Remember when Valentine's Day meant sweaty palms and sexy lingerie instead of Barbie chocolates and Batman valentines? Children add amazing depth to life, but can quickly alter the intimacy between partners. When children are young their needs are overwhelming. Sleep, sex, sanity and spontaneity are unfortunately often put on hold "for the sake of the children." As a result, the identity of the individual, as well as the couple, can be compromised. So much energy is devoted to the children that parents often feel there is little left for themselves and each other.
Real life, real bills, and real laundry all work against maintaining a romantic and spontaneous marriage. A relationship needs to shift in order to accommodate new parenting roles but this does not necessarily mean that intimacy be lost.
The marital relationship is the core of family life. Children model all they see including the way parents interact. Children internalize this image and call upon it later in life while "trying on" different types of romantic relationships. It is helpful to be aware of the images you project.
Relationships are hard work, but there are ways to rebuild and redefine the romantic bond between yourself and your partner.
Where To Begin
* Let go of the guilt. Children need to be aware of the separate and distinct relationship you have with your spouse. It is important for kids to understand that you value and respect the marriage. It is not enough to simply demonstrate love and affection towards the children; they need to feel the connection and comradeship in the marital bond. Even if children feel temporarily left out, it can foster their own sense of independence and autonomy.
* Set realistic expectations. Life, marriage and family are stressful. To think the neighbors have a wonderful effortless marriage is not only an illusion, it can prevent you from acknowledging the strengths within your own relationship.
* Take time for yourself. Do not just skip over this as you may have done in the past. Parents often feel selfish thinking about their own needs. You can not effectively give to others if you are not taking care of yourself. Find activities that reduce stress.
* Take time to be together. A scheduled appointment sounds ridiculous, but might be the only way to insure time together. This may feel artificial at first because parents often see their primary role as being part of a family rather than being part of a couple.
* Notice improvements and acknowledge your partners efforts. Change takes time and patience. Be gentle with yourself and your partner. Small steps can become large strides that make way for new paths and directions.