Raising Kids Doesn't Have to Wreck Your Relationship

unhappy couple in bedSure, you love your kids. But all the time and care you spend with them has to come from somewhere, and according to new research, it's probably coming OUT of your relationship.

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A recent Swiss study tracked over 700 long-lasting couples for 13 years and found that certain critical life events weighed more heavily on relationships than others. One of the biggest challenges (er, wrecking balls) to couples' happiness?

Becoming parents.

In fact, having kids and dealing with heavy workloads were more likely to topple a couple's foundation than, say, struggling with personal illness.

So much for living happily ever after.

It makes sense, of course. We live in a child-centric world, and there are only so many hours in a day. The existence of Netflix probably doesn't help.

But surely there's something we can do to raise happy kids -- without having to sacrifice the original relationship that made us parents in the first place?

The Stir asked Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a Los Angeles–based psychologist who specializes in relationships, for tips on staying a couple and not devolving into the sexless co-parents we swore (pre-kids) that we would never become.

Her advice:

Don't just schedule date night. HAVE date night. And every week without fail. "Rediscover what it's like to be just the two of you," says Thomas. "Bring back that spark you had back before you were thinking of everyone's needs but your own."

That means: Dressing up to go out. Flirting. And carving out at least THREE hours alone together, Thomas says, so you can eventually get past talking only about the kids. (It takes a while.)

A few caveats: Staying home and having a sitter doesn't count. "You're still partially Mommy and Daddy if you do that," Thomas notes. Movies aren't the best idea, either. "You aren't even looking at each other," Thomas says. "You could just well as be sitting next to a stranger."

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Connect with each other by bits and pieces. Every day (or night) you and your man should have at least half an hour of alone time together. "That way you can talk about the day's highlights or what you have planned for the next," Thomas says.

Sure, it's a tiny period, but it adds up over time. "A connection can go away so quickly and insidiously," cautions Thomas. "I see it all the time in my clients. You need to maintain the chemistry you two have."

That means talking about things OTHER than your kid's next soccer game. Remembering that you're in love, "even when you're feeling stressed or tried," adds Thomas. And not forgetting to kiss, hug, or show some sign of affection so you feel like a married couple vs. college roomies.

Which brings us to sex. Some experts advise married couples to have sex once a week. Thomas doesn't think that's enough. "Once a week can feel obligatory," she says. "You don't want to end up calling it in."

Getting busy twice a week should be your minimum. "You don't want to fade into not feeling like a couple," she says.

Because once you do, what's the point in staying together?

 

Image via VGstockstudio/shutterstock

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