How does a Marriage Counselor end up on TV anyway? I'm not quite sure, but I had fun doing it and hope it helps someone.The story aired on 8/23/2017 and 8/27/2017 during the evening broadcasts in Columbus, Ohio and surrounding markets. Click Here to watch the story.
All hands on deck! I assume if you are reading this that your home is much like ours around this time of year. We struggle with coordinating open houses, supply lists, paperwork, clothes, shoes, new teachers, bus routes, the list seems to never end. Lazy summer mornings are traded for before dawn wake-ups and 100 meter dashes to the bus stop. We forgo trips to the pool to trips to the local Supercenter for the unanticipated item we neglected the day before. Managing all of this is exhausting! In all of the to-do list items competing for our attention, how do we keep our marriage alive? Here are a few suggestions to help your relationship alive (and dare I say thrive) through the chaos of this time of year.
Remember You Are In This Together
One partner may carry more of the load when managing day-to-day tasks, but in the end, you are a team. Sometimes it is easy to get irritable and soon begin to bicker with one another. Remind yourself and your partner that you are working together to get through this. When you disagree, try to hear the message instead of getting stuck on how it is being delivered.
Get Organized To Stay Organized
If your family is anything like ours, we start the year off really strong with organization. Sometime around the time the leaves change our plans have dissolved into a distant and fleeting memory. Sticking with a plan can assist you in making it through this school year successfully. Spend some time organizing schedules and then put in time each week or month to check in and make sure the plan is still viable. Start basic and expand as time and needs require. That will help your family to maintain over the school year and allow you to find for just the two of you as well.
This Too Shall Pass
In most families this back to school chaos is not permanent. One day you will find that most of the emergencies were temporary annoyances and will soon be forgotten. Years from now you will live in the peace and harmony that comes with no longer having school-aged children. Your family will find your own special kind of order and settle into a routine. Be patient, it will probably get better. Find ways to appreciate one another every day. What you say to your partner may out last the struggle you are in right now; becoming either comfort or contention for years to come.
Take Time Out For Self-Care
With all of the stress of meeting some deadline or standard don't forget to take care of your own individual needs. Some parents lose sleep over scheduling soccer practices and choir rehearsals. They drag themselves from activity to activity without stopping for rest or a decent meal. Your body is much like your car. If you don't put fuel in it, eventually it will stop. Do yourself, your partner, and your family a favor; get some rest. I don’t think the earth will stop because you took a nap every once in a while.
Spend Time With Your Partner
Sometimes it is easy to forget that you are more than just co-managers of the family. You are two people who love one another. The ultimate health of your family is largely determined by the health of your relationship. Put time for love and re-connection on your calendar because it is just as important as making sure the health forms are in by the deadline. Sneak away together on a regular basis. This helps your children to learn to prioritize their own relationships as well when their time comes. Regular attention to your spouse also teaches the children that they are not the center of the universe; helping them learn healthy boundaries.
Starting a new school year is difficult for many families. The first day of school signals new beginnings. Sometimes the school year also signals new anxieties (or old ones repackaged). Acknowledging that you are working together for a common goal could be a great way to bond in your relationship. Setting a plan and sticking with it will model organization, teamwork, and togetherness. While managing the children make sure to take some time out to nourish your marriage, your relationship will thank you for it.
Sometimes after couples have been together for a long time they feel that the relationship gets stale. Date night (if you have it) is predictable and mundane. You have run out of things to talk about. You are existing but have yet to live that life you thought you would when you said "I do". Marriage does not have to be boring. It can be the best thing you have going; if you are willing to put some work into it.
Clarify Your Vision
Many of us had a clear vision of what we thought marriage would be. We daydreamed about travel, romantic nights, beautiful homes, the works. As we mature we realize that those dreams got pushed back by mortgages, growing careers, or children. We stopped allowing ourselves to live in what could be and traded for right now. Challenge yourselves to go back to your vision for what your marriage should be. Talk about the vision, write it down, put it somewhere you have to look at it every day. The clearer the vision the more likely you are to work toward it.
Shut The World Out
I cringe when I see a couple sitting across the table from one another at a restaurants deeply engaged in their phones. We live in a society where our devices get more attention than our spouses. If electronics are not screaming for our attention, our children, or careers are. In order for a relationship to work it has to receive some uninterrupted attention. On a regular basis make a point to turn everything off and tune everything else out that does not feed your connection. You both deserve one another's undivided attention. If we give all of our time, energy, and resources to everything else in life you may find that you may notice one day that are sleeping next to a complete stranger.
Schedule An Appointment Everyday
Effort and attention are key to making a relationship work long term. Some people argue that scheduling time together (particularly for intimacy) makes the event boring and routine. I challenge the couples I see in my counseling office to schedule special time together. Drs. John and Julie Gottman (the Gurus of couples' therapy) assert that 15-minute daily check ins are extremely important for repairing damaged relationships or maintaining great ones. They teach us that the "masters" of relationships understand the need to touch base with their partner daily. Most of us live by our calendars but leave connection to chance. We put effort in to this relationship in the beginning to ensure its success, why not put effort in to maintain its survival? Being intentional is imperative to having satisfying relationships.
Learn Something New
Even partners who have been married decades can learn something new about their spouses. At some point along the journey of a long-term relationship we start to believe that there is nothing more to glean from this union. Our knowledge of one another becomes stale and outdated. Just as you have changed since the beginning of your relationship, so has your partner. Take time out to learn likes and dislikes, observe the way they move, update your knowledge of their world. There is always something to learn about the complex human you chose to do life with. We are fully alive when we are growing, so take notice of the ways your partner has grown since you met.
In life we are constantly moving and doing. With all of the things on our "to-do" lists we struggle to want to add enhancing our relationship to that list; until the neglect is apparent. We prioritize so many things above our marriage and then panic when it seems as though it is falling apart. Most couples are so excited about the wedding and honeymoon that they forget to plan a marriage. The wedding is a beginning to a (hopefully) long, happy life together. Happy marriages are amazing investments; but they require your determination, planning, and prioritizing. Your marriage can be amazing; if you are willing to make the effort.