You must have heard this advice before -- “The best gift you can give your children is a strong marriage.” David Code, author of the bestselling book To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First, further reaffirms this: “Devoted parents do not produce happy children. Adults who want the best for their children should spend less time trying to be the perfect parent and more time striving to be the perfect spouse.”
And don’t we all know it. But the fact is, it’s a challenge to constantly live it out as we should. Oftentimes, when children get into the mix, especially during the early years of infancy and toddlerhood, focusing on marriage slides down in a couple’s list of priorities.
While parenthood requires most of our time and is really a full-time job, we must remember that marriage is actually the foundation of the family. A happy and peaceful marriage means a happy and peaceful family, and the happier you are in your marriage, the better parent you will be!
So how do you shift the focus back to your marriage especially when you have young children to take care of? Heed our advice:
1. Know – and speak -- your spouse’s love language. How people show their affection and how they want to receive it are not always the same, so this is where knowing your partner comes handy. Focus on your spouse’s love language (words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch). Knowing your spouse’s love language will allow you to communicate your love for him better, easier and faster.
2. Find time for each other. The best gift you can give to your spouse is undivided, focused quality time. This is the reason why date nights work. You must devote one-on-one time to your spouse on a regular basis.
Jody Liwanag, mom of three children ages 9, 8 and 2 and married for 12 years, makes it a point to keep her Wednesdays free for date nights with her husband. As an event planner, she mostly works on weekends, so finding a common time when they are both free is doubly challenging, but she keeps to their schedule. She sees it as a good time to catch up with each other’s activities and plan for the coming week, whether it’s grabbing coffee after a grocery run or a quick movie date. Make sure to spend alone time with your husband that doesn’t involve you sleeping together in the bedroom at night!
3. Make use of those golden pockets of time. Can’t go out on a date night just yet? No problem. Make use of the golden pockets of time you have after the children are asleep or just before they wake up to show each other affection – an unexpected hug or a shared cup of coffee “just because” would be nice.
This also entails going offline when you’re with your partner, so that you’re not only physically present; you’re also emotionally-invested in your time together.
4. Learn to communicate and compromise. Thea Espinosa, an IT Service Management leader and mother to three children ages 8, 3 and 1, makes sure that she and her husband talk about each other’s interests when they go out on mini-dates and save pressing issues that involve the kids ("Who will attend the parent-teacher conference?" "Mig didn’t do his assignment, can you talk to him?") for another time. She asks her husbands about his interests outside of the family – his work, hobbies or friends – and tries to discover new things about him. This helps her focus on her husband and get to know him more.
5. Don’t forget the power of intimacy. A fulfilling sex life is an important aspect of many happy marriages. Not only has it been scientifically proven to release endorphins to make one feel good and relieve stress, it also helps you feel closer and connected to your spouse.
When you have young children, it is not only emotionally draining; it is physically tiring as well, and this makes it hard to get into the mood for some romance. Still, don’t let your sex life slide. If it means foregoing a chore in order that you may have energy for intimacy with your husband, by all means do so. Dress up, and do whatever will make you feel good about yourself.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s always easier to notice the bad things than the good ones, thus it is more common for us to keep a running list of grievances against our husbands instead of the good he has done. While this can easily be aggravated by who has been taking care of the children more – who changed the diaper last or who woke up to pacify the baby in the middle of the night – reminding ourselves that we are not perfect helps put things in perspective.
Make a Commitment to Put Your Marriage First Putting your marriage before your kids can be hard as we are naturally maternal, but making small efforts and keeping to them day by day can form a good habit that will grow your marriage and benefit your family in the long run.
As Pope Francis said in his message during a meeting with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, “How many solutions are found to family problems if we take time to reflect, if we think of our husband or wife, and we dream about the good qualities they have. Don’t ever lose the memory of when you were boyfriend or girlfriend. That is very important.”