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5 Tips for Carving Out Couple Time: Guilt Free!

Article by Lori J Collins MS MFT

Time becomes so precious when you have young children. People often feel guilty if they’re not spending enough time with their kids. The dilemma is the couple relationship can suffer as a result. Here are five tips to carve out couple time guilt free!

Tip #1: Think Nike, “JUST DO IT”: Carve out couple time!

This may seem obvious; but according to the research on the couple to family transition, the couples I have worked with over the years, and my own marriage to family transition, I have learned that carving out couple time is quite the balancing act. Why is this? Couples are psychologically, biologically, and emotionally geared to parent mode when their children come along. It’s easy to lose sight of the couple relationship and focus more on your children, especially when they are young. After all, children absolutely need our attention, and it is our job as parents to nurture, love and guide them. However, we forget to save attention and time for our couple relationship, which can lead to big couple problems later on. As the Hawaiian saying goes, “Energy Flows Where Attention Goes”. Definitely give your children the well deserved attention they need to grow, and pay attention to your couple relationship as well.

Tip #2: Remember formula: Happy Couples = Happy Children and Families.

Think of a math equation in that two parts make up a whole. In other words, two happy individuals can make a happy couple; and a happy couple makes for happy children and families. Therefore, you want to pay attention to all the parts; the individuals and the couple that contribute to the greater good for your children and the entire family. Ask what makes each of you feel loved, valued and appreciated. Then use these discoveries by putting them into action, both appreciating what makes each of you feel valued and what make your partner feel valued. Your children will, naturally pick up on your increased happiness, which will in turn make them feel happy.

Tip #3: Couples who play together, stay together.

I remember when my husband and I were getting ready to go on a date, and my little girl said, “Mommy, why can’t I go out with you and daddy”? I really struggled as she looked up at me with her beautiful blue eyes and the parental guilt tugged at my heart, when I thought for a moment and then replied, “Mommy and daddy are going on a play date, you know like you enjoy with your friends”. She immediately got it, shook her head in understanding, and was able to look forward to spending an evening with her grandma and brother. We had a great evening and felt very connected and happy to spend the rest of our weekend with our children.

When you are carving out precious couple time, remember it’s not just about the date night, but more about the DATE STATE! It really doesn’t matter where you go, just keep in mind what you really appreciate about each other as people and not just parents. I coach couples that it is even okay not to talk about their children while they’re on their date. There is plenty of time to share about the kids when they are home.

Tip #4: Connected Couples are great role models.

We aren’t raised in bubbles. We learn to relate partially by our role models. Couples are the first role model or template for what loving relationships look like. Therefore, if you spend time on your couple relationship and feel connected and happy, not only will your kids pick up on this, but they will remember it as a model for their future relationships. Think about what your parent’s relationship was like when you were growing up and how that influences you and your relationships today.

Tip #5: It’s FUN to be a couple and not just a parent.

I recently had a client who said the following about her husband, “He is my favorite person to be around”. When I asked if she told him this, she said she hadn’t because her resentment at him working so much, and feeling like she was alone in raising their baby, got in the way of sharing the good stuff. After working with her in counseling, she was able to share her disappointment with him, and how much she really missed spending fun, down time with him. As a result, they made changes and starting spending more couple time and having fun together again. Remember how much fun you had together as a couple, even before you had children. Continue to focus on what you really appreciate about each other. This will be the bridge to really enjoying each other again.

As Wallerstein and Blakeslee stated in their book, The Good Marriage, “Married people need each other, and they want and need contented children. Balancing the two needs is one of the most important and difficult tasks of marriage”. Please remember to carve out couple time. Trust me, your kids will thank you later.

Lori J. Collins, M.S. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Redwood City, California. She specializes in working with couples and relationship issues. Lori is also married and raising two children. She can be reached at (650) 366-6800.

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