Congratulations! You and your little one are surviving and thriving. Your tiny baby has graduated to the toddler stage.
Of course, you may feel a mix of emotions right now as your child starts to come into their own. Perhaps you are excited to see them begin to grow up. Or feel a bit ambushed by the amount of awareness that parenting now requires.
It’s no secret that toddlers take center-stage for any parents raising a child. Thus, unfortunately, toddler times is also a time when marriage satisfaction begins to decline. Kids are work, their care can be stressful! That stress can take its toll on any relationship. However, here are some suggestions for how couples can maintain marital satisfaction while raising an adorable, busy, demanding toddler.
Carve Out Time to Spend Together-Alone
Perhaps the single most significant thing that couples can do to improve marital satisfaction is to spend time together. Time without your toddler around.
Of course, in addition to raising a child, you both have busy work schedules, housework, extended family obligations etc. You may insist that there is no alone time to be had. Please rethink your obligations and redefine your date nights, whether it really is at night or 3 PM or 11 AM. Time together is non-negotiable. It matters.
Call a babysitter, grandparent, or trusted friend to get out of the house. Or, if that isn’t possible, stop what you’re doing to spend time together while your child is sleeping. Make sure that it is “we” time, save discussions about household bills or work schedules for less precious moments.
Communicate Your Commitments Cleary
Being attentive parents is very important. However, parenting and being a loving attentive partner are not either-or commitments. It will take coordination but it is vital that you communicate how important you are to each other routinely. That means clearly communicating your schedules. That means remaining reliable and responsive. That means asking each other what matters and preventing the sense that you’ll leave your partner “high-and-dry” for the sake of the kids.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a system that works for you that you are both committed to maintaining. Use online tools to share a joint calendar together. Check in often. Prioritize each other. Leave no doubt that your life together is still your life together, first and foremost. Your kids are happy additions.
Share the Parenting Load Together
When one parent has to bear the burden of parenting, everyone suffers. The stress and anxiety built up from lopsided parenting can get released in undesirable ways. You may feel worn down and even jealous of your spouse’s downtime. You may feel resentful or taken advantage of if your partner doesn’t feel as obligated to parent.
Inequities in parenting can certainly then lead to lower marital satisfaction and diminished respect between you. Discuss the best way to split parenting duties, and how to come to an equitable arrangement.
Sharing parenting duties equally or in accordance with your agreement is loving and considerate. When you feel that you are both sharing the load, you will feel more in tune, cooperative, and forward-moving as a couple.
Simply put, you’re both in this parenting thing together.
Yes, exercise! When you exercise you release endorphins, which are important for boosting mood. By exercising together you accomplish several goals at once. For example, you
- take care of your physical health
- share a common activity that is fun
- spend routine, quality time together
- Increase “feel good” hormones that stimulate warmth and a sense of intimacy.
Note that exercising doesn’t always have to mean hitting the gym (though that’s not a bad idea). Consider taking brisk walks or bike rides around the block together. Or, take up a team sport that you’ll both enjoy while widening your circle of friends.
Express Appreciation to One Another
Sometimes we just want to know that we are appreciated.
Taking a moment to be kind to your partner each day to show your appreciation goes a long way. It’s a reminder that you both love and honor each other. You won’t take each other for granted. You see each other as more than just a co-parent.
Brag on each other to others, give small gifts, send encouraging texts.
Decide to be there for each other, no one gets you like your partner gets you and vice versa. No one knows the saggy diapers and sweet cuddles with your kids like your parenting partner. Don’t forget to celebrate that and thank each other for sharing the experience.
Need a Bit of Help Along the Way?
Clearly, maintaining satisfaction in your marriage with a toddler is not easy work.
Figuring out how to make time for your relationship may feel overwhelming right now. It’s okay to reach out for help, ideas, support. Just a little time away from your child with a counselor may provide some perspective.
Why not take the above recommendations to heart and consider a consultation with me soon? I’d love to help your family find its way forward. Partnering well while parenting is challenging, but it can be done with much love, growth, and success.