Simplify your life - How to stay connected to your partner when life changes
12 years ago, Husband and I started dating. We were together for almost 7 years before we got engaged. I always joked that we fought our fights before we got married, so now we don’t fight anymore. That is half the truth. We used to not fight, then came the kids. And now we do.
We do not fight often, and funnily enough, we very rarely fight over or because of the kids. No, our fights are much more intense. We fight about each other, but luckily still for each other as well. Let me explain. We are 2 totally opposite people. I am lively and talkative, he is quiet and introverted. I cannot sit still, and make use of activity to unwind. He can sit still and uses the quiet and sedentary position to unwind. When I get home I just want to talk to someone about my day. When he gets home he wants peace and quiet, until he has “defrosted” and then he will talk about his day. For years it worked beautifully – I would get home and babble on about nonsensical things, he would sit there and “listen”, not offering advice or solutions. We both got what we wanted and felt fulfilled. Then came the kids…
Now when we get home, either the kids are there already with the other parent, or they walk in with you. Either way, it is chaos. They moan or laugh or talk or sing or whatever they feel like that day. We barely have time to greet each other. Then we get busy with the kids – they have to be fed and bathed and taken care of, plus they need some quality alone time with each of us every single day. By 21h or 22h both will be sleeping, and we will have to finish whatever we didn’t have time to do during the day. That is usually the time I spend on this blog, or on my day job. Husband will play PlayStation games or watch a series or movie. Then it is time to get ready for bed and to actually go to sleep. Another day passes without any time for each other. Over the weekends I work, and he has classes for his MBA. So again, no time together. This is all fine and well for a short time, e.g. if one of us was working on a project that will be completed in a few weeks’ time. But when this is your life, it is not all fine and well.
We started drifting apart, so much so that a few weeks ago if something were to happen to either one of us, I am convinced the other would not really even noticed. We were consumed by the kids, and by everyday stresses and pressures. You would think that we would have fight after fight after fight, but quite the opposite happened. We barely talked, and whatever the other one suggested was silently accepted. Luckily, one morning the wall broke and we had the mother of all fights. We fought the whole day, over text messages, and when we got home we had the showdown. I don’t know who suggested it, but we decided on a time out to give each other time to think about our predicament, and more importantly, what we wanted out of the relationship. And if we still wanted to be in it. About 2 days passed, and then we had a brutally honest conversation. A few things that were said hurt, a lot, but mostly all was true, and we realized that we did this to ourselves.
We allowed ourselves to become disconnected, to lose touch with each other and to permit external pressures to dictate the rules of our relationship. We loved each other and wanted it to work, so we decided to consciously give it a go. Now, a few months in, I can tell you it was the best decision we have ever made. Our kids are happy because we are happy, and we intend to keep it that way.
So what did we do? Nothing much, just a re-commitment to our relationship, and these 4 pointers:
1. We carved out some alone time together EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Some days it is 10 min while he changes clothes after work, other days we are luckier and we get to take a shower together. Some nights the kids go to bed early, other nights we sit on the couch together and watch them play. Somewhere in the day, we take some time out to discuss our day, and whatever is on our mind.
2. We try to touch each other often.
I don’t like touching, but it is Husband’s main love language. So I try to touch him often. Sometimes it is a kiss when I walk past him or a quick hug. Or sitting really close to him on the couch. Get to know each other’s love language and incorporate that language into your everyday lives.
3. We created rituals.
As part of my simplification journey we tried to make our lives predictable, so we already have a few rituals in place. For us to reconnect and stay connected, we added a few more. Tuesday nights are date night. We never go out, but we try to spend the evening together watching a movie or a series. Sunday nights are family movie night. Wednesdays are normally fun night – we make burgers or pizza or have fondue. If I am home on Fridays, we have friends or family over. See, creating times for certain things means you can schedule and plan for them.
4. Forgive quickly.
Realising that your significant other is under pressure, be it because of the kids or work stress or family issues, and gives you the power to understand them better. After a week of little sleep, and the usual workload, we tend to get a bit nippy with each other. Reminding yourself that the pressure is real with allow you to forgive your partner quickly, and completely. Of course, being stressed is not an excuse to say mean things, but when we are short-tempered because of these stresses we tend to take it out on the people we love the most. The people closest to us. Identifying it for the stress-release that it makes it less personal, and easier to forgive and forget.
We are now back on track, and I feel that this happened for a reason. We are stronger now than before, mainly because we realised the importance of honest communication, calling a timeout when a fight gets ugly and taking responsibility for our relationship. This is definitely the most work I have ever put into anything, but I can tell you the returns on this investment is great!
Share with me your own story, someone else might find it encouraging.