We all want to feel connected with our spouse. Feeling wanted, excited within our relationship, and that we have a partner in our lives are important parts of feeling fulfilled in a relationship. As parents of young children, it can seem impossible to pursue this type of exciting and fulfilling relationship without it being at the expense of what your child needs. Before you know it, all your emotional energy gets poured into being a parent and the intimate connection between you and your partner can begin to fade.
As a father of a two-and-a-half year old and a one-year old, I am writing this blog half as healthy relationship advice for you and half as a motivational speech for myself!
I know all too well how difficult it can be to manage the daily stressors of life, stacked on top of household responsibilities, compounded by making sure the kids’ basic needs are met, and all while trying to spend meaningful quality time with kids.
With all that on our plate, who has time for something silly like romance? Maybe when the kids move out, right?
Unfortunately, when we allow the stressors and responsibilities of life to distract us from prioritizing our relationship as a couple, what we are really doing is depriving ourselves from what can help us feel supported and energized. Kids come with a seemingly endless “to do” lists. Between getting them ready, feeding them getting them to school/daycare/appointments/play-dates/birthday parties/extracurriculars/etc. etc. etc., it can seem there’s no time for anything else. It can be easy to put all our focus on getting everything done without realizing how draining this process can be.
Too often, both partners focus on what needs to be done, and lose focus on each other. Before you know it, it can feel like something important is missing….
The downside to allowing life to distract you from your relationship, is you begin to feel alone, when what you are longing for is to feel supported. You may lose sight of what motivated you to start a family with your partner in the first place. You may start to feel more like roommates than truly connected. This can lead to feelings of sadness, emptiness and resentment.
Perhaps it plays out for you like this:
It’s been a long day. You woke up to a crying baby as usual, rolled out of bed, changed and made a bottle for the little one. You feel like you have barely enough time to give your wife a quick ‘good morning,’ get ready, and get out the door.
A long day later, you make it back home. By now, your wife has been with the kids all day, and you feel exhausted from work. But no time to relax…it’s time for the nighttime routine. The tasks continue,. More feedings, cleanings, changings, and soothings take place. You guys each take a kiddo and put them down to sleep. The kids don’t go down easy. You barely have enough energy to read a book or sing a song. Eventually, the kids are asleep.
You and your wife finally have a second to change your clothes and eat something. You both plop on the couch and turn on the TV. “How was your day?” one of you asks. “Fine,” the other replies. You have trouble remembering the last time you and your wife had a conversation that wasn’t about the kids. ‘When was the last real kiss we shared?’ You long to get back to that place, but you don’t know where to start.
The truth is, a lot of couples struggle to keep feelings of intimacy and connection once they become parents. It can feel like the “right” thing to dedicate all your time, focus, and energy to the kids. One or both partners in a relationship can feel neglected or ‘second’ to the needs of everyone else. Even worse, you or your partner may then experience guilt for having those feelings, making it less likely those emotions are communicated in a healthy way.
Eventually, a couple winds up feeling stuck. Like this is the way it has to be. You live with your partner, but don’t feel connected to them. The sadness and emptiness that can come with this experience starts to affect how you live your life. Perhaps you find yourself being more irritable with your partner (or vice versa), less patient with the kids, or perhaps less engaged at work. Something about your life just feels incomplete.
It’s certainly true that life can get in the way of growing a deep relationship with your partner, especially when juggling the demands of kids. However, if you and your partner can begin to see the value in prioritizing your romantic relationship, you can begin to live life re-energized, while feeling supported and connected.
When you are able to commit to reigniting the spark in your relationship, it is entirely possible to start experiencing life in a more meaningful way—which not only benefits you, but the entire family.
Keep reading for 5 tips to start feeling reconnected with your partner.
Without making changes in your relationship, the pattern continues.
You may find moments of connection between you and your partner to be increasingly rare or fleeting. All of a sudden, the role of each person in your relationship becomes about what tasks are getting done. Resentment can easily grow as one or both of you start feeling your contributions aren’t noticed or appreciated.
With this pattern continuing, you may feel too much is being demanded of you, or you may even start noticing you are being too demanding. That’s because your relationship has transformed to be less about a deep meaningful connection, and almost completely about splitting up life’s endless tasks. You may begin to judge yourself or become increasingly angry at your partner each time an argument breaks out, especially in front of the kids. This isn’t the family environment you sought to create.
Living this way can become overwhelming. No matter how much you find yourself struggling, it never seems to be enough. And worse, you feel your partner doesn’t truly understand. Despite your best efforts, you feel like you are slowly but surely drifting away from your partner, and feeling inadequate as a parent, spouse, or even as a person.
Once you are able to reignite the spark in your relationship, the way you experience your life begins to change.
When a couple chooses to commit to reigniting the spark in their relationship, they can begin to connect to a deeper meaning in their life. While the stressors of life will of course remain, the way you experience these stressors will begin to change. All of a sudden, the weight of parenting and of life’s daily tasks don’t feel so heavy, as you feel you have a partner there supporting you.
Remember when you used to laugh so hard together at the most random thing? The moments where you both would lose yourselves during sex and time seemed to stand still.
Even when you weren’t together and couldn’t stop thinking about seeing your partner later. Maybe you don’t relate to a past with your partner where there was an intense spark. Maybe you are more interested in igniting the spark for the first time. Don’t worry, these steps help with that too!
One of the biggest benefits when a couple chooses to truly focus on growing their relationship is that both partners begin to feel “seen” in a different way. It is difficult to describe the value this can bring to one’s life when they begin to feel seen, understood, appreciated, and wanted. One of the biggest thrills of being a psychologist is getting to see couples realize they are capable of making this shift in their life.
Once a couple is able to live life prioritizing their connection, a new energy starts to be noticed. Often, a couple describes feeling more united in parenting decisions or interactions with their kids. With a firm and loving connection at the top of the family structure (that’s the parents!), the emotional benefits begin to flow down to the kids and the whole family benefits from renewed focus on the couple’s relationship. The tasks continue to get completed, but it feels less of a competition about who’s doing the most, and more of a ‘dance,’ in which both of your roles are vital in creating something beautiful.
5 Tips for Reigniting the Spark in Your Relationship
It may sound too good to be true when you think about reconnecting with your spouse. Admittedly, everything I’m talking about here takes effort and work. Especially if feelings of resentment have already taken hold in your relationship, it may feel overwhelming to imagine ‘letting go’ of that built up resentment.
But making these changes is not as difficult as you think. If you and your partner are able to open yourselves to even the possibility of reconnecting in a meaningful way, you are giving yourselves an opportunity to fill a need that hasn’t been met. Having renewed hope that things will change can often help reignite feelings of excitement and engagement within your relationship.
It can be a hopeless feeling to ‘know’ you want to feel more connected to your partner, but feel there is just no opportunity to do so with all of the kids’ needs. Life begins to feel robotic and dull. You imagine doing things with your partner, just the two of you, but pangs of selfishness gnaw at you as you imagine leaving the kids. “I guess this is good enough,” you think.
TIP #1: Recognize the value of prioritizing your relationship as necessary for your whole family (including the kids!).
This may seem like an obvious one, but any meaningful change has to start with recognizing the value of the change.. Remember, getting lost in the kids’ needs is one of the biggest reasons couples describe losing intimacy and connection within their relationship. Sometimes, especially initially, it can feel selfish to focus on your relationship as it mistakenly feels it’s at the expense of the kids’ needs.
It is a very important step to reframe for yourself what focusing on your relationship with your partner really does not just for the relationship, but for your kids.
By prioritizing your relationship, you are taking a step to create increased feelings of security, warmth, and happiness within your household. You and your partner are ‘filling’ each other’s needs for validation, acceptance, and worth. These changes are invaluable not only for us as adults, but also to support the emotionally healthy development of children.
At Simi Psychological Group, we often see this as one of the biggest hurdles in creating change in a couple’s relationship. Communicating together to explore the value of focusing on each other can help couple’s feel they have a shared goal they are working toward.
TIP #2: Schedule a consistent night out.
Even after you and your partner agree there is value to focusing more on your connection, logistics and practical concerns can still get in the way. “Finding time,” seems more like a dream than a real possibility.
If you hope to make a change such as having a date night through the philosophy of “Let’s try to find time soon…,” life is guaranteed to get in the way. Usually, life’s responsibilities have already contributed to less alone time, less fun time, and less time away from home.
If you are going to live up to Tip #1 (prioritizing your relationship), it involves making your time as a couple just as important as any of your child’s appointments, your bill payments, or any other task you manage to get done.
Where you go or what you do is far less important than just going and doing something together. Don’t put pressure on yourselves to think of the “perfect date night,” and just leave the house! Carving out a specific and consistent time for a date night can help create space away from the stressors of home, provide much needed alone time, and create opportunity for you to reconnect with your partner. Perhaps it gives you space to talk about yourself again and not only the kids. You might be curious to get to know your partner again (and to give them a chance to get to reconnect with you too).
TIP #3: Commit to disconnecting together.
It’s very easy to get lost in your phone or vegging out watching TV. Even if you are both doing this next to each other, it’s likely it contributes to feeling isolated and disconnected. Feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed promotes the likelihood we allow our TV or phones to distract us from these feelings. When we do this, the problem is we never actually get relief, and we certainly don’t provide an opportunity for emotional support through these feelings.
While you are unlikely to be able to get out of the house for a date every day, you and your partner can commit to some electronics free time together. Whether you decide to do something together, such as a puzzle or cooking a meal, or just sit together, you provide yourselves with more opportunity to communicate, show affection, and feel closer.
By turning off the distractors, you are sending the message to each other that you are there for one another and emotionally available. There is more room to be truly present with each other and to enjoy each other. This can lead to rekindling your sex life, ‘seeing’ each other in a more meaningful way, and responding to each other on a deeper level.
In therapy, we work with couples to find moments of focusing on just each other, improving the way they communicate, and opening themselves up to receive feelings of validation and connectedness. Couples find as they provide time for each other disconnected from electronics/other distractors, the regain feelings of intimacy and closeness.
TIP #4: Let go of lingering resentment.
When couples are living emotionally distant from each other, it is easy for feelings of resentment to emerge. You start to ‘blame’ each other for where your relationship has gone and for feeling unsupported, misunderstood, or unwanted. When these feelings emerge, it can be hard to even be willing to reconnect with your partner, especially if you have begun to think of your partner as a ‘lesser version’ of the person you married.
This one is much easier said than done. However, resentment is likely to sabotage even your best efforts to engage in some of these tips. Attempting to reconnect with your partner with an attitude of “We’ll see if he/she can actually change…” or while holding on your partner’s past transgressions or current flaws at the forefront of your mind is almost guaranteed to make your attempt to reconnect fall short.
When both members of a couple are able to look at their spouse as a positive, desirable person they are able to see the value in one another and pursue a deeper connection.
When working with couples, we often see resentment as a major component of marriage difficulty. At times, it can be so apparent, we refer to it as the “third member” of the relationship. When couples feel they are able to work together to let go of this resentment, they begin to feel increased hope and excitement within their relationship.
TIP #5: Make sex a vital part of connecting.
Given everything we’ve talked about, it can be hard to maintain a healthy and satisfying sex life as parents. Often, feelings of tiredness, feeling less attractive, and of course, feeling less connected can all contribute to an unsatisfying sex life. Let’s be honest, changing diapers, cleaning messes, and dealing with tantrums don’t exactly invoke feelings of passion.
Nearly always, when a couple’s emotional connection feels strained, they also notice decreases in their sex life. Unfortunately, couples often view this as just a result of feeling more disonnected emotionally, and don’t appreciate the role of sex as an opportunity to share new emotions with each other. You’ve tried being angry, distant, annoyed…what if you try to allow yourselves to enjoy each other? This can help you experience one another in a new way.
Sex is an essential part to igniting or reigniting feelings of intimacy with your spouse. It provides an opportunity to feel fully connected. There is power in making sex a part of igniting the spark you want in your whole relationship.
Maybe you are feeling unwanted, or undesirable. Maybe you’re feeling your partner is too stressed or tired to want to have sex with you anway, so communicating will just lead to rejection. Choosing to explore what sex means to your relationship allows you to really take care of you, your marriage, and ultimately, to experience your life as more fulfilled. Sharing your hopes and needs with your partner can be empowering in that you are starting to value what you need as something that truly matters.
Often, as couples begin to feel distant, one or both begins to feel not good enough for their partner…to feel like a failure. Allowing yourself to explore what you need, and sharing that exploration with your partner, is an important way to communicate that you both matter and are valued.
Being able to communicate with each other about what you are missing, and what you are hoping for when it comes to your sex life, can help you and your partner have an exciting place to work on building intimacy in your relationship.
You can use sex as an opportunity to communicate, explore what you each enjoy, let go of difficult feelings, and be able to place the rest of the world on ‘pause,’ while experiencing time with you and your partner truly connected.
At Simi Psychological Group, we are committed to helping you delve deep into these difficult issues and work through barriers in communication. Couples who choose to work on their sex life, find they begin to ease the other chaos that life brings. They allow more space for playfulness, humor, and acceptance. Both start to feel more valued, desired and capable.
In summary, pursuing a renewal in your relationship can lead to feelings of excitement and engagement, not only in your relationship, but in your life. The value of this pursuit becomes evident in your marriage, but also for your entire family. You and your partner have the power to commit to exploring the value and the ways to prioritize your marital relationship, even with the responsibilities that come with raising kids.. As always, Simi Psychological Group is here to support you in your journey.
Call today for a free consultation. (805) 842-1994.
I’m a licensed psychologist who encourages children, teens, and families to take the steps and make the changes they need to see real, lasting change in their lives.
I am dedicated to going through the changing process with you and your family, working together toward the goals and aspirations you have for yourself, your child, or your family. I encourage all clients to challenge their negative thoughts and recognize harmful patterns and start by helping them develop meaningful goals and areas in their life they would like to see change. Learn more