A long time ago, I realized I cannot rely on fairy tales to tell me what love should be like. I needed to write my own love story. Life has changed A LOT since I first met my husband. We were poor graduate students, and 10 years later we’ve moved to a new state, put down roots, and have three little people we’re responsible for keeping alive. Here are tips on how I maintain the spark which first brought us together.
How I’m keeping the spark alive in my marriage after 10 years and three kids in less than three years
Be your own role model couple
When we first met, my husband and I could not look at any couples in our lives and say, “They have it figured out.” There are a lot of couples we think are really well-suited for one another, but when it comes to having a “role model” couple, we are creating it for ourselves right now. What I mean is, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors, so be the couple you WANT to be for each other. No one else can tell you what this should be except the two people in the relationship together. We are creating our own “fairy tale” and this also means listening to one another above anyone else’s opinions on how your relationship should be.
Dedicating yourself to one person your whole life is a HUGE commitment and it really means you have to know what you’re getting yourself in to. Even 10+ years later, I’m still learning new things about him. Life happens and things can get shaken up and your once solid foundation looks worn, fragile, and easily cracked. I have learned keeping up on communication is the best way to address potential cracks and conduct routine “spackle” jobs. Try as I might, I just cannot read my husband’s mind.
Times can get tough and “We don’t feel like us anymore” is something I heard myself saying a lot.
We both knew having twins would shake our foundation. During the first six months after the girls were born, we would often say, “We don’t feel like us anymore.” Then we came to the realization, we’re never going to be the old us because we have two new babies. We went from a family of three to a home with three kids under the age of three! It’s a lot to take in. We were surviving, and we were trying to get to thriving, but it would take time.
Statistics show couples with multiples have a higher divorce rate, and I believe it. It would have been easy for us to get washed away with everything baby-related and lose what makes us a great couple and family together. Instead we talked about what was going on and shared what we needed from one another. In the midst of readjusting to a family of 5, I felt like I had weaknesses. I shared this with my husband, asked for help and he knew exactly how to lift me up and help me when I was struggling. I cannot speak for Josh, but I think I helped him become an even more amazing father than he was when he had one daughter, now he’s 300% more amazing!
There is no question I would not ask him, and there is nothing in my life I would be afraid to tell him. I write in my journal almost daily and I have given him entries to read through because it was just easier than having to rehash it all verbally. Someone recently asked me if my journal is where I write stuff like, “Josh annoyed me so much today.” I internally laughed and thought, “That would be really immature of me, and a waste of ink and paper.” If we are annoyed with one another, we talk about it. My journal is where I process what’s going on in my life. If I need help figuring something out, writing about it helps me get over the wall. Josh is always welcome to read my journal, but he doesn’t because chances are he already knows what I’m writing about. If not, he can make a very good guess of what’s on my mind because we communicate.
Open communication was the foundation of our relationship, well before we got married. I encourage everyone to find a place in their relationship to communicate freely with their partner; it’s amazing what you’ll learn about one another and yourself.
Life cannot just be about the kids
Depending on how many kids you have and how far apart you have them, kids will be the focus of your life for about 25 years. I have 3 kids, and when all is said and done, everyone will be out of the house in about 16 years. Compared to a 50 year marriage, that’s not much time. What happens when the kids leave the nest and you are left staring at your spouse wondering, “Now what?”
My husband and I talk about how we’ll do a lot of international travel without the girls (I guess they can come if they really want to), eventually retire in France… I am looking forward to a life of fun and adventure because we can do anything together!
Right now, the season we are in is “kids, kids, kids” but we also pursue activities and hobbies we like to do together and individually. I don’t want to lose “us” and forget who we are as a couple once the kids are out of the house. Right now it’s about the kids, but it won’t always be this way. I want to make sure we have stuff in common once the girls are off to college… and it cannot just be the girls that we have in common.
Learn to speak each other’s love language
I really like online quizzes and personality tests. I think they are fun. Take this quiz on The 5 Love Languages to learn how you and your partner like to give and receive love.
As it turns out, my love languages pretty much line up with my husband’s, but if they didn’t and I did not realize this… there would a lot of friction, tension and miscommunication in our marriage. The love languages are:
Words of affirmation like leaving lovely surprise notes in unexpected places for me
Acts of service like cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, getting up with the girls in the morning so I can sleep longer
Receiving gifts like thoughtful trinkets like a book or small present (I scored 0 here)
Quality time like adults-only date night (which we often do at home after the girls are in bed – I love spending 1:1 time with my husband)
Physical touch like cuddling, kissing, holding hands, or a massage (sexy time is obvious)
My husband and I occasionally have a little cuddle/smooch session in the kitchen and our oldest usually runs up and squeezes in between us and says, “I think mom and dad like each other.” Yep! I love the fact she sees her parents are in love.
Take the quiz and have your partner take it too (it doesn’t take long at all and it’s free!). Learn how you communicate best and if you need to tweak some things. It’ll save you a lot of aggravation if you feel like you just cannot connect.
Treat your partner how you would like to be treated
This seems simple enough, but it really means be nice, kind, considerate, appreciative, respectful and honest without being hurtful or spiteful.
The little things matter. When my husband empties the dishwasher, takes out the trash, tidies up the toys… I notice and I thank him. In return, he notices and thanks me when I clean up, cook a meal, or get errands done he really did not want to do. This may all sound like stuff we should be doing anyway, but being courteous and thankful for the help goes a long way (in my book at least). Also, it does not help me to see my husband hurting, feeling badly about something, or just kicked when he’s down.
We don’t bicker about small insignificant stuff (which usually is a cover for bigger issues in a relationship). We are not a couple who pokes fun at one another to get a veiled message across, and it is very uncomfortable for us to be around couples who are constantly ribbing one another. What’s the point?
If we have something to say, go ahead and say it respectfully and honestly in private instead of airing dirty laundry and embarrassing your partner. What does anyone get from this sort of behavior anyway? The truth is said in jest, so when someone says something “to be funny,” I think it’s actually hurtful and insulting. You have to have a sense of humor in life, and we lovingly poke fun at one another, but you can tell when a joke is mean-spirited. When couples joke at the expense of their partner, I am inclined to think something else is brewing under the surface (and it’s none of my business).
Is it wrong to be kind to the person you vowed to love and honor? Does this make me a sappy dork? If so, I’m totally cool with being a sappy dork with my best friend by my side.
Be the captain of each other’s teams
I am Captain, President and CEO of Team Josh. I am his #1 fan. Josh is my best friend, my closest confidant and the only person I want to hang out with every day. We’ve been a couple for more than a decade and I am not sick of him in the slightest! Sometimes I feel like I have only known him for a short while because I am always discovering something new about him. I continue to be impressed with his intelligence, kindness, and willingness to go along with my hair-brained ideas. He’s just awesome. I am clearly a big Josh fanatic, but I could also say the same about him when it comes to me. We are a team and when it comes to life, we approach it as a twosome. I am fearless because I know I have him on my team and vice versa. There truly isn’t anything we couldn’t accomplish together (like I tell him I bet we could build a house from the ground up, but he said we don’t need to build a house to prove we could… although we rebuilt our daughters’ Cinderella Princess Lego Castle together – that kind of counts right?). This feeling of confidence and fearlessness cannot be fabricated and it’s worth working on our relationship continually for the rest of our lives to keep it going.