Tag Archives: childrearing

What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?

The Catholic Church is running public service messages and billboards in different parts of the country asking, “What have you done for your marriage today?” The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to make small investments of time and love in their marriage. Last post, we discussed how it’s so easy to give children all of our time and attention in “Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Spouse or Your Children?”

Today, we’re looking for solutions and ways to show we care. I’m providing a couple of options—one for the busy slackers like me who often feel overwhelmed with just one additional task, and two other levels for those who want to go the extra mile. For example, one man said after reading about how many women view their bodies, he would post a note on his wife’s mirror saying, “My husband loves my body.” That’s the extra mile.

Try to focus on your spouses’ love language. I’d love for you to contribute your own ideas to these suggestions.

Show Appreciation

Level 1: Before going to sleep, thank your spouse for something he or she regularly does for you or the family. For some people, words of affirmation mean a great deal. You can even send a text or email if that is how you regularly communicate.

Level 2: Buy a card and add a note of appreciation. Leave it under his pillow.

Level 3: Write a note expressing a sincere appreciation for your spouse’s contributions and support. Mail it to work her at work or home.

Give a Gift

Level 1: Pick up a book, movie or other item your honey would enjoy. For those whose love language is gifts, this will make them feel loved. Wrap it lovingly.

Level 2: Add some fun: Plan a scavenger hunt with clues around the house from one point to another until they find the gift. Or fill balloons with cute notes that have hints.

Level 3: Buy something nice for your spouse he wouldn’t buy on his own. Present it at a special time like on a lunch date out.

Show Care

Level 1: Stock up on her favorite beverage and offer one when she is working or relaxing.

Level 2: Prepare his coffee or tea each morning as a sign of care and love.

Level 3: Clean or organize an area of the home that has been driving your spouse crazy (a closet, area of the garage, basement, etc.)

Involve the Senses

Level 1: Bring home some lovely, fragrant flowers or a scented candle or lotion. Or have them delivered to home or work.

Level 2: Bring home her FAVORITE flowers or perfume or his favorite lotion or cologne.

Level 3: Plant some pretty flowers in the yard to enjoy for months and surprise him/her.

Involve Touch

Level 1: Give frequent hugs, back scratches or loving pats/touches during the day.

Level 2: Give a foot or shoulder rub at the end of the day.

Level 2: Offer a full-body massage at your spouse’s chosen time.

Make Plans

Level 1: Hire a sitter if needed and plan a night out. Play his/her favorite song while you are out or request that it be played. (Music is emotionally bonding even when you are having some conflict.)

Level 2: Do something unusual or new like seeing a live concert or show, or participating in a new activity. (This creates excitement and closeness.)

Level 3: Plan a weekend or vacation away with just the two of you.

Commune with Nature

Level 1: Take a leisurely stroll in a nearby park or garden.

Level 2: Visit a state park together for a hike.

Level 3: Plan a surprise picnic with delicious food near uplifting natural surroundings.

Or, ignore all of these ideas and just come up with one small thing you will do today to show love—make her favorite dinner or his favorite dessert. Take care of one extra errand he had on his list. Buy some lingerie he would enjoy. Draw her a bubble bath and play her favorite tunes. Whatever makes your sweetie smile and lets them know you have been thinking of them. I think one small thing each day or week is better than a bigger act of kindness every few months. Don’t complain when your spouse doesn’t immediately reciprocate. You are doing this as an act of love, not so you can get something in return. In general, couples who are doted on do begin to think more about expressing their love in return. Some couples even find they are competitive with which spouse can come up with spontaneous or creative ways to show their love.

What are your easy or fast ideas to express kindness, love, or appreciation to your spouse?

Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Children or Your Spouse?

I’ve often heard the advice, “The best gift you can give your children is a strong marriage.” While I strongly agree, I don’t often live it out as I should. In fact, I think we often unconsciously reverse the statement and feel that we are giving our spouse the greatest gift by loving their children. This is the hard part, because I think it’s true that loving one’s children is also a gift to our spouses. There’s nothing wrong in loving our children—except when we have nothing left for our spouses. I’ve heard too many marriages fail because the mother refocused all of her attention and energies from the husband she adored to the children to whom she now devotes every waking moment.

It is so easy to get caught up with everything kids need and want that you have little or nothing left at the end of the day for your spouse. (This can be true of childless or empty nesting couples who fill their lives with positive pursuits of work, volunteerism or time with friends.) On an average day, most of us have our jobs, laundry, cooking, shopping, bill paying, and cleaning. If you have school-aged kids like me, you are also shuttling them to and from school and various activities. With the few minutes you have in between these, you will frequently hear requests from the children for more of your time and attention. Mine often ask to read together, sit together, cook together, build something together or play pretend together. Then, of course, there’s the morning routine, the bedtime routine, the mealtime routine. At the end of the day there are lunches to make and laundry to finish.

Meanwhile, your spouse is probably not asking you for your time and attention. Either he is working or trying to help out with the various household activities and is also busy, or he has learned that asking for your attention when you are focused on the kids is a losing proposition, particularly when the children are very young. Perhaps this is why for parents who do not regularly nurture their relationship, there can be a large dip in marital satisfaction after kids arrive.

Don’t get me wrong, I think children are a great blessing—but I also think they will take all the time you give them and still ask for more. Yet, they can still thrive on maybe 90 percent of the energy you give them, allowing you to carve out some time and energy to replenish your own needs and to feed your marriage. We must better manage our time and energy so there is something left for the person we married. This is something I have to regularly remind myself to do.

Todd Sellick wrote a great post at the blog Simple Marriage recently about giving 1 percent  of your week to your spouse. Just 1 percent! (That’s about an hour and a half of together time.) Yet that one percent can make a huge difference. During that 1 percent, you are not using your  smart phone or computer. You are not watching television. You are not talking about work or the kids. You are focused on each other—having a cup of tea, taking a walk or cuddling on the couch. Read about true connectivity. That connection time will help your relationship flourish and will help fill your own love tank. You may even have more to give those around you.

Start thinking about ways you might provide a bit more attention and love toward your spouse this week. Next post, I’ll share some quick and easy ways to do just that.

How much time do you think you spend truly connecting with your spouse in a week? How much time do you spend on childcare activities? What ideas do you have for regularly feeding your marriage’s love tank?

How Does the Arrival of Children Affect the Quality of a Marriage?

More married couples are choosing not to have children. Some couples have thoughtfully concluded they are called to a different life. However, a good number of couples are struck with fear, looking back at childhoods from divorced or dysfunctional families. They conclude that if they avoid marriage or avoid having children, they can retain the happiness and freedoms they currently enjoy.

Current research tells us cohabiting without marriage leads couples to break up about 80 percent of the time. Next comes the question, does the stress of having children lead married couples to break up?

The New York Times did an op-ed this week on Feb. 5 discussing how the birth of children affects a marriage, either positively or negatively. A generation ago, it was assumed that having children solidified a marriage. That has been followed by multiple studies that have shown marital quality drops when spouses become parents, and rises again when children leave home.

Writer Stephanie Coontz goes on to explain the flaw with those studies is that they did not “consider the very different routes that couples travel toward parenthood.” As you might expect the outcomes differ widely for parents who agreed on wanting to conceive, those who were ambivalent and those who were not expecting to become pregnant.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkely, Philip and Carolyn Cowan, found that “the average drop in marital satisfaction was almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into becoming parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.”

In other words, couples who were happy to become parents were blessed with an even happier marriage. This has been true in my own life.

Coontz provides some important caveats and trends.  One reminder is that couples need to make time to cultivate their marriage even when child-rearing demands are high. Otherwise, they may not be able to “recover the relationship that made them want to have children in the first place.”

For those who feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children, realize you are giving your children a gift by maintaining a strong marriage. In addition, current research shows parents today spend 20 percent more time with their children than parents in 1965, even with the increase of mothers in the workplace. So, if you are like the average couple, you are probably not short changing your children, but you might be short changing your spouse.

Remember your goal is to help your children learn to be independent, while spouses should understand and communicate that they will always need one another.

How have children (or the lack of children) affected your marriage?