Welcome to the Colored Organics Community blog series; a collective place to connect, learn, and share about experiences, emotions, hopes and dreams while raising our children and growing our families.
To kick off this special series on our blog, we enlisted the wonderful Dr. Morgan Cutlip, a relationship expert and mama of two wild kids, to share her best advice for keeping the spark alive with your partner after becoming parents.
Blog written by Dr. Morgan Cutlip
3 Tips For Staying Connected With Your Partner After Kids
My husband and I had been married almost 5 years by the time we had kids, we had known each other for over 16 years. By most measures of relationship health, we were pretty solid. I mean, my job is to help people with their relationships, adding kids to our marriage, no big deal. We had this.
Except, we didn’t. That transition from partners to parents was much harder and filled with way more frustration and resentment than I anticipated.
Naïve? For sure. But I don’t think we were alone in our complete lack of preparedness when it came to adding kids to our relationship. For as much thought and energy that goes into getting ready to welcome your baby, almost no planning goes into baby-proofing your relationship.
I want to offer you some quick insights into keeping your relationship strong and thriving after kids.
First, you must know that there’s a fundamental truth about relationships that I hope offers you some peace and it’s that: life, even the good things, will naturally pull the closeness of your relationship apart.
This isn’t meant to be anything other than normalizing. If you think about it, just the sheer busyness of life, not to mention the holidays, job changes, illnesses, transitions, sleep regressions, birthdays, etc. has this way of interrupting the closeness in your relationship and making it harder to find time to actually connect in meaningful ways with your partner.
Kids are one of the biggest shocks to your relationship closeness, particularly because they also bring along with them things like extra responsibilities and a slew of expectations that you and your partner may have never explored.
Hear me one more time: this is normal.
The caveat is that while life will disrupt your closeness, pulling you and your partner apart, your relationship will not autocorrect, you and your partner must intentionally manage your relationship so that your relationship doesn’t remain chronically disconnected.
Here are some ways to do this:
1. Get in the habit of having regular relationship check-ins
“Can we talk,” those three words conjure up so much anxiety in relationships, particularly because we tend to only talk about our relationships when something is wrong. One of the biggest impacts you can make in keeping your relationship close and thriving after kids, is scheduling in regular relationship check-ins.
These talks have three major benefits: they normalize talking about your relationship, they help you stay on top of minor issues that can eventually become major problems, and they help you and your partner connect regularly with each other.
Here are some quick tips for these check-ins:
- Schedule the check-ins on your calendars. This helps you BOTH be accountable, rather than adding to your already long list of things you manage.
- Keep them short (30 minutes or less) because you want them to be a positive experience.
- Come up with a couple questions you ask in each check-in. For example, “what’s something you need from me that I haven’t been doing enough?” or “how’s our sex life, what can we do to make some improvements?” or “let’s look at the calendar, when can we schedule some alone time together?”.
- End with an expression of appreciation and affection.
2. Establish rituals as a couple
After kids, alone time is harder to come by. Our kids are 9 and 6 and while their independence is increasing; they still have this way of having something urgent they need to tell my husband and me just as we start talking. I get it.
This challenge requires getting creative with how you spend time together, especially if hiring a sitter feels too uncomfortable or is not affordable. Developing rituals with one another can be a really wonderful way of getting this time in.
Rituals are just regular ways you and your partner connect. Maybe it’s taking a long drive together, kids strapped in car seats, and chatting. Maybe it’s getting up and having coffee alone before your days begin. Maybe it’s staying up and talking after the kids go to bed.
Carving out these small opportunities for connection pack a major punch in keeping your relationship close after kids.
3. See each other beyond just “parents”
When you get comfortable in the parent role, it can be hard to remember what it was like before. It can even be difficult to see yourself as more than a mom or more than a parent, let alone your partner. The routine and busyness of parenting can make it hard to focus on your partner.
It’s important to know the way that we think about our partner has a major impact on how we feel toward our partner. Because of this, regularly checking in on how you see your partner and what you’re focusing on, can help you to maintain a positive attitude toward them.
Specifically, putting some concerted effort into reminding yourself of all the things you love about your partner and the reasons why you chose this person, can make all the difference in keeping the spark alive.
Your relationship after kids changes in ways that may catch you off guard, but I want to reassure you that it also can deepen in ways you never fully anticipated. Practicing the three tips I suggested in this blog can go a long way in helping you and your partner stay close, connected, and thriving after kids.
About the Author
Dr. Morgan Cutlip, is a Ph.D. in psychology, relationship expert, mother of two wild kids, wife of her high school sweetheart, and life-long lover of all things relationships. She is experienced in translating psychological theory and research into practical, accessible, and actionable advice, which she shares with her clients and social media followers (@drmorgancutlip), through her courses, on the Love Thinks podcast, and on the blog at www.mylovethinks.com. Dr. Morgan has been featured in the New York Times, Teen Vogue, Women’s Health Magazine, and serves on the medical board from the @FloTracker app (the #1 app in health and fitness). She is also the author of the upcoming book with Thomas Nelson, Love your kids without losing yourself: 5 steps to banish guilt and beat burnout when you already have too much to do. To learn more about Dr. Morgan, check out her blog or IG for free relationship resources.