Friday, June 1, 2007

Focus on Your Relationship

Certain times of the year can create chaos for families. May is one of them. With school wrapping up and workplaces scrambling to complete projects before people take vacation, it can feel very stressful.

May was particularly busy for my family this year. (As you can tell from the lack of posts here!) With one daughter in kindergarten, there were suddenly three people in our house with "agendas." Natalie had piano lessons and soccer practice and school parties and picnics and a recital and more birthday parties than I can recall. We added her schedule to two careers, one of which is in transition from a home-based freelance business to a corporate communications position.

Thank goodness my youngest is out of diapers!

One of the struggles for my husband and me was the feeling that we were two ships passing in the night. I would get home and he would leave for a meeting or to mow the lawn or to exercise. He would get home and I would leave for a meeting or exercise or community activity. I also had a business trip this month that took me away for two days.

We missed each other. And it made us grumpy.

Through the difficult times of raising young children, my husband and I have always tried to make time for each other. I have a strong belief that children benefit the most from parents who get along well...and even like each other! We all have our moments of irritation, but the key to a successful partnership is to prevent apathy from creeping into your home. I've seen too many couples and marriages in my day fall apart because the parents were focused on everything else in their busy lives except each other.

My husband and I try to plan date nights regularly. Usually, we just go out to dinner without the kids. We can focus on each other, enjoy a leisurely meal, and breathe. We also like to talk while in the car. The kids have their needs and opinions during the drive, but we make a point to tell them that "Mommy and Daddy are talking right now."

On the weekends, we also tend to stay in bed a little longer to "check in" while the kids watch cartoons. My husband also calls me from work at least once a day to say hi and talk about evening plans. Dr. Bill Harley of Marriage Builders ( recommends spending at least 15 hours a week of uninterrupted time with your spouse for a happy marriage. This doesn't seem like a lot until you try it in a busy family. But I agree with him.

If we have a problem, my husband and I really try to talk about it. Arguments and misunderstandings are common, but we try to think big picture: we are a team, we will work it out together, we will find a compromise.

I want my children to grow up seeing how a good marriage works and the importance of mutual respect and affection between a man and woman. By modeling in our marriage, I will teach my girls how to stay on equal ground with a man and my husband will teach them how a man should treat a woman.

And as for learning the virtue of patience, it's so much easier when you have a partner who can take the reins when you've had enough! That's what team family is all about...a shoulder to lean on.

I challenge you in your marriage or relationship to model healthy communication and problem solving. Spend some time alone together! Turn off the television. Barter for babysitting with another couple. Sit outside after the kids are asleep and enjoy the quiet. Even if you don't feel like it at first or don't know what to say, I promise that it will do wonders.