Healthy homes begin with healthy relationships. In parenthood, it is very easy to neglect spousal relationships as career and child rearing seem to become the sole focus in life. However, this not only has detrimental consequences for marriages but for the family as a whole. Whether you are a working parent or a stay at home parent, fostering healthy relationships beyond those with your children is paramount to a happy and healthy home. This is not an easy task as children engage in more extra-curricular activities and careers begin to boom at about the same time. It is easy, however, to get stuck in the routine of life and let auto pilot take over while relationships are pushed aside to deal with later. Then, couples find that they no longer relate to each other or even know how the other truly feels. One mother of two in southeast Michigan, who has chosen to remain anonymous, says,
I felt like my husband and I no longer really knew each other. When we tried to talk it felt unemotional and almost rote. I was spending all my time running the kids here, organizing this event for the kids there, and doing it all with the parents of kids in the same activities. I had a great relationship with my kids. My husband… not so much. We never really took the time to do more than run through the routine of the day, talk about kid’s activities, or skim over his day at work. He didn’t understand my rat race days of running the kids everywhere and I had no connection to his fast paced world as an executive. We just went on… day after day, not communicating. Not nurturing our relationship. It scared me because I thought to myself, there is going to be a day when it’s just us. Will I still know him?
When asked what to do in response to such an epiphany, this dedicated mother of two said simply, “I needed to consciously work on my relationship with my husband and accept the fact that my life should not just be about the kids. I started simply.” She went on to talk about some actions she took, over time, to drastically improve her relationship at home.
- Love Languages: Many families find it beneficial to take The 5 Love Languages test by Gary Chapman and find out more about how each member of their family responds to acts of love and which signs of affection have the most impact on each other. It can be very helpful to find out that your spouse feels loved in response to Acts of Service while you may feel more love after spending Quality Time or receiving Words of Affection. This is a great place to start when building positive relationships.
When there is a problem, we tend to blame the other person. I have often given individuals a sheet of paper and asked them to list the faults of their spouse. They make long and impressive lists. Then I ask them to list their own faults. Seldom has anyone come back with more than four. What does this tell us? That the spouse really is the problem? Hardly, for each spouse has a grand list of the other’s faults. It tells us that we have become accustomed to our faults, and they don’t seem so big. ~ Dr. Gary Chapman
- Quality Time: Whether or not quality time shows as one of your love languages, it is an important aspect of any healthy relationship. Couples must designate time together, without distractions or obligations. This could be as simple as taking a 30 minute walk together or as extravagant as a fancy date night. Going to the movies is fun, but it would not necessarily fit in the category of quality time. Find an activity that allows for conversation and enjoyment for both of you. Ideally, this should occur at least once a week, but set a realistic goal for yourself and your lifestyle.
- Art of Communication: Find ways that you and your significant other communicate best. Some couples, find it useful to begin a two-way journal. Little messages of love, support, or greeting can be left for the other. It can also be used for more difficult topics that sometimes become too emotional when dealt with face to face in real time. Writing your feelings can be a great way to identify your true feelings and get to the root of the issue. It is often done with more rationality than when touchy topics are brought up suddenly in conversation. Other couples prefer to hash things out verbally and are able to do so successfully. Find what works for your and be open to adjusting your style of communication throughout this process.
- Time Apart: Quality time, communication and getting to know each other are certainly the cornerstone to a healthy relationship. However, there is also a lot to be said of time apart, for yourselves. This means away from family/work responsibilities engaging in an activity you enjoy, alone or in the company of others with whom you would enjoy the activity. In other words, not just a night out with a group of people with whom you do not relate. Instead, intentionally choose something you enjoy and spend that time with people you truly enjoy. This should be stress free, an environment that feels comfortable and fun, where you really can be yourself.
- Family Time: It is easy to get into a rut where one spouse take this child here, and the other spouse takes that child there. It becomes a world where all of you are rarely engaged in an activity together, all at once. Planning a family event can foster such rich and positive relationships among individuals in the family, as well as the family unit as a whole. Make sure to spend time with just your family unit, without the distraction of friends or extended family. This could be as simple as a dinner together or as big as a vacation.
As your children grow and their schedules become more involved, it is very easy to allow that life to take the wheel and find that everything you do revolves around your children and their activities. Recognize this. Put a stop to this and begin fostering positive relationships among all of your family members, especially your significant other. Your children will see the love, be inspired by the positive influence your relationship has on the family and seek that healthy environment as an adult. Healthy home not only start with healthy relationships, but they breed new healthy homes for our children’s future.