Ships in the Night :: Five Ways to Improve Your {Marriage} Relationship Right Now

Disclosure: We are well aware that there is no PERFECT marriage. Today, Brianne Oxenrider of Begin to Feel Better, shares five ways you can begin to improve your relationship right NOW!

Ships in the Night :: Five Ways to Improve Your {Marriage} Relationship Right Now

I recently saw a headline stating half of all fathers feign sleep when their baby cries in the night. Now, I honestly did not click on the article because I can’t imagine how such a statement could actually be scientifically studied, but I can understand how such an article gains force on social media. Having a baby affects a romantic partnership in so many ways. My husband and I, when we had a newborn and a toddler still in diapers, often felt like two ships in the night barely seeing each other and sometimes colliding in a horrible wreck. We were so tired it was hard to keep tempers down. The rational thought that the other was doing a great job as a parent with very limited resources had absolutely no way of entering our minds after the 3rd wake up before 3:00am.

Sometimes couples decide to have children to try to save a struggling relationship, but more often than not, couples decide to have children because they are in a happy, stable relationship with few problems and are ready to take on parenting and start a family. Unfortunately, there is no way to fully prepare for the effects that having children can have on a relationship. Often, couples struggle during the early years and then find a way to right the course of the relationship once they see it getting off course. Other times, couples find themselves helpless to the decline of their relationship anships in the nightsd do not try to make changes until it is too late. This article aims to help you improve your relationship before it gets past the point of no return.

Appreciate one another.

Appreciation goes a long way. Often we get sucked into roles as parents that are hard to get out of. We may have seen each other as equals, but after having children we start to see ourselves or our partner as “less than” or “working harder.” These kinds of judgments of ourselves and our partner is quite normal, but also quite toxic. The antidote is praise and appreciation. Be sure to tell each other you love each other daily. A study once demonstrated that couples praising each other twice daily actually improved their struggling relationships significantly. Find a way to “catch” your partner doing something that you love and appreciate about them twice a day and tell them what it means to you and how much you appreciate that thing they are doing. Practicing daily appreciation will go a long way towards combating the ill effects of toxic self criticism and judgment of your partner.

Find ways to connect.

I found that my life changed significantly when my husband and I started instituting a weekly date night. In this day and age of attachment parenting being the push, it may seem like separation from your children is a bad idea. But, just as you need to nourish your soul and self sometimes away from the children, your relationship needs nourishment, too. If it is hard for both parents to leave the child or children, push yourself to find someone you can trust to watch them for just a few hours each week. My husband and I put both kids in bed before going out to dinner until my youngest was one and a half years old, but we still got out of the house alone together, and it was marvelous! If you are not connecting with one another on an adult level you will lose sight of who the other person is, what they love, and in time, what you love about them. Be sure to ask them questions about what is going on at work, what their interests are these days, and what their current hopes and dreams are. You can find a great tool for questions to ask your partner to increase your connection in John Gottman’s book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. In the book he has many helpful resources and activities for couples to improve their relationships. The Love Map Questionnaire and 20 Question Game provide great questions to ask your partner to increase your connectedness.

Support one another.

Support each other. It sounds so simple, yet it is so hard to do. When you hardly feel like you have time to shower or feed yourself, it can seem impossible to take the time to do for someone other than your children. However, such action can vastly improve your relationship. I often recommend to my clients when they aren’t feeling supported by their spouse to make a list of 10 reasonable things that their spouse can do that would make them feel happy, loved and supported. I ask them not to tell their spouse what is on the list and bring it into the next session. In session, I ask the couple to each read aloud what is on their list. Often times there are at least a couple items that cause the partner to roll his or her eyes a little bit, but relationships are about sacrifice, and it is important to try to give a little to support your partner. I ask each partner to choose 3 items on the list that they are willing to do to support their partner, do it during the week and come back to report on how it went. Usually couples are very happy to try this activity as they must give, but they also receive. Couples feel more connected and more supported after a week of doing for the other. Often they keep up the practice of doing the activities for
five ways to improve
each other in the future or making new lists and finding other ways to make the other person happy.

Care for yourself.

How can you care for your relationship if you are putting everything into caring for the kids and nothing into caring for yourself? Sit down and think about your energy. How much of your day is spent giving energy to others and how much of your time are you spending in activities that give you energy or joy? If you can’t think of activities that give you joy and energy, then think back to a time that you had balance in your life. What activities gave you joy then? Incorporate time for yourself and the things that bring you pleasure into your busy life as a parent. Taking the time to nurture yourself is not only important for your relationship with you partner, but also important for your relationship with your children.

Connect as a family.

This is especially important if one partner is a primary caregiver for the children and the other spends more time working out of the home. Make plans to spend time together as an entire family unit. Plan ahead for family fun time in which both parents participate in making the plan and all family members celebrate time together as a family. Spending time together with the children working in partnership and supporting each other helps strengthen your relationship by enjoying the family that you have created together through your love and partnership. Also, it enables opportunity for you to appreciate each other in front of your children and model healthy relating for their future relationships.

Other Important Notes.

You may have noticed that this post did not talk about arguments, criticism, or the other negative aspects that many people deal with in their relationships. This was done on purpose. Every relationship has problems. I believe that if you first try to connect to your spouse on a deeper level, try to support one another, and find ways to support yourself, the common daily annoyances seem to melt away. Problems that once seemed huge suddenly seem much smaller. Try incorporating these five tips, and see if you find the same results.

Lastly, I want to mention two negative relationship symptoms that I believe require seeking out help. When there are infidelity or trust issues, it is quite difficult to fix the relationship without intervention from a third party. I recommend talking to a counselor, close friend, or spiritual leader for guidance. Also, if there is violence in the relationship, I do not recommend simply try to connect on a deeper level to make the problem smaller. Family violence is a serious issue and I recommend seeking help as soon as you are willing and able for the sake of yourself and your children.

Would you like to learn more about Brianne Oxenrider and/or the counseling options that she offers? Visit her website or Facebook page to learn more.

3I5A0839-38Brianne Oxenrider, LCSW is a clinical social worker in private practice.  She has a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.  She has been practicing for over 10 years.  When she isn’t counseling individual adults, couples, and children, she is a mom to two children under age 4.  Brianne accepts most major insurance, as well as private pay.  Her website is BeginToFeelBetter.com.  She may also be contacted at (504)264-3273 or brianne@begintofeelbetter.com

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