Here we are– moving toward our 5th year of togetherness and 4th year of marriage. I think this is considered out of the honeymoon phase.
Life can be stressful. We just had “one of those weeks”. I was in a car accident, our fridge quit working, another round of viruses hit the house– ya know, the particulars of raising a young family. This has all the potential for marital stresses and squabbles. Yes, we may have had a few moments of friction. The key is rebounding out of it and uplifting to a place where we can come together and communicate out of love, not frustration.
Gus and I came into our relationship at a later phase in life. We both have done a lot (and still do) a lot of personal growth/development and have pretty clear ideas of what we value, what our goals are, and what we want out of our last half of life.
I am going to share 7 tips that we do to stay harmonious as we raise our family and do life together. In no way are we perfect, and of course we still have squabbles. However, we have a pretty clear understanding of the steps we need to take to stay close as parents and lovers.
- Watch our moods. Attitude is everything. This is a huge piece of our family puzzle. We have found that if one person has a snarky attitude it spirals thorough the whole family. Even the baby will pick up on a bad attitude and be affected. There’s nothing worse than the whole family in meltdown mode, so one of our key phrases is “attitude is everything” and that is a reminder to uplift out of any kind of moody funk. This is when practicing self-care is important. A walk, a yoga class, a quick nap, a bath– just do something to release the negativity.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. We work not to stew, which ends up being a bigger emotional storm than is necessary. We work to identify our feelings and communicate without blame. Gus is naturally a gentle communicator, and I am naturally aggressive. With this one, I have learned (am learning) to follow his lead and speak to him the way he speaks to me. Another tool I’ve used for communication is the book What We Say Matters by Judith Hanson Lassater and her husband Ike Lassater.
- Listen to hear, not respond. Being an active listener, truly hearing and knowing what the other means before responding. This requires asking questions, fully knowing what is meant without defensiveness. Being humble, apologizing if necessary and truly understanding what is being said. For me, this means quieting my brain (I usually have responses reeling before his sentences are complete), not taking everything personally (it is about HIM, not ME), and not immediately going for solutions. Often, being heard IS the solution.
- Being on the same page. This is important no matter what the issues are. We communicate, we plan, and we work to stay a united front. We come first, and the kids are second. In no way does that mean our kids are neglected it just means that we take care of ourselves, one another so that our tanks are full for the kids. Plus, long after the kids are grown and gone, we will still be together in a relationship.
- Speak each other’s love language. This one is very helpful. My husband likes affirmations and acts of service, so I am mindful to offer myself to him in his ways rather than in the manner I prefer.
- Make time for closeness, touch, and connectedness. This resolves so much in our relationship. Sometimes we get snippy with one another all we need is a cuddle. Having a sitter and going out on weekly date-nights isn’t always accessible for us (3 kids, no family in town, etc) so we make the most of the time we have. The 2 hours after the kids go to bed is “our time” and what keeps us sane I feel. We also love naptimes and take that time to connect on the days we are both home, and we’ve even been known to escape to the grocery store together for some time to connect.
- Appreciation. Expressing gratitude for each other helps us keep our mindset positive. If I notice I’m feeling resentment or underappreciated, I will come up with 3 things I genuinely appreciate about Gus and share them with him. This changes the tone and immediately releases any sort of resentment I feel because it really isn’t warranted. No one is the martyr and is “doing it all”, we are a team and have very different roles throughout the day.