Cathy and I have been through the newlywed stage, the young parent stage and are now in the older couple/older kids stage, with our son off at college and our 12 year old daughter busily living a more independent life. Through all of these stages, we’ve had to pay close attention to keeping the romance alive in our marriage. We’re still learning and always will be, but our failures and our successes have taught us a few things that we pass on to the couples we help.
We’d like to share some of the most important things we’ve learned about rekindling romance in marriage once you become parents. Let’s look at it in stages.
Rekindling Romance as Young Parents
Anyone with young children, especially more than one, will tell you that romance quickly takes a back seat to parenting. This is normal, natural and even necessary to a point. However, if you let it, becoming new parents can destroy the romance in your marriage.
The key to surviving this stage with your passion intact is to go for quality over quantity. You might not have as much time or physical energy for romance as you did before, but you’d better reserve at least some. Even if you can’t imagine making love every night the way you did before kids, you need to make sure you keep your intimate relationship active. Set a “date” night once a week (or more if you can). Making an appointment to make out may sound unromantic, but what’s really unromantic is not making love at all. If you don’t plan for it and stick to the plan, something else will fill that spot, you can count on it. Before you know it, it will have been weeks since you’ve been intimate and neither of you will be happy.
Rekindling Romance as the Kids Grow
As busy and exhausted as you may be while you’re trying to care for little kids, the middle years may be even busier and more tiring. From elementary school through high school, you’ll still need to do plenty to care for your kids on a daily basis, plus you’ll have a ton of extracurricular activities to take them to, sporting events and recitals to attend and a host of other schedule suckers filling your time. It’s a fun and exciting time in parenting, but it can make romance almost non-existent. Making things more difficult, by this time you’ve been married for several years and may be starting to take each other for granted just a bit.
Be sure to keep up with that date night (yes, the intimate appointment!) and also take advantage of the fact that your kids are more independent, which means you can get out on real dates every so often, too. In a few years, it’s going to be just the two of you again. If you don’t keep at least some focus on your relationship as a intimate and romantic couple (and best friends), you’ll find yourself married to a stranger once the nest is empty.
Even if some weeks the best you can manage is a coffee date, do it. Don’t underestimate the value of few laughs and a couple of kisses over a cappuccino while the kids are at a game.
Rekindling Romance Once the Kids are Gone
If you’ve nurtured your romantic relationship and your friendship up to this time, you’ll be rewarded with what may be a wonderful second half of your marriage. Once the kids are gone, you have time to go back to the newlywed stage-the one where you had no one to take care of but each other.
Be careful of living like a couple of satellites, circling each other but not really connecting. You also want to do whatever you can to prevent stagnation. Take up a few new hobbies together. Do something crazy now and then, like bungee jumping or ballroom dancing lessons or a spontaneous trip. The “new and unexpected” is what made your early years so exciting. Guess what? They still work twenty years later.