On Valentine’s Day, many of us are looking forward to a romantic dinner out with our partner, roses, chocolates, and shared conversations about how much we appreciate one another. We look forward to capturing the perfect, Instagrammable photo so the world knows how amazing our relationships are.
This is truly not the reality of how many of us with young children spend Valentine’s Day — or any other day of the year. The truth (or at least my truth) is that marriage with young children is not always easy. In fact, it’s actually quite hard.
Between my husband’s demanding career in high tech, our two toddlers who are 14 months apart, and a school-aged child who is learning to navigate friendships and manage her school work/activities, it’s fair to say that our home is often quite chaotic. As parents, it feels like we spend a lot of time putting out fires and calming the chaos.
Sometimes we do this as a team and other times our co-parenting is less than stellar which results in arguments and blaming. Additionally, there are some weeks that we feel as though we are two passing ships in the night. Our day-to-day lives are so different that we can get lost in our own worlds and forget how to connect. Whether its work or the kids, we forget to put ourselves and one another first and sometimes this results in resentment.
Does this sound familiar? If so, I have some tips to share that my husband and I learned both from reading the book Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, and from seeking guidance from a marriage counselor.
How to Create Your Couple Bubble
We learned that WE have to come first and that we have to have each other’s back. Choosing to work together as a unit versus undermining one another and building resentment was a conscious choice we had to make. We needed to better learn how each of our brains was wired so we could support one another. By understanding how the other person thinks and reacts when conflict arises, we could create our “couple bubble” so that, no matter what, we as a couple came first.
This not only helps with managing our stress with the kids but with other common coupledom intruders like work and extended family. In addition to putting our relationship first we also had to commit to the following:
- Become experts on one another. What makes one another feel good or bad?
- Create morning and/or evening rituals to stay connected.
- Put one another first when intruders try to enter (i.e. in-laws, children, too many outside commitments etc.).
- If conflict can’t be avoided, learning how to fight well.
- Make repairs quickly when fighting does occur.
- Listen to one another with eye contact.
- Remember that we are on the same team; we should not be focused on where the other may be falling short
- Date nights are crucial (we try to do this weekly).
I certainly can’t say that things are all chocolate and roses. In fact, that is quite far from the truth. However, I can say that when we commit to what we have learned and put our relationship first, we both feel more appreciated, more loved and have a greater sense of partnership. We are better able to conquer the chaos and make it a more loving environment for the entire family.