If you have kids your marriage might be on autopilot; because once they enter the picture, it’s all too easy to neglect your relationship. There is just so much to do, and marriage is one of the few things we can ignore without immediate and dire consequences. If we ignore our job, we’ll get fired. If we ignore our kids, they’ll starve. But if we ignore our relationship, our spouse can live off the scraps for a pretty long time. Most of us tend to take an “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” approach to life when we’re very busy. We don’t take the car in to be serviced until it starts making funny noises. We don’t see the doctor until something actually gives out. And most of us don’t notice our marriages are wilting until someone is sleeping in the spare room and/or slamming doors.
But if we don’t spend time with each other, if we don’t keep communicating, sooner or later the relationship will start to veer off into “married, but bored” or “married, but lonely” territory.
When you don’t have time, or energy, or the inclination to just hang out with your husband – and remember, that’s the main reason you got married, to just BE with each other – life isn’t as much fun, things just seem off kilter, and you feel like you’re in a strange “something’s up, but I’m not sure what” type of funk. Your marriage is important and being in a marriage that’s on autopilot, where you take each other for granted, is not a nice place to be. It feels like relationship flu.
Man the controls: Avoid, or Get Out of Autopilot
Getting your marriage out of autopilot, or making sure you don’t veer into cruise control, just takes time and a little effort. Try doing some of the following:
Make Spending Time Together a Priority:if you have time for book club, or dinner with girlfriends, or to volunteer, then you have time for your husband. If you have to give up one of the other activities to make time for the two of you, then do it.
Hang Out Together: instead of doing laundry, checking emails/facebook or writing your blog after the kids go to bed, just hang out on the sofa together. Watch a TV show, or something funny on youtube. Connecting as a couple for just 30 minutes a day (because often that’s all we have) stops you feeling like two roommates.
Be Affectionate: Hold hands and kiss and hug whenever you get the chance.
Be His Girlfriend: Remember how cute and adorable you used to be? Send him a cute email message or text. It takes less than a minute and it will take you both back to those silly, sexy days before kids.
Praise something about him. Find something to thank him for. Anything. Washing a fork. Combing his hair. Remembering to zip his fly.
Go Away Together: Once a week have a date night. There’s a reason every book/column/blog on marriage recommends a weekly date. It works. Spending time together, away from the kids and the daily grind, makes you remember why you fell in love with each other in the first place.
Give surprise get out of Jail Cards: Unexpected personal time can boost anybody’s sagging spirits. Or you could give yourself a break, too, by organizing the child care and then doing something together.
Tell Him What You Want: Men really don’t understand vague, general statements like, “I want you to be more romantic” or “You need to make more an effort” or “ You need to be more thoughtful” (Any of those sound familiar?) Instead, get specific. Really specific. For example: “I want you to take me out next Saturday night. I want to go to a new restaurant. And while we’re having dinner I want you to tell me why you think I am fabulous.” Most men want to make their wives happy and if they are given specific targets they’ll try really hard to hit them.
The bottom line is that spending time together as a couple – as a boyfriend and girlfriend – will get you out of autopilot and back to that “my husband is a great guy and I’m happy I’m married” place.