Though you may have more diapers than diamonds, more early mornings than date nights, the thing to remember is that your world is not only about your kids. Put your partner — and romance — on the front burner. Jump-start your marriage with these 20 tips.
You’re not neglecting your kids if you put your marriage first. “It’s a myth that the more attention we give our kids, the better they’ll turn out,” says David Code, family coach and author of To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First. “We seem to be marrying our kids instead of our spouses because we find it easier to be with our kids than our partners,” Code says. But putting your spouse first will create a trio of positive outcomes — your marriage will improve, your children won’t suffer from over-parenting and your kids will learn positive relationship skills.
The power of romance
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1. Get personal
“One Valentine’s Day, I bought an unusual jar and hand-painted it,” says Charles Orlando, author of The Problem with Women… is Men. He spent two weeks writing “1,000 reasons why I love her” on slips of paper. “That jar sits on our mantle. She regards it as the best gift she’s ever received.” For couples whose daily grind leaves them feeling anything but romantic, a simple gesture like this puts a spark back in daily life.
2. Make small gestures
“Put reminders in your personal calendar to periodically surprise your spouse with small gifts or activities to let them know you’re thinking of them,” say Paul and Debbie Lamb, authors of Be a Better Partner: A Handbook for Couples. But remember, just because you’d appreciate a certain gesture, that doesn’t mean your spouse would want the same. “Know what your partner really likes and do something he or she thinks is special,” says psychotherapist Eddie Reece. Sometimes we forget the small gestures toward our spouse, which at times can outweigh the grand gestures.
3. Take a snow day
Or a sunny day. Or a rainy day. “Play butler, maid or servant to your partner,” suggests Reece. “Take care of items on their to-do list while they have breakfast in bed. If there is a chore that is traditionally theirs, do that for them.” Rather than do the same old thing around the house each Saturday, plan a break for your partner. Nothing puts you in a better mood than having someone special tend to your needs.
Value rituals… and spontaneity
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4. Do something unexpected
“Show up at your significant other’s workplace for lunch. Give a full-body massage after the kids go to sleep. Write a note on a Post-It and leave it on the mirror,” suggests Orlando. “Get out of the sweats and wear something sexy,” says Dana Hilmer, author of Blindsided by a Diaper and founder of LifestyleMom. “Surprise each other once in a while.” Routines can become such a chore, and aren’t a big precursor to romance.