Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Drifting apart in marriage is a sneaky little thing that can happen when you have kids. Your child is a beautiful, precious addition to your family and you devote so much time, energy, and affection to him or her. Then another kid arrives, and maybe another. Soon, you realize you don’t have anything left to give your spouse, and he or she doesn’t have anything to give you either. You’re left wondering, “How did this happen to my marriage? How can I love my spouse again?”
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Pitting Spouse-Love Against Child-Love
The child-centered home is easy to spot. The parents spend most of the day meeting needs, entertaining, coordinating activities, and doing anything else they deem necessary to ensure their children’s success.
Driven by a vague sense of guilt, these parents often walk on eggshells around their kids. We call it “perma-guilt,” a nagging inner voice constantly telling parents that they should play with the kids every time they ask. They may even skip a date that has been on the calendar for weeks if the kids mount a strong enough resistance. Heaven forbid Mom and Dad go on a weekend getaway by themselves.
The child-centered home leaves little room for nurturing a marriage. It creates a vacuum of intimacy, turning great parents into lousy lovers.
You might know something of the kid-centered home if you feel like a cook, maid, and taxi driver, or you run your home like a hotel. You might be a great parent but a lousy lover if your children sleep in your bed more than you do, or if you think you don’t even need a spouse to have a good marriage.
If your idea of a date night is watching your kids on the Chick-fil-A playground, then perhaps it’s time to invest a little more in your marriage.
Can I Love My Spouse Again?
God wants you to delight in your spouse. This is as important for your kids as it is for your marriage.
Few things prepare your children for success more than growing up with a mom and dad who thoroughly enjoy each other. It gives your children a deep sense of security to know that the two most important people in their lives are madly in love with one another. So they need you and your spouse to be great parents and great lovers. To do that, you need to relearn how to love your spouse.
But remember, there is more to becoming a great lover than just having great sex. A great lover knows how to play hard, laugh more, and touch often.
Learn How to Cherish your Spouse and Have a Deeper Connection
When you were a kid, play came naturally. As you grew up, you most likely drifted away from play and moved toward responsibility. Have duty and responsibility trumped fun in your marriage? The key is to balance play with duty and responsibility.
Schedule a weekend getaway at least once a year. If you are strapped for cash, book a local hotel for two nights, then drop the kids off at Grandma’s or at a friend’s house.
Keep a date night reserved for playtime every week. Revisit some of the places you frequented on your first dates. Reminisce with your spouse about your favorite restaurants, past vacations, honeymoon spot, and so on.
Play was easy when you were dating and first married. Show your spouse you still love them like that. Rekindle your marriage with some of that fun from your early days of love.
Your marriage could also benefit from a little more laughter. This has been shown to reduce stress and create a bond with the one you love. Proverbs 17:22 teaches us that “a joyful heart is good medicine.” Also, nineteenth-century preacher Henry Ward Beecher said, “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs — jolted by every pebble in the road. Humor makes all things tolerable.”
Have you ever noticed that spontaneous laughter is contagious for your family? Somebody starts laughing and then you start laughing. You walk into a room where people are laughing, and it immediately brings a smile to your face. That is the power of laughter.
Make it part of your mission in life to laugh with your spouse. You can dance, you can model, you can sing. Most things that take you out of your comfort zone will usually do the trick. Not taking yourself so seriously is the first step toward bringing a dose of laughter into your marriage.
Laughter will really help you and your spouse loosen up. This creates space for new kinds of intimacy with your spouse and love for each opportunity to let loose with them.
Adding meaningful touch to play and laughter is the final spark that reignites a marriage lost to the kid-centered home. Your spouse needs to be touched at least 12 times a day. Don’t stand there and go, “1-2-3-4-5 . . .” These touches should not be given all at once. So spread them out from morning to night. Think through the variety of touches available to you:
- Nonsexual touches
- Sexual touches
Nonsexual touching includes a hand on the shoulder as you say, “Thank you for dinner” or “I can’t wait to get back home tonight.” It can also be a gentle touch on the small of the back, a soft pat as you walk by or your hand on the leg while sitting on the couch. These little things say, “I appreciate you. I cherish you.”
Sexual touches can include … anything that communicates to your spouse in subtle way, “I find you attractive” and “I am drawn to you.”
Contrary to popular belief, it is actually good for your kids to see some of this interaction as it gives them security in the love of their parents. So let your kids see you appropriately flirting with your spouse. Some of your spontaneous touches throughout the day may be inappropriate for your kids to witness. We’re not asking you to display those to your kids— keep those to yourselves!
Can you remember the last time you and your spouse hugged for more than 30 seconds? A midday hug communicates to your lover that things are good and you can relax together. It also can communicate that you are not in a rush and you have nowhere else you’d rather be.
And don’t forget about holding hands! The next time you’re in the car or watching a movie together, reach for your lover’s hand. It’s a strong nonverbal way to say to your spouse, “I love you” and speaks volumes to the kids about your commitment.
Kisses can sometimes feel like meal prayers — a bit rushed, obligatory, and lacking in relationship. Slow down and share a smooch like it could be your last. Surprise your lover tonight and give them a kiss to remember. If your kids are in the room during this kissing scene, all the better!
You Can Love Your Spouse Again
Taking back your life and marriage from the kid-centered home is one of the most fulfilling endeavors you can undertake and one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Resolve today to invite more play, laughter and touch into your relationship. You can fully enjoy the person you married and chose to have kids with. You can learn how to love your spouse the way you used to. Both are possible: you can be a great parent and a great lover!
Adapted from Great Parents, Lousy Lovers by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham.