It is no secret that having kids can add an unbelievably heavy layer of complexity to even the strongest relationship. I would describe my husband and I’s marriage of almost 10 years (together nearly 13) as a wild and hilarious ride that I wouldn’t want to do with anyone else in this world. However, marriage is still work. Like anything great, it requires effort and investment to keep it growing and make it successful.
As the dreaded (for many) holiday of lovey-dovey hearts and flowers approaches, I have been reflecting on what a real and lasting relationship has that sets it apart from the more than 50% of marriages that fail. The truth is that with or without children, spending every single day with the same person is a choice; this kind of love isn’t something you just fall into or out of like freshly washed bed sheets.
So what should we look out for and address as we enter into (struggle through, do our best to navigate) the midlife years of marriage?
40 Doesn’t Look Like 25
Can we just be completely transparent? Friends, unless you are some sort of yoga pant-wearing unicorn mother or bodybuilding father prodigy, we are all out here rocking a Starbucks-filled muffin tops and dad bods. Own it, fellow parents!
The fact is that having children takes a toll on the time we put in the gym, what we put in our stomachs, and the gravitational pull on our midsections. We can joke about it and create memes to pass around the office, but the laughter stops eventually when the changes to our body result in lack of self confidence and avoidance of intimacy.
No matter what you or your spouse looked like when you met or how much someone’s body changes over time, we all knew when we made the decision to love unconditionally that post-kid bods could be a part of our future. You would be surprised how far a simple compliment will go. Tell each other how much you love and appreciate one another. Compliment an outfit or a hairstyle. And, for the love of Krispy Kreme, exercise together. You don’t have to deadlift 500 lbs or enter a marathon, but you can take walks or do a charity race just for fun and the benefits are phenomenal!
Your Spouse Should Be Your Forever Boy(or girl)friend
Dating is fun and exciting. From the butterflies in your stomach, to the up-all-night conversations about future plans, dreams, and aspirations, being a new couple is thrilling. Honestly, after 13 years, that feels like another life; like someone else who vaguely resembles 35 year old me, happy and laughing and wearing a dress. Now, I am lucky to change my stretch pants twice a week and eating dinner that isn’t served from a leftover container feels fancy.
To take your oversized hoodie with the coffee stains and your husband’s smelly flannel pants to the next level, schedule a date night. Girl, I know. It sounds desperate to have to organize fun, but we are parents with real lives and jobs and kids so this is what it has come to so just do it.
Promise to date your spouse again. Whether your dates are getting dressed up for a night on the town, or skipping the babysitter fees and watching a Redbox and eating a nice meal after you put the kids to bed, these special moments can create lasting memories and renew the spark that dimmed years ago.
Getting Stale Ruins Your Taste for Adventure
No one can live the same scheduled regimen for 50+ years. Aside from mental patients and military-minded folks, even I–the self-proclaimed color-coded organizer of life wants a little adventure every now and then. Keep things fresh in your marriage by planning a trip, learning something new together-think cooking class or skiing, or staying up one night to play a round of 20 questions.
We are constantly growing and changing as individuals so learning new things about our spouse can be both surprising and fun! Take short day trips hiking or checking out a local museum, or a big risk like skydiving or caving. Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones can help us to depend on one another and strengthen the bonds that we started years ago.
Lasting, thriving marriages are built out of two people who are willing to make sacrifices, choose to love unconditionally, and always chase adventure. So keep things from going stale and eliminate the marital pressures that can be stifling.