The butterflies in your stomach, the romance, the nights that never end (and not because of children)... when you're in love, the world begins and ends with the two of you, and not anyone or anything can come between you.
Then comes parenthood, the biggest blessing and most incredible thing that can happen to a couple. However, too often, the couple that once was becomes subsumed in their new role as parents.
These six pieces of advice will help you keep the passion afloat through parenting and beyond:
1. Go out of your way. Why is it that so often, we feel that the wooing stage -- adoring and making your partner a priority -- seems to slowly dissipate after the honeymoon is over? And then, when babies come into the picture, well, prepare to let your romance take a backseat to the needs of your family. Get comfortable, because it's going to be like this for awhile. How do you get over this hump? Go out of your way to make time for your partner outside of the demands of family. They'll appreciate it, and it will remind you why you created your family in the first place.
2. Be available.The kids are fed, bathed, breathing well and tucked in a bed (more than likely, not their own bed). The mere fact that everyone just survived another day deserves a high five (maybe with a side of Pinot or Merlot). And then what? Where is the energy and passion and stamina left for your partner? The thought of dragging yourself into the shower sounds exhausting -- never mind the thought of having the vitality for anything else. Be available in spite of this and you'll surprise yourself with the passion it brings.
3. Avoid Name-Calling. Remember how they taught us as kids to "always fight nice?" Yeah, try telling yourself that when you're in the heat of the moment and ready to rip your spouse's head off -- more than likely over something insignificant or a discussion that starts from indirectly talking to one of the kids in a passive-aggressive way, like, "Oh my, isn't it funny Daddy forgot to do this?" Fast-forward five minutes, and you're gritting that 'you know what' name under your breath and giving your significant other the death look. Yeah, unfortunately... it happens.
4. Say 'I'm Sorry.' Why is it so hard to sometimes simply own up to our mistakes? Just fess up, man up and claim responsibility. Acknowledge that yes, you made a mistake; yes, it's your fault; yes, you're sorry. Move on together.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Torres
5. Steer Clear of Family/Friend Drama. Mind your own business. If everyone in the entire world managed to do this simple thing, I think we would have a shot at world peace. Unfortunately, it's one of the hardest concepts for people to put in practice. If everyone would let a couple and their family decide what is best -- let me say that again -- for their family and wait to be asked for their input (if, indeed, it's ever requested), there would be so much less drama. And let's face it: Who has time for drama?
6. Never, EVER Drop The "D" Word, No, it's not "diet." The off-limit word is divorce. It's not something to toy with in arguments. No one goes to the altar planning or preparing for this. Why do we think it's OK to throw around and threaten this so often and without thought? It's one word that should and needs to be taken out of every married couple's vocabulary -- unless you really mean it.
Marriage ebbs and flows. Why? Because it's alive. As beautiful, fair and lovely as it may sound, marriage will never be a 50/50 partnership. It may be close, but will never come out to be exactly equal in terms of the amount of love being given, the amount of work being put in or the same amount of patience, compassion, forgiveness, understanding and sensitivity shown toward the other.
Despite that, seek comfort in this simple truth: While one person is possibly "checked out" or not capable of giving as much at any one given point in time, be thankful that the other is able to hold on and love enough for the both of you.
At the end of the day, I'm thankful that my marriage is never equal. When one of us has been done, the other loved harder and salvaged what many people might find unsalvageable. We have overcome what the world says cannot be overcome.
I praise God that despite our complete exhaustion through parenting and the insanity of it all, we are able to conquer and combat and be teammates in what is one of the most extraordinary, yet difficult, jobs in this world -- being a parent.
Keeping the passion in your marriage alive after becoming parents isn't easy. To say it takes hard work is a massive understatement.
That being said, the hard work and sacrifices you make for the one you chose to spend forever with is well worth it.
Family is forever. Just don't forget the person who started that family with you in the first place.