parenting

Happy Couple: Exposing Your Children to a Healthy Relationship

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Happy Couple Making time for your spouse after dishes, carpools, dinner, more dishes, and laundry. By the time the tasks of the day are finished, there’s barely any time left to put up your feet and catch up on the Real Housewives of Orange County. Many busy moms crave those precious moments of “me time” when they can grab them. What’s missing from many of our to do lists isn’t just time to take care of ourselves, but rather taking care of our relationship with our spouse and making sure it’s stress proof.

Our efforts to be “super parents” can come at the expense of our sanity, self-care, and our need to maintain and nurture our relationship with a spouse or intimate partner. Failure to give your relationship time and attention can spell dangers both for you and your spouse as well as for your children, who become exposed to an unhealthy model for adult connections.

What can you start doing today to take your relationship off the back burner and make each other a priority? Here are some strategies to implement now for reducing stress within the relationship and deepening your connection:

  1. Renew your commitment. Commit to striving for a healthy relationship no matter what difficulties may arise. Eliminate the exits and obstacles to intimacy, such as reducing television and computer time.
  2. Be respectful even when you are not feeling respected. Disrespect does long term harm to any relationship. There is no excuse for negative behavior towards your spouse – monitor yourself for sarcasm, eye rolling, and hurtful criticism.
  3. Take care of yourself. You cannot give what you don’t have. Develop a small but powerful support system of friends and family. Find fun, passion, and inspiration in something outside of the home that you care about, and infuse your relationship with this passion.
  4. Make regular emotional deposits to each other. Try to validate, encourage, touch, and appreciate your partner at a rate of five positives to every negative comment or request. Simple things are often the best. Clear your mind for a few minutes each day and listen. Say hello and goodbye while making eye contact. Smile.
  5. Create special opportunities for deeper connection. This could be accomplished via a date night, vacations, or private time to be alone together. Make a private spot in your home with a great atmosphere to sit and talk. Keep your bedroom as a sacred space without kids or clutter.
  6. Accept each other as is. Overlook weaknesses that really don't matter. During stressful times, relationships may be strained and critical. Shift your focus away from flaws and toward the qualities you like and appreciate in each other.
  7. Plan for intimacy. Don’t wait for it to just happen. Both emotional and sexual intimacy requires planning and effort. Healthy relationships have a satisfying balance of emotional and sexual connection.
  8. Conserve energy. Monitor your energy the way you do money – there is a limited supply and you must decide how to spend it. Don’t waste energy on less important things and people who are not a priority. If you value a loving relationship you must save energy for yourself and your partner each day.
  9. Live your truth. Create a mission statement for your life together and re-evaluate it yearly. Ask yourselves, “Is this the life we want to be living?” If it isn’t, make a plan for gradual change in any area that needs it. Sometimes it may require saying no to an extra activity your children want to participate in or seeking professional help to sort out old patterns and make lasting change.

How do you plan on spring cleaning your relationship with your spouse? What can you start doing today to take your relationship off the back burner and make each other a priority?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Ann Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Executive Director of Breakthrough at Caron (www.BreakthroughatCaron.org), a 5 ½ day personal growth workshop designed to help adults shift destructive life patterns, improve relationships and foster personal growth.

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