My husband Josh and I met 14 years ago in our public speaking class our freshmen year of college. We were paired as partners for a group project and I guess as they say, the rest was history. We dated all through college and were married 5 years after we met.
In the 8 years since, we have started 5 new jobs between the two of us, moved 3 times and had four children in 4 1/2 years. Every single day of our marriage has been blissfully easy. Just kidding! (I wanted to see if you were really reading.)
Our marriage is the best thing in my life and I truly believe my husband helps me become a better version of myself. But is marriage easy? I don't even know how it could be. Even on your best day, putting someone's needs ahead of your own and finding time to connect in the chaos of raising children is a challenge. Letting your relationship change and evolve while also trying to keep the spark alive is a challenge.
My husband and I are blessed in that both sets of our parents have been married for 30+ years. We have seen through example that the time we put into our marriage keeps our family strong. Gone are the pre-children days of frequent date nights and spontaneous trips together but that doesn't mean we can't find other ways to connect with our spouses. Here are some ways my husband and I keep the spark alive in our marriage.
1. Connect through the little things
Our mornings and evenings are crazy with our kids but we try to show the other some love and connect through little things we do for each other. My husband always sets up the coffee every night to go off on a timer for me in the morning while I'm getting ready for bed. (He knows that coffee is my love language.) I've been known to sneak a little note or a treat in his lunch to let him know I am thinking of him while he is at work. We send texts and emails throughout the day while we are apart. They are little things but they keep a constant connection between the two of us in the midst of the craziness of life and help keep the spark alive.
2. Keep kids out of our bed (at least at the beginning of the night)
All our babies have spent at least the first few months in our room (our twins spent almost 6 months) but after we transitioned them into their cribs in their own rooms, we agreed that we would keep kids out of our bed. For us, keeping our marriage strong requires alone time and we knew having children in our bed was not something that would help us with that. We went through many different sleep issues with our twins and there were many times of pure exhaustion that we brought one or both of them into our bed at 3AM so everyone could get a little sleep. However, even if I was ready to pull out my hair, we worked really hard to get them to sleep in their beds at the beginning of the night so we could have that time together.
3. Don't discount at home date nights
When our twins were brand new, it took me awhile before I was ready to leave them with a babysitter to go out for date night. Even now finding a willing and competent sitter for four kids, including a set of two year old twins, is very difficult (and expensive!). We started to designate one night of the week for an at home ‘date night'. We put the kids to bed early and take turns planning a night for us. Sometimes we order take out from a restaurant we love or have been wanting to try and rent a movie. Sometimes we make something fun for dinner at home together without kids whining or throwing fits! Sometimes we get all decked out in our team gear and watch a football or baseball game together.
Here's the catch though. Even though we are at home, there's no responding to emails, no folding laundry, no dealing with permission slips and school papers. It's just time for us to catch up, connect and keep the spark alive. I look forward to it all week!
4. Find time together even when there isn't any
Even in the newborn twin stage after we settled into our routine at home and ‘sleep when the babies sleep' was of utmost importance, we made time for our relationship by putting the babies to sleep together. We got into a routine of feeding (I had pumped earlier in the day so my husband could give one of them a bottle), burping, and rocking the babies after the older boys went to bed. We sat cuddled up together in our bed with our sweet, sleeping babies while we binge watched a series together on Netflix. It became my very favorite part of the day and something that I still look back on with fondness now that they are older and fall asleep by themselves. Try to find time to be together even if it's not traditional, even in the midst of chaos.
5. Family first
We are both committed to putting our family first. After our oldest son was born, we really struggled with choosing our new priorities. We felt pressure to still be able to travel to visit both of our families and keep up with our friends and activities the way we used to. We spread ourselves way too thin and found ourselves putting unnecessary stress on our relationship by trying to figure out how to spend our holidays and how to attend every group and family function. Finally, we both agreed that our brand new family had to come first. We do our best to keep other people's feelings in mind, but ultimately we make decisions now based on what is best for our family. It's amazing the weight that was lifted from our relationship when we stopped apologizing or feeling guilty for putting our marriage and our children first.
These days in the trenches are long and we are in a season of parenting where there isn't much left to give at the end of each day. For us, having a strong marriage is more important than having a spotless house, an extra 30 minutes of sleep or joining another club or activity. We know that in these tough days we have to choose to make time for our marriage because when our marriage is strong, our family is strong!
Amy Cook is a midwestern wife and mom to four boys ages 6, 4 and 2 year old fraternal twins. She has a degree in Biochemistry and worked in research for 8 years before becoming a SAHM when her twins were born. She loves to bake, design prints for her Etsy shop, and spend time with her family. She writes her personal blog, Loving Our Messy, to encourage new moms, share DIY renovations of their home and adventures as a boy mom. You can also find her on Instagram.