A few nights back, my husband and I were flipping through photo albums of the "good old days." We stayed up way too late, reminiscing about all the fun trips, late nights and impulsive craziness of our college years. However, it wasn't long before the pictures of two crazy-in-love newlyweds gave way to baby photos. That's also when the conversation took a turn.
"Why don't we have any fun anymore?"
"When was the last time we did something impulsive?"
"Forget impulsive, when was the last time we laughed?"
These are questions we don't have answers for. After three kids in five years, youthful exuberance gave way to zombie-like exhaustion, especially after welcoming our third baby this summer. We both concluded that we're too tired, stretched too thin and too consumed with little kids to have any fun.
But that's a lame excuse. Yes, kids make it harder to keep romance alive, but they aren't a perpetual excuse to quit trying. I chose my husband before I had the kids, he is the reason I have the kids, and if I get my act together, he'll be around long after the kids are grown and gone.
I've thought a lot about that last part — how to "get it together" for the sake of my marriage. The best gift my husband and I can give our children is to have a solid relationship, and I know we'll both be happier for it as well. So, why is it so hard to commit to working on our marriage? The obvious answer is that we don't have any time. We're going to have to make do with what little time and resources we have, relying on quality over quantity. Here are a few ideas we've come up with.
Date night after bedtime
Who says you have to leave the house to date your spouse? Babysitters are expensive, and our time is seriously limited. We've opted instead to dedicate Wednesday nights for an at-home date. Whether it's making dessert together or cuddling up to a movie, it's the one night each week where we can quit being parents and have fun together for a few hours.
Commit to physical intimacy
You can't ignore the physical side of marriage and expect to have a lasting relationship. I understand that kids can kill the mood, but physical intimacy can mean a lot of different things, so get creative. Whatever you choose to do, make it consistent.
Express your appreciation
Turns out, being an adult isn't nearly as fun as we thought. Paying bills, cleaning house and preparing food takes an inordinate amount of time each day, so thank your spouse for his or her contributions. At the end of the day, we all want to feel appreciated for the hard work we do maintaining our family.
So simple, it almost sounds silly, but those three little words go a long way. Say "I love you" until you feel like you can't say it anymore. Say it first thing when you wake up, every time one of you leaves and make it the last thing you say before falling asleep. Say it even if you don't currently feel it. Actions follow thought.
In the deep recesses of my sleep-deprived mind, I understand that this season of raising young children will end. In the not-so-distant future, all three of our boys will leave, and we'll be left all alone. I stop and wonder sometimes what my marriage will look like then. Much of my future relationship depends on the effort I put forth now. I don't want to wake up in 20 years, married to a stranger.
As a young mom, I may not have a ton of time, money or energy, but I can choose how to allot what little I have. Right now, I'm choosing to spend a little more of myself on my husband. It's one of the few investments that I know will pay off in the future.