My relationship with my husband started off like an old mushy country song about a teenage girl who met a good-looking boy and fell giddy in love for the first time.
He’d pick her up in his Ford truck to lounge by the lake, where she’d softly lay her head on his chest and gaze into the starlit sky.
He’d eventually ask her dad for her hand in marriage, so that they could live happily ever after and gaze at the sparkly sky together until the end of time.
Later on, the song cuts to a screeching halt.
The naïve pair now has a mortgage, a young family and an extra 15 pounds each.
The only gazing that’s happening is at the cereal spread across the kitchen floor and the epidemic piles of clothes that seem to grow legs and sprint to the laundry room.
Now, her exhausted eyes doze off any time her head hits his chest, a pillow or even the family room floor.
Fifteen years, three zip codes and two kids later, the landscape of our home has severely changed.
Any couple that has evolved into parenthood knows all too well how the relationship is challenged.
The clock seems to tick faster. Even if you have the best intentions, it becomes all too easy to compromise the little time that is left over for your partner for something else: cleaning, watching TV or even sleeping.
Keeping the spark alive in a routine lifestyle filled with work, house chores, after-school activities, diapers, dinner and so on isn’t always a walk in the park.
However, here are seven ways we have discovered to stay connected:
1. Instate a no technology rule.
We give ourselves some time to respond to text messages, catch up on work, surf the net or do whatever it is that we want to do to slowly unwind.
Once we're ready to spend time together, the phones and laptops are put away.
Keep distractions to a minimum to optimize quality time together.
2. Discover the convenience of “day dates."
Formal date nights are not always easy to organize, what with babysitters. But taking a half-day off from work to spend time together once childcare has already been secured is totally doable.
We get coffee together, have lunch or take a walk.
We avoid the movie theater. We utilize the time to simply talk.
Having that one-on-one time to reconnect gives us a chance to stay current when it comes to each other’s developments.
After all these years, I still learn new things about him.
I bet he would agree it's the same about me.
3. Add versatility to conversations.
When we have little uninterrupted time at home, conversations are easily hijacked by business: task items, upcoming commitments or updates on the kids.
Therefore, we consciously share details about our own days: interesting experiences, something comical on the radio or noteworthy news we read during the day.
Adding versatility to our conversations helps break up the mundane talk that easily monopolizes our conversations.
4. Hug each other often.
We make an effort to give each other hugs throughout the day.
A random hug is mood-lifting and instantly adds connection.
This has, in fact, launched us into doing family hugs. Our 4-year-old would grab onto us and insist on picking up the baby too.
We all would do a big, “Full House” style group hug.
It's cheesy, but it's also completely satisfying.
5. Give each other space.
This sounds counterproductive, but it certainly is not.
As teenagers, the biggest decision for the day is what kind of burrito to order at Taco Bell.
As we get older, we face slightly more important decisions, like parenting styles, financial planning and division of responsibilities, just to name a few.
We may not always share the same opinions, so we don’t attempt to solve major disagreements on the spot.
Giving each other time to reflect on the issue before having a full-blown conversation allows for more productive dialogue later.
Also, there should never be any name calling.
6. Remind each other it's temporary.
The baby won’t be in diapers forever.
The preschooler won’t have tantrums when he’s 30. (Well, hopefully not.)
We will eventually sleep through the night. There won’t be bottles to wash and toys to sanitize.
We remind each other to live in the moment, and we accept there will be a time in the future when “adult time” will be so ample, we’ll desperately miss our interrupted conversations and stolen desserts.
7. Encourage each other to follow each other's dreams.
I recently left corporate America to focus on motherhood and pursue my passion to write.
There has been no bigger cheerleader for me than my husband.
When my husband rethinks splurging on something a bit expensive just for him, I remind him how much he deserves it. I encourage him to treat himself.
These gestures validate that we want to see the other succeed and be happy.
Nothing says "I love you" more than nurturing your SO's deepest wishes.
We are definitely not the two kids who fell in love some 15 years ago.
Over time, we have evolved both individually and as a couple.
We also came to understand the importance of keeping one another a priority in our relationship in order to create harmony within our family.
The negative impacts of marriage are tenfold on children.
Although it takes more of a conscious effort after doing things for our kids, we have found a way to be devoted parents without forgetting to be pretty decent spouses, too.
Sure, the old mushy country song sounds more like the “wheels on the bus,” but it’s our tune and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Even though impromptu romantic getaways and late-night movie binge sessions are memories of the past, we have still found ways to enjoy each other.