There are many things that contribute to a successful marriage: good communication, respect, intimacy, teamwork…the list goes on. I’m not an expert on marriage, so this post is based on my own experiences and from observing others. I’m a reader of “self-help” books and a big fan of continuous self evaluation, which is probably why I like to write posts like this. My goal is to share my perspective and hope that it resonates with you and provides some sort of positive impact on your life.
So, to the topic of today’s post, Priorities. One of the reasons that I believe my husband and I have such a fun and healthy marriage after 10 years (and after a child) is because we prioritize each other and ourselves. Prior to having children it was a lot easier to prioritize myself and my husband. Besides work, I didn’t have commitments that warranted greater attention. Having a baby changes all of that. Suddenly your world is consumed by another person’s life, and it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself and your partner. I’ve watched many of my friends struggle going back to work full time after having babies, and rightfully so, it’s hard. In less than two months Katie’s maternity leave will be ending and she will go back to her demanding full time job, and I’m sure the transition will be rough. My best advice for her, and for all women with young children, going back to work or staying at home, is to remember that you cannot take care of your child or your spouse if you don't take care of yourself.
Make yourself a priority.
So what might that look like? It might mean that instead of pumping 4 times a day while at work, you give your baby formula and instead spend that extra hour at the gym. I know this statement will cause controversy, but if exercise is something that is important to you, and there is no other time in the day, then make that a priority. You will be happier for it and so will your baby.
Similarly, if you are a stay at home mom, make sure that you have some type of a break in your day when you can do something to fulfill yourself. That might be having a babysitter for an hour or two so you can go to the gym or to lunch with a friend. Or if you don’t have or can’t afford help, maybe that means you do an online workout class while your baby naps or you watch an hour of reality TV. Do something that makes you feel good.
Make yourself a priority.
What I’ve found through my own experiences and through observing others is that when you are unable to take care of yourself your are more likely to be bitter and resentful when your spouse does things for himself. For example, let’s say your husband spends every Saturday morning playing golf, that’s easily a 4+ hour commitment. If you’re at home with your children during that time, then chances are you will be bitter and angry that he spent the whole morning doing something fun while you listened to your 4 and 6 year old fight over who gets to use the Easy Bake Oven first. I’m pretty sure if you have a child, you’ve had this type of experience and feeling. If you are regularly prioritizing yourself and doing things you enjoy, then the resentment and anger will likely pass quickly. However, If you don’t regularly prioritize yourself, these emotions will escalate into feelings of constant anger and resentment, and that is never a good thing.
Make yourself a priority.
While it’s important to make yourself a priority, it’s also crucial to make your spouse a priority. It’s very easy to put the entire focus of your family on your children, their activities, their routines, etc. I think this is one of the biggest challenges in a marriage (with children). There are so many ways to prioritize each other. Have a regular date night each week (or once a month) where you and your spouse go out and enjoy each other’s company without your children. I also believe it is important to take vacations without your children. This might not happen very frequently, but even a night away can help to rejuvenate you as a couple.
Make each other a priority
While date nights and vacations are great, they take time and money, which not everyone has in abundance. There are also small ways that you can prioritize each other in your daily life. One of the biggest ways is by giving your spouse the same love and attention you give your children. I noticed that when my husband was coming home each day from work he immediately gave the Mini a hug and a kiss and often times not me. While not intentional, it sends the message that your child is a bigger priority than your spouse. We now make a conscious effort to greet one another with a hug and/or kiss each time we come and go. This kind of deliberate prioritization helps to keep a strong emotional and physical connection in our marriage.
Make each other a priority.
My husband and I have achieved a great balance in our lives where each of us are able to do the things we love, we are also able to do things together as a couple and things as a family. I know that this is one of the many reasons we have a happy and healthy marriage after 10 years and will continue to for years to come. We prioritize ourselves and each other.
For most of you I hope this post reaffirms what are you already doing in your life to make yourself and your spouse a priority. Or, I hope it helps you to see an opportunity for improvement. By no means is my marriage perfect, no marriage is. But, I can assure you that thinking about yourself and your spouse as a priority will certainly help to lead you down a path to greater happiness and fulfillment.