Secrets to a happy marriage
For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part, blah blah blah. Did you ever notice that your wedding vows do not mention kids? What is that telling us? The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the dramas, can we survive a marriage with kids?
I remember those vows, from once upon a time, the bliss, the happiness, the carefree existence and the lazy Sunday sleep-ins. Once that honeymoon period is over and kids descend on your once blissful marriage its time to click into reality.
Marriage is hard work, there is no doubt about it. Movies and fairytales have a lot to answer for, giving us a completely unrealistic view of supposed marital bliss for eternity. Does it really exist? Were we ever really like that? I think so, but after years of sleepless nights of teething, colds, bedwetting and nightmares, you start to question who that man is at the other end of the bed, shoved to one side with the kids taking centre stage.
Where did the long lazy Sunday sleep-ins and romantic Saturday night dinners go? Well honey, they are, for the moment, a distant memory. My husband and I have made a deal that we'll pick up where we left off before kids, in a few years time, when it can be more about 'us' than nappies, snotty noses and play dates.
Managing a marriage and motherhood can be a challenge at times. Being a woman can too. We are all too hard on ourselves. Let's face it, we all want to be the perfect mother, wife, seductive temptress, friend and career woman, but that is one serious balancing act. Sometimes it can get a little overwhelming and its times like these we need to remember what's important.
Relationships are really the most important thing in our lives - our relationship with our husband or partner, our kids, family and our friends. We would be nothing without them. The laundry can wait and facebook will still be there, what's most important is taking time out to listen and share experiences with our partner and our children. I'm talking about quality time, no tv, no iphone, no computer.
I really needed a reality check and it was my husband who gave it to me. No doubt we had lost touch. My kids and my family are my number one importance. However I have to say and I hate to admit it, but the kids had really been coming first and this meant my husband often got left to last.
I know I'm not alone in saying this, in fact speaking to my friends, they all say the same thing. But this really became a problem, my husband was really feeling left out. We ended up going to see a counsellor to help us talk out some of our issues that we had swept under the carpet because the kids and my work were always taking priority.
Family definitely comes first for me. I mean I am certainly there for my kids, everything from feeding, clothing, playing and being the general taxi service. I also have a career as an author and an online business that takes up most of my spare time after the housework. "So where does that leave me?" my husband asked.
You know, I really had to think hard at how I could possibly fit in 'us' time when at the end of the day after the kids were in bed, I was ready to drop dead I was so tired. My husband was certainly feeling left out, and I hated that, but at the same time I didn’t have anymore energy, surely he could see that.
What I have come to discover is that men need to feel wanted, they need to feel like they are needed and they need to feel loved. I have two boys and have read Steve Biddulph’s book "Raising Boys", a very insightful look into the minds of not only boys but indeed men, as let's face it, they never really grow up. Biddulph clearly states that boys need constant affirmation and the same can definitely be said about men.
The counsellor and Biddulph both reiterated what I already knew; relationships are the most important fulfilling part of our lives. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at what's really important before it's gone and it's too late.
Now, things didn’t really get that bad but I believe it was because my husband was open about his feelings and we acted upon these, that now things are much better. No doubt we still have our bad days, but I can see when he is feeling left out and I stop and make sure I make time for him. This means turning off my computer, no facebook, no iphone and certainly no tv. We need just 'us' time as a family or a date night out without the kids.
I know we are not alone in these feelings and I have spoken to many of my friends about their relationships. We all seem to be at that stage in our lives with young children when brunch is a much better time to catch up than dinner; When long catch ups over coffee are a thing of the past; when play dates are an hour of chaos and confused disjointed conversations; and when you and your husband or partner seem a little disjointed. But I think what we have come to realise is that that's pretty normal for this stage of our lives and we have to remind ourselves of this constantly. There is light at the end of the tunnel, or so my friends with older children say.
So what's the secret to a happy marriage? Well, there isn't one. It may sound morbid but it's certainly realistic. Let me say it again, "there is no such thing as a completely happy marriage", just as there is no such thing as a friendship without argument or a job without bad days. You have blissful happy moments, good moments and bloody awful moments but it's the weak that get going and the strong that stick with it. It's a partnership and you need to constantly work at it.
It's also important to talk to others if you are having a bad day or a bad patch. Sometimes it's better to talk to girlfriends than to your partner if things are too heated. There are many counsellors out there that are fantastic to help you move forward in a happier direction. I know plenty of people who have seen counsellors with and without their partners and all of them have come out the other side in a much better place. You would be surprised how many people seek help, it's completely normal and if it helps, then why not give it a go. It's not expensive and let's face it, your relationship is important, it's worth it.
Sometimes, all it takes is being open and honest and making that first step for the better. I am so glad that I did.