If you’re married with kids, I can assume you know the whoas of maintaining your marriage. It’s freaking HARD WORK! As much as I have doubted my ability to parent the children that we have, the one thing that I haven’t wavered on, or at least felt like I had more control over, is my marriage.
We have a weekly standing date night. Which may feel excessive to you, or a bit out of reach, but it is something that we haven’t been willing to waver on for YEARS. It’s a rhythm that we have built into our life (through WORK & trial and error) that has allowed us time each week to connect on a level that is more than just as business partners, passing ships in the night or co-parents.
And so I wanted to let you in on a little behind the scenes of strategies and rhythms of how we maintain our marriage, as it is one of the things that I am most proud of. After all, someday (maybe sooner than some of us care to admit) these little terds that demand every ounce of our attention right now will actually leave, fly the nest, and it will be you and your spouse again just like in the early years. I want to arrive into that season so excited to tackle life with my best friend.
Strategies for Keeping Your Marriage Thriving During the Parenthood Years
1. Date Night
Weekly standing date night. We do it, and we’ve done it for YEARS. Yep, even during the little, little years when we had velcro babies (sometimes, infants were allowed to tag along on our dates so long as they didn’t talk back and simply slept 😉 #thirdwheel ). Our date nights are rarely fancy, but it is scheduled time away from the kids, where we can connect.
- In the summer, we’ll usually schedule an activity of some sort (tennis, a walk around the neighborhood, kayaking on the lake, etc.).
- In the winter, we oftentimes will include another couple to have double dates and our shared activity might be more emotionally connecting like talking about our dreams, planning vacations/getaways, etc.
- Almost always, date night includes dinner somewhere. I’m talking like grocery store cups of soup or Chipotle dinner. We’ve packed picnics before to keep costs low.
- Another fun strategy is to incorporate your giving into date nights. We always look for items at various auctions that we have been invited to attend over the years that would serve as fun date nights for us. That way it’s a win-win – we’re grouping our annual charitable giving in with our date nights.
Again, not looking to break the bank here – just looking to carve out time AWAY FROM YOUR KIDS to just enjoy each other. Have an uninterrupted conversation.
Do you remember what it feels like to have FUN with your spouse? Laugh together and see the person that you fell in love with? It is a goal of ours to make this happen at least once a week. Which I honestly feel like is the BARE MINIMUM for the one thing that I committed my entire life to.
Also, it is LIFE giving if you are a stay at home parent or work at home parent to outsource bedtime ONE night a week. To not have to deal with bedtime battles for one night makes a WORLD of difference for my mental state, which thus helps keep me in the right frame of mind for my spouse.
2. Budget for It
When you make a list of the things that are important to you, assuming your marriage falls onto that list, why is it that you then assume it should come for free? If something is worth getting or having, it most likely is going to cost you something!
Now don’t get me wrong, we have always been very fortunate financially to have enough and God has provided. But we don’t have a money tree in the backyard like anyone else. We have had to adjust our life, SEVERAL TIMES, to accommodate and make space for the lifestyle that we said we wanted to prioritize. For example, when we bought our first house, we were a dual income household. Once I decided to leave the work force and be home with the maniacs, we sold our house and downsized to accommodate for the significant loss of income. Yes, this was a giant lifestyle move but it was one that was so worth it to us. No one wants to live a life a slave to their expenses. Our marriage, vacations, and the FUN THINGS of life were worth enough to us for our family to move 20 minutes further away from the city, in order to reap the cost-savings benefit to our life.
Also, PAY FOR A BABYSITTER. This is really hard to do when you first have kids. And frankly, if you have one child, find a friend (who just has one child too) and do a date night swap. In the beginning of parenthood, having to pay for a babysitter was a hard pill to swallow so trading was perfect. As our family grew, and bedtime schedules and routines with the kids became more rigid and necessary, we started paying for babysitters. This is a line item in our annual budget: BABYSITTERS.
Where do you find babysitters? I don’t know for you, but for us we are plugged in with our local church, we have neighbor girls, and we help out with Young Life, all of which has seemed to sustain an ongoing rolodex, since our kids were teeny tiny, of girls qualified and willing to love on our kids for an evening.
We do actually budget for it though, so don’t think you’re exempt because you don’t have family in the area or friends to swap with. We made sacrifices in other areas in order to ensure that funds were set aside to work on our marriage. This includes counseling, this includes babysitters, this includes overnight dates and regular annual getaways just us two. All of that is included in our annual budget. It’s THAT important.
3. Choose a Marriage Role Model – Community
Who are you modeling your marriage after? Have you and your spouse ever sat down and identified some marriages in your sphere of influence that you want to imitate?
I am so grateful for the marriages that we have had in our life – some for seasons, others ongoing. They have taught us who we want to be as parents, and who we want to be with each other, as our kids age and no longer need us. We have seen first hand marriages crumble (multiple times), and seen marriages thrive – and we obviously want to be in the latter category. But you’re not going to get there on your own. You have to have others around you, cheering you on, a fan of your marriage (#teamcarbonatto), and willing to share what they did right/wrong over the years to end up where they are.
Identify one or two marriages that you want to emulate and either seek their direct advice, or get close enough to them to find out what they did.
Invite them over for dinner, for a game night, on vacation (if you’re that close). Be intentional about surrounding yourself with the people who will push you to be the best version of yourself. THAT is how you end up great. THAT is how you leave a legacy for your kids.
If you want to start the rhythm of adding a date night, check out this fun challenge for the month of January (although it’s applicable for any month of the year obviously). For some more resources on maintaining your marriage, I’d recommend this blog/podcast and this book for both of you.