This post is a continuation of my last post on keeping the spark in marriage --- with help from authors Richard and Linda Eyre.
In their recent newspaper column the Eyres, stated that a friend observed that many couples work harder at being good parents than at being good husbands or wives. The Eyres stated:
|We need to prioritize our marriage|
before we can prioritize our parenting
We need to prioritize our marriage before
we can prioritize our parenting.”
No matter how wonderful and important children are,
the husband and wife were on the scene first and will continue
to be together when their children leave the nest for their own homes.
Twenty years ago I worked with a man who was very proud of the fact that he and his wife were so devoted to their children and to parenting that they did not/would not go anywhere without their children. At that time they had several children and some of them were old enough to care for their siblings for a few hours. He wouldn’t even consider the idea that he and his wife were entitled to and needed time for themselves as husband and wife..He insisted his wife shared his feelings.
I occasionally wonder how that has worked out for them. Were they able to let their children leave the nest and cleave unto their spouses? Did he and the misses have anything, besides the children, in common once they were a couple again? Did they have husband/wife identities or even their own identities?
Dave and I were the exact opposite. I don’t think our kids suffered for it but if they did I am sure they will quickly write in and let me (and all of you) know.
We brought my love of art and Dave’s love of softball to our marriage. Since we cared for one another, I happily watched him play ball three evenings a week and he willingly accompanied me to art exhibits. Over time, his interest in art surpassed mine! And as time went on, we discovered new activities to enjoy and/or support one another in (yes, I remember, you should not end sentences with prepositions).
“We’d love to but we can’t afford to.”
For many, if not most, married couples the biggest obstacle to dating is finances. I have often heard “We’d love to but we can’t afford to.” You can't afford not to! Can’t is more often than not an excuse that is easier than some creativity. Keeping the spark, and keeping in touch with one another in couple-hood is worth whatever effort it takes.
• if you really can’t come up with the money for a sitter, arrange a trade with another young couple, so each of you get a date night or
• feed the kids a simple meal and put them to bed early and enjoy a special dinner for two after they are asleep or
• after their early bed time, play a game, work on a hobby you both enjoy, or just sit and cuddle and remember your dating and early marriage days.
If you can come up with a little money for a sitter, even if it is just for an hour or so, go for a ride or walk, visit the library, find a free local concert or activity or go for an ice cream cone. (As a continuation of the evening we always made it a point to return home after the sitter had the kids settled in bed—even if we had to drive around the block for a few minutes!)
When our older child was able to “tend” the younger, their payment was not money --- we brought home a malt or other treat of their choice.
Little things mean a lot!!
Even more so, when they require creativity rather than money.
• Put little notes in his lunches or in his shoes, or write a short message on a mirror
• Make one of his special treats for a non-occasion
• Take a minute to put on a little make-up and fragrance just before he comes home from work (Kids notice that you make the effort to do this for your spouse. One day our then youngest asked if I was going somewhere when he saw me doing this and his next older brother said, “No, it is time for daddy to come home.”)
• When he comes home, greet him at the door if possible, but don’t immediately begin telling him what a horrible day you had or how ornery the kids were. Chances are his wasn’t so great either.
There is no doubt kids need lots of our time. They need our love. They need our support. They need our encouragement. They need our acceptance. They need our respect. And they need to know of the love we have for one another. Their needs add up to what sometimes seems like overwhelming amounts of our time.
But, they don’t need our absolute and undivided attention!
Our spouses need our love, our time, our support, our encouragement, our acceptance and our respect. . .
but, do we sometimes forget about that in all the hustle and bustle?
This is what we did . . .
We jokingly referred to our children as “second-rate citizens.” What we really meant was second “rank.” Children are smart and me-centered, and they naturally use these attributes to their advantage. They can quickly see if they have us wrapped around their little finger — immediately available to their every want or need. Or, they can learn that they are not the only important person in the family and that they will not always be catered to.
New babies almost always need immediate attention; yet even they can learn a small amount of patience. When our babies started crying from hunger I would first go to them and talk to them and turn them over or some such thing and then leave for a couple of minutes to prepare their bottle. In that way, they soon discovered that I was not ignoring them, and they learned that I would quickly be back to care for them.
In our family, when a child’s wants didn’t require immediate attention (and most wants don’t), their dad usually came first with me—and still does. He even got the extra helping of dessert!
And why we did it
Again, we were a couple first, we are a couple again now that the children are grown, and it was important to maintain our couple-ness while raising a family. We have seen too many couples lose that identity when their children started arriving. An unidentified but very wise person said “The greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.” It works in reverse, too. For the mom to love the dad.
We all know that example is the greatest teacher. Our kids were known to tell their dad that I had had a rough day and that he should take me out. If the full truth were known it probably would have been that I was taking my rough day out on them and they would like me out of the house for a while, but still they were learning about others and other’s needs.
There is no need for arguments in any marriage. The bottom line of most arguments is selfishness or pride. And what is in the center of pride? Spell it out: pride.
We have never felt that a marriage was meant to be 50-50. Instead, we feel it is best when it is an equation similar to 90-10, with each spouse striving to give the 90!
The only acceptable fight in any marriage is a line from a song of long, long ago, "we often fight the live long night 'bout who loves who the most."
|We are simply and happily, Dave and Gail|
Note: The Eyres are special people with a special mission. Their vision is to "fortify families by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, validating values, and bolstering balance." To this end they are offering their books on line at no charge. Please check them out at http://www.eyresfreebooks.com./