Is your marriage cooling off after having kids? Your love language may have changed or need a bit of tweaking and it's time for a discussion with your partner.
Over the past few months, I had been feeling more and more distant from my husband, Matt. It wasn’t like we weren’t “together”.
When I brought it up to Matt, he said he did all sorts of things for me that showed how much he loved me. He emptied the dishwasher and bathed the kids so that I could take a shower. He even did the laundry. Of course, I was appreciative of those things, but they didn’t make me feel like he was in love with me.
That’s when I realized that our love language had changed while we were in the parenting “trenches” with our little kids, who are now no longer little. The problem is that we are no longer in that stage of parenting.
You see, something magical has recently happened in my house. My five-year-old twins and their seven-year-old sister no longer need me and my husband every waking minute of the day. They know how to grab a snack out of the pantry, wipe themselves, and change the channel on the TV. Barring a few disagreements, they play well together and don’t need a lot of interaction with us.
It’s a milestone that we have been craving since we brought the twins home from the hospital. We would daydream all sorts of plans for our newly found free time, like reading a book in the other room or even sleeping in (gasp!)
The one thing we didn’t plan for was that our love languages would need to be reassessed. If you’re not familiar with the term “love language,” it’s from a book, The Five Love Languages, written by Gary Chapman that identifies the most common ways people feel loved in a relationship. It discusses the issues that arise when people show love by doing things that make them feel loved, rather than identifying what their partner might prefer. I’m not a huge relationship self-help reader. But when my friend suggested I take the quiz, the results made sense.
Before we had kids, my love language involved physical touch and words of affirmation. Matt wooed me by telling me how wonderful I was and promising to give me back rubs every night while we watched TV.
When we started having kids and especially after the twins were born, there was no time for things like that. I was all touched-out by the end of the day, and he was too tired to stay awake while watching TV, let alone rub my back. And if you have the mental capacity to say anything nice to your spouse while caring for twin infants, you are my hero.
At the time, it didn’t bother me. We were just trying to stay above water. Time was a precious commodity and, in this case, a great way to show love. And how do you give someone free time? You take a chore off their plate or give them an “act of service” as Gary Chapman would call it. We would both gobble up this gift like a couple of starving animals without realizing that it was at the detriment of our relationship.
How do you maintain closeness if the only way to demonstrate love to someone is to allow them time to be alone? It’s a no-win situation.
Luckily, this period is short-lived. The kids start to do for themselves, and free time is no longer worth its weight in gold. But if left unchecked, your relationship could still continue to suffer.
After hearing Matt’s current definition of what he considered loving me, I knew something needed to change. Although I went through a period of time that caused me to appreciate, and even ask for, acts of service, I am still the same person I was before I had kids. I like to be told that I’m wonderful and have my back rubbed.
It was a difficult conversation to have but so worth our time. Not only did we discuss how my love language had changed, but we also discussed how his needed to be considered as well.
Matt’s love language is, in fact, acts of service. Before kids, I would make him elaborate dinners and shop for him. Essentially, I would take care of him.
When I found myself with three little ones, the first person to be put on the back burner was Matt. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his acts of service to me were his way of saying he wanted the same. I just couldn’t see it, because I was so consumed with what my children needed.
After our talk, the mood around us immediately changed. I find myself wanting to do things for Matt, and he has really made an effort to tell me why he loves me and, of course, give me back rubs.
We went into twin parenting being somewhat aware of the extra time it would take to care for multiple infants. What we were not aware of is how much time it would take away from caring for our relationship. I am married to one of the most hands-on dads I’ve ever seen, and I still felt like I was drowning at times.
Attempting to do this whole twin thing without maintaining a loving and supporting relationship with your partner will only make that feeling worse. It may seem overwhelming to add another task to your list, but you can do it. You didn’t think you would ever find a way to parent multiple babies at one time, but you did. Don’t sell your relationship short. There is always time for a check-in.
Mandy Roussel is mom to three girls, two of which are twins. When she’s not writing about mom life, she can be found watching too much reality tv, dance partying with her girls, and laughing at/with her husband. You can find more of Mandy’s musings on her blog and on Facebook.