Pick up any magazine in the grocery store, and you'll find at least one heading that reads, "How to keep the romance alive!" or "Take our survey, are you a good kisser?" or "Is beer more important to him than you are?" A hidden rule that you as a parent must follow is that you must be good to yourself. If you feel good about who you are, your children will learn to feel good about themselves. Remember, your kids learn by example. If you're happy and laughing and having a grand old time with your partner, your children also have a better chance of becoming happy people.
On top of everything else that you have to consider and work on as a parent, you must also remember that your partner needs love and attention too. Once people have kids, they tend to take their relationships for granted. Relationships tend to fall into the coexisting stage as opposed to one that is still growing and developing.
What you need to do is:
- Go on dates.
- Make it just you two. You don't have to spend money on dinner and a movie. Walk around the mall, go to a free concert in the park, go play tennis, cruise to Tahiti (no wait, that would cost a few bucks). Do something together without the kids. If your lives are so busy that three weeks have gone by and you haven't done anything yet, get a calendar and write it down, schedule it. Make a rule that if it's on the calendar, neither of you can back out. And while you're out, try to avoid the usual conversations about children and work. Instead, talk about your hopes and fears and regrets. You know your partner drinks a double latte with sugar-free vanilla every morning, but do you know his most embarrassing moment or her biggest regret in life?
- Get physical.
- Yes, once upon a time you both used to have sex together — and at the same time. This may be another activity that you'll have to write down on the calendar. That sounds really unromantic, but if scheduling sex is the only way you can work it in your schedule, then by all means, schedule it. Flirt with each other all day. Don't forget to hug and give kisses and all the other lovey-dovey stuff you used to do when you were trying to win each other over during your dating days. And if you're really pressed for time, then just touch. Holding hands, kissing, and cuddling on the couch are fun and important.
- E-mail or journal to each other.
- Sending each other notes throughout the day via e-mail can be fun. If you're not a computer junkie, then keep a journal where you both can post notes to each other. Include separate wish lists in your messages. Giving someone something that they ask for is great caring behavior: "Please let me sleep in tomorrow morning for 15 minutes." "I'd love it if you brought me home Mint Milano cookies tonight." That way, when you want to do something special for the other person, you'll have a whole list of things they like.
- Create rituals.
- Make dinner together every night. Go for a walk after dinner. Get up early for coffee so you're without kids and interruptions. Make the 25th of every month your official date night.
- Remember the important words.
- Acknowledging that your spouse or partner is special is an imperative. One way you can do this is through the words that you use. Don't ever say, "Well I don't need to tell him/her that I love him/her. He/She already knows." That is irresponsible. If anything, your children need to hear that you love each other. Besides, if you don't profess your love to your mate, how do you know whether you're remembering to tell your children that you love them?
- Helping your partner feel appreciated and loved is important, but you must first know the terminology he or she needs to hear to feel that way. You can say, "Gee you look hot tonight," thinking that really makes your partner feel great, but in reality, such a comment may offend your partner. Your first step is finding out what your partner likes to hear. Sit down and ask the vital question, "What do you like to hear that makes you feel appreciated or loved?" Don't be surprised when you get a puzzled look for a response. You may even be asked "What did you just ask me?" or, "Don't you know?" You're not asking a typical question, but you may need to ask it more often. People appreciate hearing that he or she: is a good parent, looks nice, and smells good. . . . They also love hearing things like "How can I help you right now?" and "Would you like to have a date?"
It's healthy for your kids to know that you have a life outside of and away from them and that you're more than just Mom and Dad.
Don't feel guilty about wanting to spend time alone. Your children will discover that you both love each other, want your relationship to grow, and that neither of you takes each other for granted.