Relationships are constantly changing. With each life event--a marriage or a new baby, for example--your partnership inevitably has to adjust. So often, you lose sight of why you came together with this person in the first place. So in honor of Valentine’s Day, here are 5 rules to keeping a good relationship and partnership before, during and after kids!
1. Close the Bathroom Door.
This is both figurative and literal. I literally don’t want to see or hear you poop or fart, and in the figurative sense, I don’t want to know when you’re doing it. By closing the bathroom door, you are retaining a sense of mystery about all of our smelly, dirty human realities. Which, over time, will help retain a little mystery about your partner--who, in reality, you know almost everything about, good and bad.
Now, the part that most people fight me about is the farting. “But I fart in front of my husband all the time” they say. NO. Don’t do it. It’s cute when you’re first dating because it makes you feel closer to someone you’ve only begun to know, but 10 years later, it’s just gross and leaves nothing to the imagination. People also argue about space. My husband and I lived in a 500-sq.-foot studio apartment in New York City with our first child and a cat. I have still never farted in front of him, and he still does not announce when he is going to poop. Obviously we know what’s happening when the other sneaks off with the newspaper, but I genuinely believe keeping this small display of respect and courtesy has greatly contributed to the fact that we still have a spark for each other 9 years and 3 kids later.
2. Learn Your Love Language.
If you haven’t ever heard of this concept, you can check it out here. The concept is that people give and receive love in only five different ways. By knowing more about these different ways you can better understand the people around you. I’m not saying you and your partner must read the book together and discuss, but if you can, definitely do that. My husband and I read the book a few years ago, and truthfully, I honestly still don’t know his Love Language. But I know what mine is. Learning why I felt ignored or hurt about certain things he did or said really enlightened me. Also figuring out what I need to feel loved on a daily basis basically blew my mind. Even though my husband still can’t quite settle on what his main Love Language is, by learning more about the different ways he can feel loved, I feel better equipped to actively do them, and he is better equipped to receive those acts of love. More importantly, by knowing what it takes for me to feel loved, I feel more confident to ask for it or send gentle reminders when I’m not getting what I need.
3. Kiss Each Other First.
This is one we’ve just recently initiated, and it’s one that I think most quickly disappears once you have kids to deal with. When you leave for work or come home from being away, walk to your spouse first and give them a kiss hello or goodbye. Yes, before the kids. By doing this, you’re not only making your partner the most important person in the room, you are letting your kids know that too. And despite how much you want your kids to know they are loved, they will know that more if they see parents who love each other and have a solid relationship. By having a solid framework for which their lives live within, they will be more confident not only in themselves but in the people who care for them. Our kids notice when we are happy. And it directly affects their happiness as well. So, love your spouse first, make them feel happy and appreciated, and your kids will reap the benefit.
4. Sit at the Bar.
This doesn’t mean you need to get drunk or even drink at all. What “sitting at the bar” symbolizes is remembering what it was like when you first met. When you talked casually into the night, in dim lighting, with your nicest clothes on. You need to do that every once in awhile to remember why you fell in love in the first place. Why you enjoy each other’s company and more importantly why you want to continue down the road of life together. For my husband and I, we almost always choose to sit at the bar at restaurants when we go out alone. I think it began because you often can’t get a table in New York City or because my husband is a bartender by trade, but we realized eventually that it was also much more fun. Not only because we have no kids with us and it’s liberating to sit on stools in a small confined space without having to worry about anyone but the two of you. But also because you have to sit side by side and choose to turn your bodies towards each other, knees bumping without a table to separate you. This conjures up feelings of just having met this person, which tends to spark new and exciting conversation, which is also very sexy.
5. Make Your Bed Everyday, and Together if Possible.
In every relationship there’s usually one person who makes the bed each morning. In my relationship, this was me. On the random days that my husband chose to do it, he would call for me to come help him. Obviously, this annoyed me. But his reasoning was always that if we did it as a team it would be quicker and would be done better. Over time I realized he was on to something. I once read about why in the military making your bed up perfectly each day is such a crucial task. That by completing this first task of the day, you have already accomplished something, thereby igniting the possibility of more and more accomplishments throughout your day. In a partnership, if you complete this task together, you are not only getting it done more quickly or better, you are accomplishing something as a team. Which will not only help the regular bed-maker feel more appreciated, it will promote your abilities to work together, complete tasks, and spark the possibility of more accomplishments for you as a couple.
Illustration by Joseph McDermott.