Q: My wife, Jan, and I have been married for 18 years. In the past, we’ve always been close and in love. However, I’m not feeling very attached to her lately. I guess I know she’s always going to be there so maybe I’m taking her a little bit for granted. I’m not feeling all that bad about it, though, because she doesn’t seem to be very interested in me either.
Between raising the kids and both of us working, there just doesn’t seem to be any time to be a couple. Sometimes, I feel scared that we might be growing apart. I hate the idea of separating, but when I see other couples together, I realize we no longer have that closeness. What can I do?
A: What you’re describing sounds like a common phenomenon among married couples raising children. Your admission of feeling somewhat complacent about the relationship, though, is a warning sign to take action now regarding your marital situation. If we want healthy, strong relationships, it’s important to participate in ongoing relationship maintenance.
If you want your car to run well, you take it for oil changes, install new filters, and keep it washed and clean. The same goes with your marriage.
For a relationship to remain strong over time you owe it to yourself, your wife, and the relationship to put in the time and effort required to ensure the relationship grows and continues to have intimacy and joy.
Keeping your focus on your own behavior is a wonderful and effective place to start when it comes to enhancing your marriage. Rather than wishing she would change her behavior, consider what actions you can take to demonstrate the importance of the relationship in your life.
Think about activities you’ve enjoyed doing together in the past, places you used to love to go, and subjects you used to discuss for hours. These things are examples of activities you can reintroduce into your relationship to pull yourselves closer together.
For example, maybe you both used to love going to the theatre to see a newly released film. How long has it been since you did that? Find out the films showing in your area and then call your wife to invite her out for a date night, without the kids. Maybe you could even stop at your old favorite burger place after the show.
Remember when you sat and talked for hours about what you each wanted to accomplish in your careers? Bring up the subject with her some evening to show you’re still interested in her dreams.
All the ways you connected before can help you reconnect now. Use your knowledge about your past together to reignite your passion in the present.
Q: But how can we do these things when the kids have all their activities? We’re responsible for transporting them to and from the activities and we usually try to attend most of them. Plus, it seems like the kids are around 24/7. How can we do anything as a couple when we have them to consider? Usually if we do anything fun at all, we take the kids with us.
A: It’s understandable that you’d feel like there’s a lack of time to do things as a couple when you’re raising children. However, it’s imperative that you capture some time for yourselves.
Think of your relationship as the supporting “beam” for your entire family. If you take care of the supporting beam, it will stay strong for the family.
Consider time as a couple a necessary part of the survival of your relationship and family.
Find the time to occasionally have alone time together. For example, depending on your kids’ ages and bedtimes, you can plan a special “date” at home after the kids go to bed. You could watch a movie or have a pizza date.
You can even have a neighborhood babysitter come over for a couple of hours to mind the kids so you can go out together. Speaking of getting a babysitter, if you have close family, like grandparents, who live close, think about how much they’d love to keep the kids overnight occasionally.
You could have a fantastic date night on a Friday or Saturday evening while the kids spend the night with those you trust to take good care of them. Plan to have a date night at least every two weeks, if not weekly.
As you begin to put in the effort to maintain and protect your relationship, it’s likely your partner will do the same. Sometimes all it takes is a little effort to rekindle the missing spark in your marriage. Renewing your effort in the marriage will also encourage your wife think of ways to enhance it as well. Think of your marriage as an ongoing investment of love, time, and attention.
Q: In the past, we tried to do some couple things, but then we ended up feeling guilty about leaving the kids. What if they feel left out?
A: It’s a good idea to explain to kids of all ages that Mum and Dad need time alone to talk and be together. Plus, when your kids see you enjoying yourselves and drawing closer together, they’ll feel happier and safer.
When you behave as a healthy couple and spend the necessary time with each other, you present your kids with the best model of how two healthy, loving partners relate together. Your kids will see and learn how to have a fun, romantic, and positive relationship as they mature.
Q: I didn’t think about how the interactions between my wife and I are viewed daily by our kids. It makes sense that we’d want to show them how important the relationship is by putting time and effort into it. But I think I’m out of practice when it comes to being romantic. Where do I begin?
A: Although you might feel like a fish out of water when it comes to bringing romance back into your life, you likely did such things when your relationship was first getting started.
There are lots of little things you can do to enhance the relationship.
Try some of these suggestions or use this list as inspiration to come up with your own ideas for romance:
- Choose that special song from years ago as your mobile ringtone and designate it only for when your wife calls.
- Send your wife a text during the workday with those three simple words, “I love you.”
- Call her on the phone during your break and ask her how her work day is going.
- Arrange for the kids to be away for the evening. Then, bring home candles and cook her dinner like you used to. Or if you prefer not to cook, order a nice meal to bring home and serve. The key is a candlelight dinner alone at home.
- If you can swing it, plan an overnight weekend excursion without the kids. Consider trading child-care services with good friends or close neighbors that you trust. Or if your brothers or sisters have kids, perhaps you can swap child care with them.
- Send flowers for no reason at all. She’ll be surprised and touched by your gesture.
- Remind yourself to show your love toward your wife at least daily. Opening doors for her, telling her you think she looks pretty, and holding her hand when you’re walking across the grocery store parking lot are wonderful ways to show you care.
- Create a playlist of music you loved listening to years ago and play it in the car when you’re out together.
- Bring her a special gift, like her favorite perfume or a purse she wants, just because.
- Before you make love, light a candle and put on some love songs.
The list of things you can do to bring romance into your relationship is endless. It’s never too late. However, it’s important that these special gestures are regular aspects of your relationship. Romance will sweeten your love.
Q: I can see that there are some pretty simple things for me to do to be romantic with her again. But for some reason, I feel uncomfortable about starting all of this. It’s been so long since we really paid attention to each other that it just seems awkward to think about behaving this way. Will she think it’s weird or strange?
A: It sounds like you’re feeling pretty disconnected from her. If that’s the case, perhaps it would be a good idea to talk to her about how you’re feeling. Communication is an important element to enhancing emotional closeness in a relationship.
Share your concerns about not spending enough alone time together. Tell her that you want to be close again.
You could even say that you miss how you used to be together and that it’s your goal to do whatever is necessary to bring you back together. Acknowledge that you realize you may have fallen into the trap of taking her for granted but that, in fact, you see all the things she does for you and appreciate them very much. Say you want to enjoy being a couple again.
During your communication, it’s imperative to listen carefully to what she says. She’ll likely share that she’s noticed the same thing. Also, you might find that your wife is thrilled with your ideas to bring you closer together again and even offers some wonderful ideas of her own.
When she suggests ideas, make solid plans to actually do them. Your eagerness to please her is a great first step to rebuilding your closeness.
Q: I guess I’m a little bit worried that she doesn’t care about our relationship and won’t want to try to get close again. What will I do if she’s not interested or really doesn’t love me anymore?
A: It seems that you’re anxious about confronting the situation with her. Still, when you do share your own feelings, she’ll see that you’re being open and honest and she’ll likely do the same with you.
Since she has remained with you through the years and you have a family together, it’s unlikely that bringing up how you want to strengthen your relationship would trigger her to say she’s no longer interested. She’ll probably be happy to see that you’re making the effort to revive the emotional elements of your relationship.
When you begin to apply these suggestions, keep your eyes and ears open for how she feels about your efforts. Does she notice them and say, “Thank you” and how much she appreciates them? If not, ask for her opinion on how she thinks you’re doing. Let her know that you’d appreciate her feedback because you want to have the best marriage you can.
As you stay focused on enhancing your relationship, you’ll experience the special joys that sharing a life together brings.