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.
I almost died. We almost died. It would have been all my fault.
Maybe I'm being dramatic. The point is: We were careening down a steep hill toward the murky depths of Deer Creek and I was totally out of control.
Here's what happened. My husband and I were away enjoying a romantic weekend getaway without our children. We had a room at the lodge with a view of the pool and plenty of time to enjoy one another's company. We could have peaceful, quiet time with no distractions. I would have none of that. If you've read my blog about the REI trail you know I live for a little adventure and my adventures can turn into misadventures really quickly. If you haven't read it, you should; as it is nothing if not entertaining. Click here.
But I digress
It was a beautiful day in a idyllic setting so I suggested we go on a bike ride. I saw the resort rents tandem bikes and thought how romantic it would be to ride around the lake together. When I suggested it my husband gave me the side-eye and reluctantly agreed. I bounce off to the front desk to complete the paperwork while my loving husband unleashes the tandem bike from the bike rack. When I return he has it all set up and ready to go. I snapped the picture (above) and hop on the front seat because I wanted to drive. Although I didn't look back to see it, I now imagine my husband had a flash of anxiety across his face.
Off we go!
Very soon I realize that steering a tandem bicycle is not a strength of mine. I began to consider the idea that my husband's skills may be better suited for this job, but I didn't want him to take it from me. Honestly, I wanted to be in control. We did a test run around the parking lot and I started to feel a little more comfortable. I led to the path toward the water. This is the part where my husband starts telling me to slow down. I listened but the steep hill did not. Now, instead of slowing down we are quickly picking up speed.
Before I know it we are lurching down the hill toward the lake at (what seemed like) break-neck speed.
I shout "Honey, I can't slow it down!" To which he replied "Hit the brakes!" At this point several other couples are now watching and listening to this exchange.They are watching with faces that read a mix between horror and amusement. I then realize that I forgot to make note of the brakes, because they are not on the handlebars where they are supposed to be. I yell "where are the BRAKES!??!!" My husband patiently responds "Baby, peddle backward."
When I applied the brakes the tandem bicycle stopped. I jumped off as if the bicycle was on fire and quickly took the back seat. It all became quite funny to me and the lesson was apparent. I am so used to taking charge of everything and taking responsibility for everything it never occurred to me to share the responsibility with my husband. Much of my life is living on my own terms as a entrepreneur in my own private therapy practice. I forgot I have a very capable partner in life who is willing to shoulder some of the burden of life with me. I did not get married to do life by myself. It did not turn out better when I did it all myself and felt like I had full control. Many of the couples I see for counseling struggle with the same issue. Both partners are high achievers; in leadership or own their own businesses. They have power and control of their own lives and the lives of others. When it comes to their relationship they get locked in a power struggle and wonder why they feel like their relationship is hurtling down a hill toward a murky lake. My job is to help them learn that they can and should depend on another. We all have struggles and need to be reminded that we are not alone in life. We have a partner to "do life" with. It is OK to let your partner lead every once in a while.