Guest Post by Dr. Carol Ummel Lindquist

Dr, Carol Ummel Lindquist is a clinical psychologist, marriage counselor and author of the book Happily Married With Kids: It’s Not a Fairy Tale.

Remember Each Other Frequently Keep symbols around the house, in the car, and at work that remind you of each other. Pictures are great. People also use jewelry, crosses, stones from their hikes, framed children’s art at work … or any delightfully creative items!  Use those symbols to remind you to express happiness and gratitude to each other …  regularly.  

Adding Renewed Spark A year or two after pregnancy and birth, most couples gradually discover that their marriage needs new spark. Romantic weekends are obviously best when both of you are excited about the place to go and about each other. No matter what your budget, you need to carve out time without the children to reestablish your sexual relationship. Hint to Dad: Almost any gesture that is complimentary or helpful toward the baby, the mom, or the housework is romantic to a new mom.  Another person said it more succinctly: Changing a dirty diaper automatically translates to: Honey, you are HOT!

Tell Them You Love Them – Every Day Find fun and different ways to tell your partner you love them every day. Talk together about what a good couple relationship means to each of you and about what time and other commitments you each need to make to fulfill your dream. Snuggle in bed for twenty minutes after the alarm goes off, or have a cup of coffee or tea together after dinner, or always talk before or after a late night show.  Call each other at lunch.

Tell Them You’re Proud of Them Tell your partner often that you are proud of them. Spend an uninterrupted twenty minutes each day engaged in face-to-face talking (maybe cuddling) and, most important, listening to anything the other wants to say. Yes, when you are desperate, you can break it into two ten-minute chunks. J

Celebrate Your Marriage Celebrate your marriage as much as your kids. Celebrate what you have and do not focus on what you do not have. Include compliments to your partner and good news about your kids and your day in every sharing session.

Instituting agreed-upon dates and rituals, times for talk, sex, and cuddling are all activities that soon begin to change feelings of abandonment and erosion of love that can occur in any marriage. These pleasant routines also eliminate a withdrawer’s guilt that they aren’t doing enough and the sense of oppression that nothing would ever be enough.

Deeper Intimacy Deeper intimacy comes not from what we share by having children, but from how we resolve the many new conflicts and changes that children bring to our relationship. How parents deal with the mixed blessings of children determines who will survive as a couple. The violated expectations, the conflict, the frustration and the anger all become your own personal workshop for developing the relationship, bringing new opportunities for laughter, insight, and intimacy.

Accept What You Cannot Change Every marriage is filled with unresolvable differences. Sometimes it is the thermostat wars or differences about who sleeps with the window open and who sleeps with the window closed. “I love loud rock music!” versus “That hurts my ears!” Most of these issues can be settled with creative compromise, like earplugs or headphones or an extra blanket. The compromises are easier if you show concern for your partner. “Well I don’t want your tender ears to hurt, but I need some time to unwind to music. How can we work this out?”

Learn to Talk About Difficult Things Make happy comments regularly. The greatest thing you can do to take care of your marriage is learn to talk about difficult things in a way that doesn’t hurt you or your partner. Then build on that by learning to persuade each other in ways that allow you to experiment and try new activities together. Learning this one thing opens the door to a long and happy marriage.

It’s All In My Book What could be more important than creating an enduring, healthy relationship that your children will carry on to future generations? Good marriage habits make a protective shield around the family so that they can weather change and differences with as little stress as possible and spend more time enjoying one another. The formula for taking care of your marriage is fairly simple. The execution when you have young children, however, is difficult.

Order Your Copy of Happily Married With Kids The book is available as a paperback or as an eBook.