Today’s couple is often pulled in dozens of directions daily, and that leaves little time or energy for each other. But, not taking that time for each other is a big part of the downfall of many marriages. One-third of divorces occur within the first year of the birth of the couple’s first child, and part of the problem is the drastically changing lifestyle of the couple and lack of communication during the critical time.
There are commitments that all couples can make to each other, no matter whether they have children or not, in order to keep their marriage healthy, happy and intimate. First, communication is vital for a good relationship. One of the biggest problems is couples not communicating early enough. They should talk daily, expressing their feelings appreciation and love for their spouses- at least 20 minutes a day. It is also a good idea to take couples communication classes if you feel you are lacking in that area.
Remember the critical five of relationships: love, affection, encouragement, fun, respect. You have to structure time for each other into your day, especially when you have children. A lot of wives tell us that they don’t want to have to ask for hugs or help, but they should ask if they are going to get what they need. Each weekend should include couple time, alone.
Mothers/wives have to be careful not to get so wrapped up in their children that their romantic lives, and other parts of their lives lose balance. We also need time alone. Men and women in relationships also have to have alone time, down time. When I was Director of the Parenting Center I worked with thousands of moms. In classes I would ask them what things frustrated them in their family lives, what they would improve upon if they could, what their needs were that were not being met; I did sort of a needs assessment over time with the moms. One thing that surfaced over and over was that they needed time on weekends to recharge, alone time, or time with other moms; to relax, de-stress, pamper themselves, talk with other females (a support group), have fun. They voiced that their husbands did this on weekends, or even weeks, without asking; they just did it. They played golf all day, or all weekend, went on golfing weekends, or hunting/fishing weekends; went on weeklong retreats, etc. The women said the only getaways that they had were shopping, or an hour at the spa. The shopping thing is not good for the pocket book and really is not “fulfilling”.
Women were amazed that their partners would just do it, but that the women felt they must ask to have alone time, extended alone time. Someone had to get babysitters, etc. The men never thought of this. So a discussion women must have with their partners is that for every weekend they go away for themselves, the woman gets equal time alone.
After research we discovered that there are not many opportunities for moms to get away and enrich themselves in south Louisiana. There is a popular week long religious retreat for men, for not for women, etc. Every summer we take our kids to “summer camp” for a week, walk around and are jealous of what we see: the beauty of the outdoors, games, ropes courses, talking about values, leadership, the buddy system, singing, water, bonfires, s’mores, someone feeding them, hanging out with other kids, making new friends… but no camps for moms. So I set up a “Mom’s Camp.” A group of moms went to a hotel for a weekend, next to a golf course. We set up “workshops” (discussion groups), parenting classes, fun and games, went on long walks, swam, talked, had someone feed us, nurtured each other, made new friends; brought in “mini” spa treatments: had our hair done, manicures, pedicures, massages. Each woman had her own room, for alone time. They brought books and read. The rooms were equipped with candles, bubble bath, music. Most women can’t afford to go to Montana for a weekend $1,000 retreat/spa weekend. So we had to make it affordable. It was wonderful. This society is not structured to do this for women. We need more of this. Women need to just do it, and not ask. We must nurture ourselves; take care of ourselves.
There are four stages of problems among couples: resistance, resentment, rejection, repression. By the time repression has been reached most relationships cannot be saved. We must notice when resistance and resentment rise up and start some serious discussions, or get help. But just as important is to have fun, talk, touch, laugh, have intimacy, say positive things and do positive things to make your marriage strong: to ask yourself each day, “What can I do to make my marriage better, and myself better as a partner?”.