I’d love to say that it’s easy maintaining a healthy marriage with kids, but it’s not. In fact it’s really freakin tough. I’d also love to say I have a Chip and Joanna Gaines marriage where my husband and I go on weekly dates, but we don’t.
When I volunteered to write this article on how to maintain a healthy marriage while also raising kids I thought it would be a breeze. I began by taking notes on everything that was hard and coming up with ways to navigate these challenges. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my shit together as much as I thought I did.
I’d also love to say I have a Chip and Joanna Gaines marriage where my husband and I go on weekly dates, but we don’t.
What is a Healthy Marriage?
Some couples swear that it’s a balance between adult time and family time. Others say a healthy marriage is when you can be affectionate in front of the kids. I don’t think a healthy marriage with kids is limited to only one definition.
Healthy marriages with kids are going to possess similar qualities, yet the qualities will rank uniquely to suit the partners’ needs. To maintain a healthy marriage with kids, effective communication and conflict resolution are important key factors. These factors create a healthy environment for both partners and kids.
Marriage differs dramatically from pre-kids to post-kids. When it comes to a happy marriage with kids, only you know what is right for you and your partner. After the arrival of kids, we have no choice but to be flexible. The dynamic changes from two intimate partners to include kids that require emotional support, structure and discipline.
5 Tips For Maintaining a Healthy Marriage with Kids
To maintain a healthy marriage with kids it takes teamwork. Whether you are legally married or not, a relationship requires effort and understanding by both parties involved.
So how can we assure that our marriages stay healthy with the presence of kids? Here are some tips that I found valuable in maintaining a healthy marriage of my own (I’d say my marriage is near perfect, but if you ask my husband he may tell you a different story *wink wink*).
A healthy marriage with kids requires communication. This alone isn’t easy because if you have little ones they are probably at the waist side more often than not.
I was talking with a friend of mine when she shared some insight from Brene Brown. Now I may be butchering the concept, though I think you’ll grasp the takeaway.
She asked, “what story are you telling yourself?” From the interactions we have with our partners, we form a story. Based on the tone of their voice, mannerisms, and wording of the conversation, we may think our partner means one thing, but in fact, they actually mean something else.
We end up thinking, he meant this and telling ourselves a story that leads us to get angry, upset, or defensive. Communication is truly key.
We have expectations for how we want things and how we think things should be, but unless we communicate this to our partners they are left in the dark.
Marriage with kids can take some getting used to. If communication is only present when the kids aren’t around then take this as a sign that alone time as a couple may be necessary.
My second tip for maintaining a healthy marriage with kids is to support one another. When we support one another we have each other’s backs. This is key in parenting.
If our kids see us responding to their needs and requests differently they learn which parent they can ask and receive the answer they want. My three-year-old picked up on this rather quickly.
It’s also confusing for the kids if one parent gives an explanation, followed by the other parent stepping in and saying the opposite. This happened to my husband and I, which led to one of us feeling undermined.
As we parent and face more decision-making, our responses may change. This is the growth of us as parents. If you realize that a parenting technique isn’t working, keep your partner in the loop so that the two of you are on the same page.
Have Eachothers Back
One last pointer on supporting your partner… when it comes to having each other’s back, pay attention to the language you use. If one of you sets a rule for your kids, rather than blaming the other parent in front of your kids, provide support and explanation. Oh, and ask for help if you need it!
For example, mom says, “the kids can’t stay up late because they have school in the morning.”
Dad may naturally say, “no, mom said you can’t stay up late.”
What dad could say to support mom, “You have to go to bed early, so that you aren’t tired at school tomorrow.”
This small change in response (also communication) shows that dad is on the same page (supporting) as mom, without placing blame.
Don’t Speak Negatively
You’ve heard it before, we are our own worst critic. When we speak negatively about ourselves in front of our partner or even our kids, we are manifesting reality. To help maintain a healthy marriage with kids, we should consciously try to speak kindly about ourselves.
Now this doesn’t mean that we can’t have our bad days. But have you ever noticed when a friend has pointed out one of their traits, positive or negative, that you remember it and notice it more? A marriage with kids that is full of criticism sets the stage for future upsets.
When our partners hear us complain, they want to provide a solution or reassure us. However, if the complaining persists they may start to believe the complaint as well.
If you find your partner speaking negatively, encourage positivity and self love. This mindset shift will help build a strong foundation for a healthy marriage. This is just as important in front of our children.
If your kids hear you complaining about your hair, then they’ll start to worry about theirs. This is when insecurities arise. If you notice your kids showing concern or speaking negatively, then it is a good time to encourage positive self-talk with them as well.
When I first heard about Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages I was skeptical. Yet, the more I listened to the book on Audible, the more it made sense. This is my fourth tip for maintaining a healthy marriage with kids. Love languages help you learn what your partner truly appreciates, and there is also a version for kids!
Find out each other’s love language. Take the quiz here! This goes hand in hand with communication. While you might really enjoy receiving gifts, your partner may not relate. He or she may be more open to physical affection.
Finally, my fifth tip for maintaining a healthy marriage with kids is self-care. The topic of self-care receives a lot of attention, or maybe I’m more aware of it as a mother myself. Self-care is beneficial when pursued individually and as a couple.
You’ve probably heard that you can’t pour from an empty cup, well neither can your partner. Consider your marriage a weight scale that you are balancing. The two of you can do things separately/together to rejuvenate and recharge.
You’ve probably heard that you can’t pour from an empty cup, well neither can your partner.
Self-care is what fits you and your partner’s needs, including date nights and time without children. Other forms of self-care may include time spent with friends or even alone time without distractions.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, each of these tips is going to weigh differently based on the marriage and the needs of the partners and kids involved. Maintaining a healthy marriage with kids requires effort by both partners.
Over time the marriage endures challenges, yet over this progression, the relationship will display growth. It is up to the two of you to take into consideration individual and marital health and needs.
My friend explained to me that this stage of life is only a season. Marriage with kids will always be evolving. Whether you look at the first seven years of marriage with kids as a test or just part of the territory.
While I was writing this article I came across a book called the 4 Seasons of Marriage, also by Gary Chapman. I’ve now added it to my list of books to read.
If marriage does go through seasons, and this season seems challenging, remember it’s temporary. Marriage is hard with kids, there’s no doubt about it. Navigate through obstacles with intention and consideration. This will help maintain a healthy marriage with your sidekicks.
Lacy Catao is a certified Holistic Nutritionist, former paralegal and Army veteran. Motherhood inspires Lacy to share her knowledge of nutrition and optimal wellness, while also providing lifestyle insight as a mother striving to parent with grace and patience. This California native planted her roots in northern Nevada with her husband in 2016. She contributes her love for country living to Idaho, which is where she spent most of her school-age years. Lacy is the mother of three girls and two stubborn Bulldogs.