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Staying Connected With Your Partner While Raising Children

By: Jay Greenfeld, Ph.D., C.Pysch

The school year is in full swing, all extracurricular activities have started and the free time that is available for parents becomes very limited. Between pickups and drop offs to and from school, recreating some form of a locker room in your car as your children engage in their after school activities, and somehow getting them to bed before the end of the night can feel like the impossible feat. Everything CAN get done in time, but often what gets sacrificed is the time spent with your partner or closest friends, especially when your children are younger and still need to be in car seats and booster seats. It is much harder to divide the rides and share the responsibility of pickups without needing to transfer car seats. Therefore, much of the transporting is dependent on the parents and thus limiting the time you may have for yourselves, your partners, and/or your friends. Although involving your children in various activities, spending time with them doing homework, and spending time with them engaging in leisure activities, leaves very little room at the end of the night to connect with your partner or friends. The lack of time spent connecting can often create or exacerbate marital challenges and lost friendships.

If you are noticing that you are spending less time with your partner actively connecting, communicating about topics unrelated to scheduling, and growing as a unit then it is time to start making changes now. It is too easy to get into the groove of the Fall and Winter activities throughout the school year, that time passes quickly and you and your partner become ships passing in the night rather than actively connecting. It is not just the weeks that fly by, but also the years! Start by establishing a time every couple of days that you can connect either with your partner or a very close friend of yours. Set aside that time and make sure it is intentional. Put your phones down first because browsing for superfluous online items and pictures of other people's lives when you could be connecting does not provide as much benefit as you might think. Ensure that you and your partner or friend decide at the beginning of the week which night(s) you want to use to connect. Then ask yourself which topics you would like to talk about, discuss, or emphasize, because the time is very limited, you want to try and be intentional.

Arguments, constructive criticism, and/or sharing some of your struggles are part of any relationship or friendship, but you want to ensure that you are not reserving time to do that late at night. The later those type of conversations happen, the more likely you are to say things without thinking clearly. Very few people think with the most clarity late at night when they need to be sleeping. There is the right time and place to engage in conversations that involve constructive criticism. Then there are times when you want to sit back, relax, and focus on what you can enjoy about the other person so you do not wake up the next morning frustrated, angry, or disappointed. The residual negative emotions and thoughts will impact how you interact with your children.

There is a classic suggestion of establishing at least one date night per week, which may or may not involve leaving the house. If date night is something that works for you and your partner or a friend, then each week rotate between who decides what the activity is. However, it is crucial that when engaging in this type of one on one interaction, that the focus of the conversation is not solely on your children. Expand the topics so that the connection can deepen, ensuring each person feels heard and understood as this will allow you to get to know each other better or remember why you connected in the first place as a partner or a close friend. If these conversations or reconnections with shared interests are not revisited regularly, the connection will fade and can lead to greater struggles. It is also important to acknowledge if you are relying on text to have these conversations, although nice and convenient, there is a much healthier way to connect and that is face to face or verbally over the phone. It is hard to try and tell your children to engage with others more and rely less on text to communicate if you yourselves are not doing the same thing to deepen your connections.

Finally, pay close attention to the value you are placing on watching TV or various clips on your phone before going to bed when it is time to connect with a partner or visit with a friend. Watching TV in the evening has been a thing since cable was the norm in many households. Connecting over certain shows, events, and such alike can be fun and informative but try and use it to compliment connection rather than be the sole method of connecting. Moreover, if watching shows is part of your way of connecting, try to balance that activity with other options so time spent together is not hyper focused on watching others live their lives and instead you can live yours.

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