at. I mean, sometimes it’s pretty ridiculous the things our children do. A few weeks ago, everyone was overtired and all 3 had total meltdowns. I mean screaming, throwing their bodies at mommy, pushing and shoving the others out of the way kind of meltdown. It was SO LOUD; I met my husband’s eyes above the flying limbs and fistfuls of hair being grabbed and we couldn’t help but burst into laughter.
5. Know Your Spouse’s Love Language
We read The 5 Love Languages when we were engaged. Since having children, our love languages have changed, which is very important to realize. Words of affirmation is one of my husband’s love languages, while mine is quality time. One of our favorite things to do is let the kids play outside after dinner. We sit on the patio with a glass of wine and watch them play and frolic through the yard. That’s enough for me! It’s quality time! Recently, I have been telling him that, since words mean so much to him. I’ll say simple things such as “These are my favorite moments,” “I love our life together and would choose it again every day,” or “sitting with you here is everything I’ve ever wanted.”
6. Take Care of Whoever Needs it the Most
This winter, I became really worn out. As parents, it is easy to be martyrs. We give and give and give, take care of everyone else until we are so burnt out that we are useless and grumpy. Surely I’m not alone! I wrote this post on self-care back in March, and have been trying really hard to take better care of myself. If I’ve had a terrible day with the kids and am on the verge of a breakdown when my husband gets home, I’ll retreat to our bedroom with a facemask, book, and some music to drown out the insanity.
Sounds perfect, right?? But what about my husband? What if he worked from 7-5, got home close to 6, is exhausted himself, and starving? I can’t just leave him with the kids and disappear. We’ve learned to communicate with each other and figure out who is closer to defeat. Then we do what we can to build each other up!
It’s been 6 amazing years, and I would do it all over again! I love the life that we’ve built together. Happy Anniversary, my love!