When you get married it is with the hope that the idealised fairy tale of happily ever after will come true for you.
Usually marriage comes after a couple of years together, which can only be described as the honeymoon phase, the serotonin high, where all challenges are met with positivity and a ‘we can get through it together’ attitude.
Then comes the arrival of children, the great divide, children without any intention split the team and define the roles, Mum looks after the kids, Dad works or vice versa, freedom is restricted, ‘no thanks I won’t have a glass of wine, I’m breastfeeding’, ‘sorry mate I can’t meet the boys on Saturday I’ve got my daughter’s dance recital’.
Self sacrifice for the good of the family becomes the norm and most wouldn’t have it any other way. What can be hard to accept though is the change in the partner love dynamic.
Once I heard some great advice from a couple who had been married over 30 years, they said, we have had plenty of ups and downs during our marriage, at lots of points we have both thought about divorce or gone through periods of resenting the other, the only way we have stayed together is that we have both never fallen out of love at the same time, one of us has always been able to pull the other back from the brink.
When you’ve been with someone for a decade or more, that’s a lot of shared history, throw kids into the mix and there’s a lot to lose, most parents just want to see their kids happy and provide a harmonious home. If children wake up safe and happy, see their parents loving and respecting each other and learn emotional self control when confronted with stressful situations then they have the best chance of being able to grow into functional adults without excess baggage and psychological issues.
The key to a healthy relationship is effective communication, being able to listen and respond to each other’s compliments and criticisms, no one is perfect, we all have irritating personality traits and character flaws, being able to see past these things and treat each other with kindness can recharge and revitalise the spark.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day but remembering to tell your partner that you’re proud of their achievements, that you appreciate when they shoulder more of the responsibility and also have them recognise how much you do can keep the fire burning, at the end of a long day when you walk out of your kid’s bedroom and pass your partner in the hallway, the simple gesture of a conciliatory smile and warm hug can make all the difference.
The only remedy to the relentlessness of parenting is being present in the moment, understanding that time is fleeting and each phase shall pass before you are prepared for its loss. Wake up in a good mood, count your blessings and teach your children gratitude. Food is happiness, eat good food. Embrace spontaneity, embrace routine, do whatever makes you feel in control.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, resentful, frustrated or angry at your partner, really look at them, notice the fine lines that have appeared around their eyes, the grey hairs that have recently sprouted in his beard, how low-maintenance your wife’s beauty routine has become because she puts the kids first, acknowledge the time that has passed since you first met and how much you have both changed.
Celebrate the victories of knowing them when they were young and carefree, building a family together, buying a home, supporting each other’s career progression, the closeness of driving in the car with his hand on your leg solving life’s problems, knowing you’ve battled and won, riding the roller coaster of passion where intimacy ebbs and flows.
Don’t expect your partner to be all things to you, that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment, sometimes lowering your expectations can actually take the pressure off a situation and rebuild a strained connection. Knowing expectations are achievable is a win/win for everybody.
Spend quality time together to create new memories and reminisce old ones, laughter invigorates the soul, invest in your social life and your friendships, it’s so important to have a support network to celebrate and commiserate the highs and lows of life.
Be kind to yourself, kind to your loved ones and kind to those you meet, then you can truly say, that my life is sweet ?