Resisting the Routine

March 9th, 2011

In one of my college classes, we were shown a news segment of couples who were struggling in their relationship after they had children. They blamed their kids for their marital dissatisfaction, saying the kids made them too busy to spend time alone as a couple and made their relationship lack the excitement it once had. Later in the segment, a marriage counselor came to the families and gave them two pieces of advice:

  1. Go on a date once a week.
  2. Go to bed at the same time even if you are not tired. This will lead to some good, thoughtful conversation and maybe some much-needed (and deserved!) intimacy.

    As I thought about this advice, the question that kept coming to mind was: “How did they let it get this far?”

    These couples didn’t always have kids or busy careers or stressful schedules. At one point, they were newlyweds who probably couldn’t keep their hands off each other and could talk to each other for hours on end. How did they lose that spark?

    The answer of course isn’t simple. People can argue that life’s responsibilities made it too hard to focus on their relationship, but I don’t always buy that.

    Though I don’t know these couples personally, I can still guess that the source of their problems probably started with things becoming too “routine” in their relationship. They came to accept the daily grind and may have forgotten to make time for their relationship.

    There were no dinner reservations, no movie nights, no dancing, no midnight pajama parties, no sharing of the last piece of chocolate cake while you get caught up in the drama between McDreamy and Meredith in “Grey’s Anatomy” (No? Is that just us?)

    Too many have stopped trying to nurture their relationship, it seems.

    And therein lies the problem. Life gets stressful, kids come along, jobs take over, and your relationship can be lost in the dust. You suddenly find yourself in your 60s, retired and empty nesters when you finally notice each other and say, “Who are you?”

    Let’s be clear on one thing: life will get busy whether or not you have kids. Research has shown that on average, over the same period of time, couples with kids and couples without kids showed a decrease in marital quality. For some it was a big decrease and with others it was small, but there was still a sense of strain on the relationship as their lives got busier.

    Whether you are married, engaged or just dating, it is important to start to get into good habits now. Schedule a weekly date night, eat meals together, set aside time each day to have meaningful conversations and go to bed at the same time. Because once life starts moving faster, you will need your partner’s love, comfort, and support more than any other. You will need to know that you are there for each other no matter what life throws at you.

    And, besides, who can say no to midnight pajama parties??