Is it Time for Your Couples Tune Up Yet?
Winnipeg Parent, December 2007/January 2008
One of the hardest things to do while raising a family is to actually stop and carve out some well deserved time as a couple. In fact it is not only important to do, but is essential and a necessary ingredient in maintaining a healthy and intimate relationship. In today's busy parenting world we often forget to take the time to make it happen in our busy schedules. It's strange as we don't seem to forget to give our cars a tune up and fill them up with gas on a regular basis, yet so many of us forget to take the time to evaluate what is working and not working within our primary relationship on a regular basis.
You, as the couple have a very important job, you are the drum of a well orchestrated band, better known as your family. When the drum is off kilter; not feeling supported, cherished or loved the whole band is off. Being a couple within a family requires a lot of multitasking and can be both overwhelming and exhausting at the best of times. It's a never ending job, that's why it so easy to overlook or neglect various key components that help to make a relationship work well. While reading this article, try taking the time to evaluate your own relationship and see how well you are doing in all 5 areas.
Let's start with the obvious and most basic ingredient known as spending quality time together. I know this sounds simple but when was the last time you both really laughed, played and talked about things that really mattered to you both. Think back to when you were dating, what did you like to do and what were the things that you did for each that made you feel loved and supported? Creating a date night to go out and play is important investment in each other at least a few times a month. If finances are limited create a sitter co-op with other families to look after each other's kids or plan a romantic evening at home. Try surprising each other with different activities. Break up the mundane every day routine with some fun and laughter.
The second core ingredient focuses on booking uninterrupted time into your schedule to talk about real issues and concerns, dreams you would like to create together and addressing the resentments you have with each other without going into blame mode. When resentments or issues don't get addressed, they have no choice but to go underground and start creating havoc in all parts of your relationship. Crisis occurs when they go underground for too long! Most couples tend to argue about 6 main areas of conflict: money, sex, in laws, housework, children, work stress and adjusting to a new baby. It's not that healthy relationships don't have conflict the only difference is they have healthy and productive way of working through the resentments and have learned to fight fairly with each other.
The third main ingredient is taking the time to cherish the other person on a day to day basis. This means listening to how their day went, what is bothering them and hearing about their successes and frustrations without trying to solve their problems. It's about letting them know and showing them how important they are to you in a variety of different ways. It is easy to get caught up in the meals, lessons, laundry and chores all which need to be done ... but this core ingredient when done effectively helps save marriages and makes working through the hard stuff all worthwhile.
The fourth focus is about addressing the practical areas of running your home and life together. I recommend each month finding a time to re-evaluate the division of chores, going over weekly schedules, and sorting through finances on an ongoing basis. When one partner begins to feel resentful that they are doing more than their fare share, it is important to address and re-distribute the load as best you can. I recommend each couple go through their budget together as a team on a monthly basis and make a necessary plan so that both parties know and have a say as to where their hard earned monies are going.
The last ingredient is creating the time to connect at a sexual and intimate level with each other. As your relationship grows in years it often becomes more challenging to keep the energy alive in this department. Couples can often fall into routines that become dull or too familiar; interests can differ as to how often to be intimate. The more you can talk with each other and find ways that are mutually agreeable to spice things up, the stronger your relationship will be.
Taking the time to have ongoing tune ups to address all 5 areas is an essential part of creating a long lasting foundation in your partnership. It provides a solid base in which to navigate all the different challenges and celebrations life can bring.