Question: My husband and I have been married 14 years, have 6 children, each one in a yeshiva and are so overwhelmed. Between shuttling the kids and homework, I feel like my marriage is non-existent. My husband tells me it’s normal at this stage in our life but my mother tells me to do something about it. Where do I begin?
Answer: First of all, listen to your mother. That is not to say that your husband is not right – it is normal. However, this “stage” called childrearing doesn’t end for many years to come, if ever. Couples who wait until the kids are older to find time to spend together, find that they have become so emotionally separated that repairing the marriage is almost impossible.
In my upcoming book, Connect to Love, I focus on research which shows that couples who spend on average of over 30 minutes a day talking to each other have a significantly higher rate of happiness than those who spend less time speaking. It makes sense and if nothing else, is the most important thing to make sure happens. This means you have to get the younger ones settled in bed and then explain to the older ones, if they’re still up, that Mom and Dad are spending some uninterrupted time together. If you can’t accomplish this in any common area of the home, go into your bedroom and close the door. You have to create some secluded space for your couplehood. Turn off your cell phones and every other distraction for 45 minutes. Plan for this time to be relaxing – have some tea or a drink, catch up. At first, you may feel pressure to discuss things. But try not to; get back to chatting as quickly as you can. If you’re like many, you’ll be thinking, “chatting, who knows how to chat anymore.” Don’t worry, force yourself to chat – and if you can keep this 45 minute period going for 3 nights per week, you’ll be on the way to reconnecting.
Next, set up a date night – the same night each week. Arrange for a babysitter to come on those nights, no matter what, so she’ll be there whether or not you are too tired to go out. This will help you resist the urge to not go out. On your date night, spend a minimum of two hours together, without another couple, and DO something. And not always the dinner and movie routine. Check local listings and find events, interesting places to go. Avoid the phone calls from children.
It’s easy to have “no time for marriage.” But what really happens is that we have time for everything else that is a pressing need and then we have no energy left for the non-pressing need – marriage. Successful couples don’t have any magic formula and aren’t simply better matched. Successful couples keep their eye on the prize – a loving relationship – and are constantly working to nourish it with enough time and love so that it can always continue to grow.
This is just the beginning, but it is the pre-requisite for getting back to a fluid, loving relationship.