I had never heard of a ‘date night‘ before I had kids. Before kids, I just naturally spent time with my partner. Now we have to plan for time together, and regular date nights take persistence and effort. It’s really easy to let them slip. When you have a new baby (or older child) they tend to take priority.
Before you know it, you are two ships in the night, tag-teaming in order to get all the things done. In the struggle for ‘me time’, you miss out on ‘couple time’. Because let’s face it, sometimes a long soak in the bath is what you really need, and not more planning and talking and doing things.
In the end, though, communicating is truly what keeps us together. But what happens when, in the busyness of life with kids, even that seems to be falling away?
Here are some ideas on how you can get the conversations rolling again.
1. Lay the groundwork
See the above words about preferring a hot bath to a catch up with your other half? I’m not judging here, because baths are awesome, but you have to actually want to talk with your partner.
Go back to the beginning
What attracted you to your other half in the first place? What qualities do they possess that no one else has? If the irritation of sleep deprivation and wet towels on the ground is muddling your memory, imagine what life would be like without them.
I know it’s morbid, but there’s nothing like understanding what could be lost to appreciate what you have.
Start touching each other again
When you have babies or small humans needing love and affection you can forget that both you and your partner need it too.
Child development expert Karen Young from the website Hey Sigmund explains the importance of touch for relationships.
“It helps to nurture feelings of trust and connectedness and it also reduces cortisol – the stress hormone). Twenty seconds of affectionate touching (hugging, back rubs, gentle stroking) is enough to trigger the release of oxytocin – the ‘love’ hormone.”
You could hold hands while watching your favourite TV show and you’d be well on your path.
Give each other time off
This might sound counter-intuitive, but when you’re both trying to juggle family life, personal relationships and work – it can feel like you’re always fighting for time on your own.
When you give someone this gift (rather than having to cave into negotiation) you create a space of gratitude. That kind of openness makes everything easier, including conversations.
2. Create space for conversation
Life is busy, but conversations need space to happen. Space where there are no other distractions, where you’re comfortable and able to talk without the pressure to wipe someone’s bottom or find a lost piece of Lego.
Screens can be the enemy
We talk a lot about how our kids are addicted to screens, but how many times have you collapsed on the lounge, and all you want to do is watch Grand Designs and go to bed? (okay the Grand Designs might be just me).
Snuggling on the lounge is great for oxytocin release, but it’s still not conversation. Avoid using date nights exclusively for trips to the movies. Unless of course, you’re throwing in dinner beforehand. It goes without saying that phones should remain off the table during dinner.
Make it something you both enjoy
You want these opportunities to be something you look forward to, so think hard about what helps you relax and get downtime. That may be going for a walk on the beach, or having a cup of tea in the afternoon. It could just be a nice glass of wine after the kids are in bed. There are no rules to this, it just needs to be something that works for you both.
Keeping it simple is also important here. As all parents know, if it ain’t easy it won’t happen.
3. Follow through
It’s all about the follow through. The best-laid plans go astray when life becomes more important than your objective. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes sleep is more important. But recognising that making time for your relationship to continue to blossom is worth committing to, will make sure you don’t fall off the wagon.
Book in the time and treat it like a business meeting
Ugh, I hear you say. What a load of trollop! Who wants life to be like a business meeting? The fact is though, that date nights started for a reason – parents are craving some time alone together. We may not like it, but sometimes the only way shit gets done is when it’s written (in ink) in the diary. If this sounds like you, don’t feel bad about it. Just jot it in the diary.
Time is not important – consistency is
If you’re tired and you just want to sleep, remember: it doesn’t need to be a marathon. Get out that glass of wine, or a nice hot cup of tea, and talk. It can be for ten minutes or three hours. The point is to make connecting with your partner a natural part of life.
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