After the birth of my second child three years ago, I started to notice a difference in my relationship with my husband.
We had been married five years at this point, and we were not connecting and communicating like we used to. All our conversations seemed to revolve around parenting, bills, and food shopping. We were arguing more and more and comparing who was doing the most and who wasn’t doing enough.
It was a stressful, exhausting, and draining place to be. Like most parents, we were so busy meeting all the needs of our children that we were barely meeting our own needs, let alone the needs of the relationship. We both felt physically and emotionally exhausted with two kids under three. We wondered if we were the only ones feeling like this.
Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one going through these challenges in your relationship because it isn’t something we openly talk about in society. Both my husband and I felt ashamed to admit that having kids had put a strain on our relationship. When I did find the courage to speak openly and truthfully about our relationship struggles most people just responded with, “it’s normal,” and “you’ve been married awhile and you’ve got young kids, this is just the way it is. You’ll reconnect when the kids are older.”
My husband and I nearly died after hearing this. The thought of waiting to reconnect in like 20 years once the kids were grown up and no longer needed us was terrifying. That just didn’t seem like a good-enough solution to us. Sure it was scary admitting we were having challenges but nowhere near as scary as waiting and hoping to reconnect one day in the faraway future.
We were already feeling frustrated and resentful toward each other and we wondered if there would be any relationship left if we did what everyone else was telling us to do and just wait until the kids grew up.
My biggest fear was that my husband and I were drifting apart and we were not modelling love and relationships in a healthy way to our children. I felt like we were arguing in front of the kids more and more. We were doing the best we could with what we knew but deep down we knew we could do better.
I remember asking my husband this question and asking him to be completely honest with me, “Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with a man like you?” “Would you want your son to grow up into the man you are right now?” These were really hard questions to answer, but they struck a chord with my husband and he admitted the answer was no.
Once we put our egos aside and faced the truth, we knew in our hearts we could find a way to work through it together, so we decided to invest in our relationship and start making it a priority again.
We know we are not alone in feeling this way because couples share with us all the time that they feel like they have drifted apart since having kids. Often they feel like roommates, or worse still, enemies. So many couples are struggling with communication, parenting styles, getting on the same page, and feeling like a team.
The saddest part is, deep down, many of these couples still love each other; they just don’t feel in love with each other anymore because they are struggling to balance family, work, time for themselves and time for their relationship. Either work or kids has become the priority and they are not spending any quality time together; the relationship has fallen to the bottom of the priority list. As a result, couples share that they feel frustrated, stressed, resentful, angry, lonely, and like they are not loved or valued in the relationship.
We both wanted to put our relationship first but wondered how we would still get everything done. I had all these stories running through my head. How would we find the time to date and connect intimately with two kids under three and no family support? What if we do start dating and nothing changes and I’m a mum now and I don’t have time for dating and intimacy?
Are these stories we tell ourselves really true? Are they real reasons or are they excuses?
I knew they were no longer serving me or my relationship and they definitely were not serving my children either. I realised in that moment that I had been using my kids as an excuse not to make my relationship a priority and what I needed to do to turn our relationship around was to use my kids as my reason. If I wanted my family to stay together and to model a healthy relationship to my kids they needed to be my reason to make time for my husband and make our relationship a priority again.
From that moment my husband and I made a commitment to put each other first again. We stopped making excuses as to why we didn’t have time for each other and got creative and resourceful like we did when we were teenagers. We created the time, we scheduled dates, we made better use of the time we did have, and instead of scrolling on our phones, disconnecting, and checking out, we consciously checked in to ourselves and each other.
We made rules around dating—no phones, no talking about work or kids. We stopped bringing all our problems to dates and instead used this precious time to talk about our dreams, wishes, and desires. We wrote a date bucket list of all the fun things we would love to do together if we had time and started doing them together.
We got curious and asked each other what the best possible date would look like for each other and we were surprised that dinner dates no longer excited us or worked for us with young kids. The best possible date for us now looked like beach walks, hikes, coffee dates, movie nights, and drinking ceremonial cacao together. Once we got rid of our limiting beliefs, started using our kids as a reason to connect, and redesigned what our best possible date looked like, ironically it became so easy to date.
We started dating every single week and fell more and more in love with each other naturally. It’s amazing when you start spending quality time with your partner, you remember and rediscover so many things about them you love and have forgotten—like how funny they are, or how interesting their stories are, or how simply beautiful their eyes look when you’re not being distracted 100 times.
Deciding to make our relationship a priority and committing to dating again have been a game changer for us. We feel like a team again, we understand each other, communicate better, feel like we are on the same page with parenting, and experience more connection and intimacy than ever before. When you make your relationship a priority, everything works and everybody wins.
If you’re feeling disconnected in your relationship, this is your sign to start making it a priority again. Everything in your life will become easier when you make your relationship a priority again because you will feel like a team, working through it together instead of against each other. Let your kids be your reason and not your excuse because one day they will thank you for modelling such a loving and healthy relationship to them.