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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keeping romance alive - Staying connected even when things get busy

Things have been so hectic at the problem solvin home lately that I've felt the need to review my bag of tricks for staying connected with hubs. There are so many things that have to be done, that if we don't make the effort, it's easy to let that husband and wife relationship get put on the back burner. With EmDee going on shift work recently, things have gotten even more complicated in our house.

We have some tried and true habits that work well, but I've been wondering what works for other busy families - so of course I hit up some of my blogging friends to see what works for them!

Here are the common themes that came out of Steph, Megan, Deb, Octamom and my staying connected handbooks:

  • make couple time with your spouse a priory: whether this is in the form of date night or just some quiet time sans kids, it's important to connect regularly.
  • know what is going on in each other's lives: whether it's through email, text messages or regular chats, know what's important to each other and discuss the day to day details of each others lives.
  • keep romance in the everyday: love notes, something funny you know your spouse will enjoy, gestures that show how much you care.

Megan came up with a list especially for the Christmas season that I absolutely love -

  • Get the sitter to arrive 90 minutes early and go out together for a light dinner or coffee before that big holiday party.
  • Put the kids to bed a little early, set up a little floor picnic by the tree (or light some candles), pop Handel's Messiah on the iPod or CD player and soak up the mood and music together.
  • Share a beverage in the glow of the Christmas tree every night the month of December.
  • One word: Mistletoe!
Octamom has quite a bit of experience in this arena, what with eight kids and 19 years of marriage. And then there's the fact that she can make toilet paper sound elegant...here is what she has to say:
    The combined forces of careers, chaos, and kids can tarnish many a couple's connection. We certainly have had our share of conspired craziness keeping us at a running pace in opposite directions. Keeping our couple-hood healthy and happy takes regular care and feeding. For us, there are a few areas that make a lot of difference.
    1. Regular Date Nights: We make a concerted effort to go out each week. Sometimes, that means a 30 minute cup of coffee after the smallest kids are in bed. Other times, it means a nice dinner, but regardless of the setting, it's about a time set aside to leave the house and Octamom population and sit enjoying some conversation. And it doesn't mean going out with another couple--it specifically means time for just the two of us.
    2. Regular Laughter: M's career is consuming and demanding and stressful--and then he comes home to the nine of us. Real relaxing, don't you think? He often leaves very early in the morning and doesn't get home until long past dark. But when he hits the door, we do spend a fair amount of time cutting up and laughing and wrestling kids. We tell each other the funny things we encountered during the day and often forward each other hilarious sites we find on the web. Laughter has always been one of our love languages.
    3. Regular Worship: No, I'm not talking just about church attendance. What I am talking about is the frequent conversations and experiences M and I share in our faith. In the busyness of life, in the car pools and soccer tournaments and business travel and demands of our special need kids and employee issues, it is vital that we are on the same page, that we share a purpose and a vision. The frenetic facets of our lives can often cloud our ultimate mission. We make it a priority to be feeding our souls and to share with each other the insight that comes from that time.
    4. Regular Workouts: I'm being very serious here. Yep, even with the eight kids and the homeschooling and the photography and all. M and I are devoted to each other, love each other and are deeply committed to the principal of marriage, and M has loved me through many pregnancies and the resulting physical aftermath. But let's face it, marriage is not just about friendship. While I can't claim to be in peak physical condition, I do make an effort to clean-up my act from time to time. I may be a mom of eight, but I'm gonna give it a shot at being a hot mom of eight (though I'm a little vague on what that template might actually be...) And I appreciate that M also takes care of himself. It's comforting to be very comfortable around each other regardless of wardrobe, but in taking care of myself, I'm also telling M how much I care about him.
    5. Regular Forgiveness: Do your marriage connection a favor; get in the habit of getting over relationship trivia quickly. Obviously, couples do face big issues that take time and counsel. But I'm talking about the little stuff, the small irritations that I've seen send marriages into the ditch. While we have seen marriages blow up over things that were very serious, we've seen more marriages disintegrate over white noise that has been allowed to grow into a roar. I have my little (and bigger) things that could make M crazy, and he has a couple of things that could render me a shrew. But in the bigger picture, these issues do not warrant the emotional energy we could give them.
    Let's face it, nobody has their act completely together in the marriage game. We certainly have had our times of being completely off page, a unit that is supposed to be a unified team and instead is hunkered down in opposite bunkers, throwing salvos over a field of neglect and lack of appreciation. We've faced our share of difficult times, made all the more complicated by the force of both of our big personalities. But keeping an eye on the ball is what it's all about. And that ball for us is not just keeping a marriage together, but in enjoying it, crafting it, creating a legacy and a template for our children and their children and their children. And for that, you've just got to keep on taking a swing at that ball.

    Most of all, I loved how in chatting with each one of these fabulous ladies, I can just hear the love and commitment they have for their relationships. We each recognize how lucky we are and are actively engaging our spouses. I hope you'll stop back tomorrow for Deb's great top ten list of suggestions for staying connected.

    As a teaser, I have a great book review and giveaway coming up in the new year from one of RedBook magazine's love doctors!

    What are your strategies for staying connected? I'd love to hear them!

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    Mel said...

    What an amazing post and reminder of how to give a spouse priority in this craziness called life!

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    Boy Mom said...

    Great post! Especially with all the Holiday stress.

    Adorable Hubby always says,(Hey I sound like Forrest Gump) "That he doesn't mind being last on my list behind the kids, dog and laundry,he just needs to know he's on the list".

    I'm learning that our marriage is the best when we treat each other with the same enthusiasm, eagerness, connection and excitement that we dated with.

    Hard? Of course!

    Worth it? Absolutely!

    Mina said...

    First time here, I like the theme of your blog very much, kind of a co-op of women trying to live better lives.

    I follow Octamom regularly--and she always has such great insights.

    I've been married 15 years and have only 4 kids. I've learned a lot, though. I married my husband because we were great friends, he's hilarious and talented and a good person in general. If we're starting to feel a little disconnected, I need to remind myself of those facts, and usually that date night is the best way to do it. TIme away--with no one else, much as we adore our kids--to act like young lovers again. Courting each other.

    I also have to pull myself away from all of my projects at some point in the evening to come spend time with him. Even if it's to watch a Seinfeld rerun or something. We laugh together and cuddle on the couch, and that, fo us, is good conntecting time.

    CC said...

    I'm embarrassed to say that we don't have any tricks and need to start using the ones you mentioned a whole lot more!!!

    MommaCeleste said...

    What a great post! This area has been difficult for me for awhile. As In probably most triplet pregnancy, any type of, well you know, arousal is a big no no and in my pregnancy, it's been like this from wk 12! We haven't even slept in the same bed because I'm so uncomfortable and don't sleep well, in 2 months!
    What a great reminder of other things you can do to create intimacy. I'm going to try harder!

    Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

    I read this last night but didn't get a chance to share a comment. I loved the focus on intentional connection with your partner. Definitely it's easy to lose track in the midst of holiday seasons, but hey! It's easy to lose track of each other in the routines of everyday life.

    Kyle and I love the idea of date night, but our finances have been so limited lately, we've had to improvise. We plan regular TV nights for snuggling on the couch and discussing plot lines and guesses as to what the writers will do next. It's cheap and it's cozy and we both look forward to it.

    Thanks for this really timely reminder!

    Debbie said...

    Excellent post and ideas from some of my favorite bloggers!