A new reality hits every married couple once a baby enters your life. Immediately and indefinitely the two of you are dealing with a loss of time, energy, and privacy. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my babies and so did Dave. Yet we called this phase in our life, “New Normal”
We kept expecting our life to return back to the way it was, to “old normal”. Guess what, it never did! After my six-week check-up following the birth of our oldest child, my gynecologist casually said these words…”You can resume your sexual relationship as usual. My first thought was, “No Way!” I now knew where sex led and I had never been so completely exhausted in my entire life.
A new mother put it this way, “It seemed like someone had thrown a deck of cards, which represented our life together, into the air, and as these cards came scattering to the ground, we had to scramble to catch them and put them into some meaningful arrangement we could live with.
After babies, life becomes a “New Normal”, never again to return to “old normal”. It seems as if with each additional child and each new stage in that child’s life, we are confronted with another “New Normal”. Life is a series of “New Normal”. What is a couple to do?
We have to fight a daily battle not to forget the “first baby” of our relationship, our “US” .
I don’t mean we have to fight each other. What we each have to fight is the tendency to let the pressures of life distract us from taking time to enjoy each other as a couple. You won’t be sorry if you make your marriage a priority in the midst of the demands of “New Normal”.
As marriage therapists, we sit with many couples facing the empty nest stage that are in shock. They acknowledge that they ignored their “US” and instead made their children their top priority. Now they find themselves estranged from each other, distant, and lonely.
Dave and I didn’t want to be that couple, so when Dave was in the middle of his doctoral studies, we started two habits that helped us find our way back to each other. On Sunday night of each week we put two appointments on our calendar. Over the years there have been weeks when we haven’t been successful in keeping the appointments for one reason or another. However for the most part, we kept those appointments and our relationship was enriched because of those times we shared together.
1. A Weekly Date Night.
It doesn’t have to happen at night. It might work best in your schedule at another time of day. For a period of time in our life, Friday morning worked best for us. Regardless of when you schedule your date time, it needs to be a priority. If it is on both of your calendars, there is a greater chance that it will happen. A date time does not involve other couples. It is just a time for two.
When we talk to client couples about a date time, we both suggest that they alternate the planning so that it isn’t always one person’s responsibility and it brings more variety. We also suggest that the partner who isn’t doing the planning takes on the responsibility of getting a babysitter. That way the wife isn’t always left with the hassle of trying to locate a sitter.
There are times when you as a couple will be unable to arrange child- care. That is when we suggest that you find another couple with children who are also desperate for time together. You offer to babysit and give them a night out and then reciprocate so you can have a night out together. By taking turns once a week, each couple would get at least two dates a month. If the couple you choose has children about the same age as yours, this makes it fun for everyone and everyone benefits.
There are three topics that are off-limits for a date night:
When we suggest these ground rules, many couple’s reaction is,
“We won’t have anything to talk about.” Exactly! It’s time to be an adult and not just a father/mother. You are far more than that role. Life involves more than just being a parent or provider.
So show up with something interesting to discuss. You have some time together. Make it fun! Make it memorable! Change it up! It’s time to get creative. It will make you feel far more connected to each other.
The second way to find your way back to each other is to schedule…
2. A Time for Sex!
Sex is a place you go with each other. It isn’t just something you do “to” or “with” each other. Sex does not always mean “intercourse”. It means bringing a sensual self to your partner and welcoming their sensual self. It might involve flirting, holding, dancing, caressing, and snuggling. It might involve showers and massages. It could involve a long journey into each other’s fantasy worlds. You might enjoy candles and music. Get creative. This ever-evolving recipe is up to the two of you.
After you’ve had young children, a sensual appointment always involves a locked door. If you don’t have a lock on your bedroom door, your children can be taught to knock before they burst through the door. So what if the door is locked and later they see you leaving the bedroom with a huge smile on your face. That might just be a very good advertisement for married sex. There certainly aren’t many of those around today.
Some couples have a negative reaction to the idea of scheduling sex. They hope that it will just be spontaneous. Reality is, after you have had children, spontaneity often becomes a thing of the past.
Scheduling allows you to positively anticipate and prepare for time with each other. We are not suggesting that you can only have sex once a week. If your schedule allows have it as often as you both desire.
As therapists, we are far more familiar with couples that have gone weeks or months without bringing a sensual self to each other. Scheduling keeps that tragedy from happening.
The happiest, most connected couples put their “US” first and make intentional choices to keep their relationship # 1. After all, it is completely true that…
“The best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother/father.”
If it is your desire to find your way back to each other or if you want to stay lovers for a lifetime, we highly recommend making these two appointments with each other on a weekly basis.
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…