Coaching for Life: Is there romance after children?
By Michael Ceo
Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is perhaps the most significant challenge that we face in our lives. It is also a challenge for which we are ill prepared.
Our growing-up years doesn’t necessarily teach us the skills and resources necessary to establish and maintain a loving relationship. Conflict resolutions, communication skills, the art of negotiation, assertiveness are all inter-personal resources for which there is little if any classroom learning.
The stakes are increasingly higher for couples and families. We all know of couples whose marriages fail, leaving a devastating wake of emotional and financial losses. Sadly, the probability of success for second marriages is even lower than first marriages. Stepparenting and dealing with the "ex" present even more daunting problems as remarried couples attempt to make a new life together.
The pressures on two-career families, raising children, competitive materialism, and commuting and financial stresses all conspire to overload a couple with divisive influences that undermine family life. These add up to clear and present dangers to the integrity of a marriage.
While we are endlessly bombarded with advice about investing, we never hear anyone urge us to invest in our marriage. Keeping love and romance alive is a most compelling priority. I often tell couples that marriage counseling is insurance against the losses of a divorce. Here are some suggestions.
Both parties in a marriage share the responsibility to protect that special channel between them called love and romance. This space needs to be kept safe from intrusions.
One way to do this is by establishing special rituals between you. Leisurely rituals might mean date nights, Sunday morning breakfast, walks outdoors, simply opportunities to be a couple. During these rituals, agree to exclude certain behaviors. No discussing bills, in-law problems or even children on date night. Wall off this space together as a way of returning to the less complicated, blessed time when you fell in love.
Wives often complain that their husbands don't make them feel "special." Husbands complain that they lose their lovers to children, career or the drudgery of running a household. So, ask your partner what would help him/her to feel cared for or special.
Learn to listen well. Real listening sends a message of respect and lets your lover know that they are important and taken seriously. The best way to disarm an angry spouse is to tell them it is important that you really want to understand what it is they feel so strongly about. Listening is also a very effective form of foreplay.
Open wide the spigot of appreciation and recognition between you. Tell your lover that you value his/her efforts as well as who he or she is. Recognize your partner's efforts at helping make a life for the two of you. Where else to meet our needs to feel valued than in our marriage?
Be playful and value humor. Marriage should be a protected playground and oasis from the frustrations of life. Notice the couples we like on TV are those that laugh easily together.
I feel strongly that our community needs to develop much more accessible resources to protect marriage. Classes and support groups on family, marriage and parenting should be widely available in our church communities and schools. Pre-marital counseling should be encouraged. I also support efforts to make marriage counseling mandatory for couples seeking divorce to ensure that every effort has been made to save the marriage.
Happy Valentines Day!