On my days at home with Bailey, I get wrapped up in the details of taking care of a 4-month-old. Fake-eating her toes and thighs and cheeks. Carrying her around the house and narrating my day. The up-the-back, up-the-front, out-both-leg-holes blowouts.
I love my time with her, but when Ty gets home, my arms are ready for a break.
Which works out great because all day at work, he’s been missing that girl something fierce.
So I hand her to her papa and scurry off to do whatever I’ve convinced myself HAS to be done.
Then, when the dishes are done or the laundry is started or the mail is sorted, I come back to the living room.
I see her from afar for the first time in hours.
And she’s stunning.
My breath catches in my throat for a moment.
I’ve been so wrapped up in the diaper changes and the nap struggles that I’ve forgotten how amazing this little person is. And I lose sight of how lucky I am to be the one who guides her through life until she can find her own way.
And Then There Were Two
We had a date night this last weekend.
Nothing fancy – just a movie at a theater where we could enjoy a glass of wine and pizza too.
But I went all out. Blow-dried my hair AND wore a new dress that actually fits my postpartum body.
The movie was brainless but we laughed our asses off.
Halfway through, I picked up my wine glass and went to take a drink, but…it was empty.
I tipped it a little to the side to make sure.
Ty chuckled under his breath.
I glanced over at him and smiled. Then I picked up his wine glass.
From Afar, Redux
When we left the theater and walked outside, I Can’t Help Myself was playing over the sound system.
“I was singing this to Bailey the other day,” I said.
He smiled. “I bet that was cute.”
I sang along a little, and we hung onto each other for the long walk back to the car. The streets were wet from rain that must have come during the movie.
When we got in the car, he turned to me. “Let’s go see that girl.”
“Okay,” I said.
The night was comfortable – 79 on a September evening in Austin is something to relish.
“How about a little fresh air on the ride home?” he asked.
He opened the sunroof.
Water dumped on our heads.
“Oops,” he said.
We turned to each other and laughed and laughed.
Then I saw us from afar.
Stripped of asking the other to wash the bottles and of dealing with the emotional tempests of a 5-year-old. No errands to run, no bills to pay.
I needed that.
But just like seeing Bailey from afar, it made me think of how wrapped up we get in the daily routine. That it’s easy to lose sight of how lucky we are to have each other.
I know we can’t let that happen. And if anyone knows what’s essential for a healthy relationship, it’s two divorced people.
7 Ways to Rekindle the Romance in 7 Minutes or Less
We don’t do date nights very often – we’ve just had two since Bailey was born four months ago. With no family in town, “date night” becomes synonymous with “hire a babysitter,” and that can get awfully expensive.
You can always do an at-home date night – even if it’s just trying out a new recipe or enjoying a movie after the kids go to bed. (I’m up for watching this one pretty much every night of the week.)
We’re too tired.
Between the newborn’s nighttime feedings and the kindergarten schedule and our day jobs, we consider it a success if we both manage to stay awake past 8:00 pm.
So how do you keep the spark alive without an official date night?
Here are a few ideas for how you can connect with your partner when time and energy are in limited supply. The best part is, they’ll each take you seven minutes or less.
1. Get Physical
I’ve heard this advice from several happy couples, and it works for me and Ty too.
Hug and kiss every morning and every night. Make them good ones, especially the hug. According to The Happiness Project, you should hold a hug for at least six seconds to get the happy chemicals oxytocin and serotonin flowing. They’re good stuff because they boost your mood and promote bonding.
When you get caught up in the day-to-day routine, it’s too easy to make it through a whole day (or more) without sharing that simple physical affection that keeps partners feeling close. Don’t skimp on this one.
2. Check It At the Door
When I’m driving home after a day in the office, my mind wanders back through my day and tends to get stuck on the things that didn’t go so well. That’s usually when those brilliantly snarky comebacks I wish I’d thought of at the time pop into my head.
So when I walk in the door and see Ty, it feels natural to transition straight from a quick greeting to venting about my day.
But this doesn’t make for a good start to your evening together. From the book Wellbeing:
Emotions spread quickly from one person to the next. When you see a friend who is happy, this often causes you to smile, and as a result, you feel better. Or if you have a frustrating meeting late in the day, your emotional state is likely to transfer to your spouse when you get home. Because we tend to synchronize our moods with the people around us, our emotions influence one another throughout the day.
Before you walk in the door at the end of the day (or before your partner walks in the door), take five minutes to think about something good that happened to you. If nothing good happened to you, think of something you love about your partner so that’s on your mind when you see them. Then after you get the evening off to a good start with a positive perspective for both of you, you can circle back and vent about the not-so-great stuff.
3. Do It With Words
Ty and I text each other constantly about how our day is going – How was your meeting this morning? What time are you heading home? Would it be bad to have pizza for dinner 5 nights in a row? But sometimes he’ll surprise me with a special message out of the blue. He tells me he misses me or that he can’t wait to see me, or just sends a simple “I love you.”
One day while my cube neighbor and I were walking to a meeting together, she got a text from her husband thanking her for everything she does for their family. Even though it was MONTHS ago, I still remember the look on her face – an infectious mixture of surprise, joy, validation, and love. That text totally made her day.
Research shows that in strong, loving relationships that stand the test of time, the partners share more positive statements than critical ones. In fact, you need a ratio of at least five positive comments to every critical one.
If texts aren’t your thing, here are a few other ideas for sharing what you appreciate about your partner:
- Send an e-card.
- Leave a message on the bathroom mirror with washable window markers.
- Write a letter, then leave it in their work bag or car to find later.
- Fill out a postcard and mail it to them.
4. Make Them Laugh
Research by psychologist John Gottman has shown that sharing humor with your partner is one of the best ways you can strengthen your relationship.
Learn a new joke, find a funny news story online, or make a mental note to share something from your day that made you laugh. If you’re short on time for looking around, do what I do: check a funny person’s Twitter account for good one-liners. My faves:
- Daniel Tosh @danieltosh
- Matt Roller @rolldiggity
- Rebel Wilson @rebelwilson
- Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome
- someecards @someecards
Or me, obvs.
5. Pretend to Be Someone Else
No relationship is perfect. You’re going to disagree on occasion. Or maybe a lot.
But it turns out there’s a simple (and quick) trick for making sure you recover from those disagreements with your connection intact – if not stronger. If you do this at least three times a year, you’ll protect your relationship from the typical decline in satisfaction that occurs over time.
Here’s what you do: think back to your most recent disagreement with your partner. Now think about it from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. Write about the disagreement from that perspective for seven minutes. That’s it!
6. Share a Photo
If you’re feeling disconnected from your partner, think back to your favorite memories of being together. These are times when you felt most connected, and reliving those memories can help you rekindle that spark.
Look through old photos from your life as a couple – trips, holiday celebrations, those four hundred pictures you took the day you closed on your first house.
Find a photo that makes you smile, then slip it out of the photo album, print a copy, or email it to your partner. Include a short note that reminds your partner of the moment.
We’ve made a promise to each other. We always try to go to bed at the same time.
Sometimes it’s hard to drag myself away from a marathon Pinterest session, but I’m always glad after I do.
Because when you turn off the lights and climb into bed next to each other, magic happens.
With no distractions, your body and mind start to unwind from the day. You’ll remember something cute one of the kids said earlier in the day, whisper your hopes for tomorrow, fantasize about your next vacation. Or maybe you’ll both just take a deep breath and find solace in the silence.
(If you thought I was talking about a different kind of magic, try going to bed naked.)
How do you keep the spark alive with your partner when life conspires against you? Share your tip in a comment below!
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