The Key to a Solid Family: Make Time for Your Spouse

Posted October 31, 2008 by

In graduate school I had a very wise marital and family counseling professor who said, “The parental relationship is central to a family with kids.” As a newly married student with no kids, I didn’t pay much attention to him. It wasn’t until I had my firstborn that I realized something: kids can ruin your marriage. Now, I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but honestly, I can’t think of anything in my marriage that has caused us as much stress as our children! Of course, our kids bring my husband and me boundless joy, loads of entertainment, and unconditional love, but they can stress us out more than any job, in-law situation, or homeowner problem. That is why it is imperative to heed my wise professor’s advice: nurture your marriage.

I know many of you reading this are saying, “Yes, I’d love to go out and spend more time with my spouse, but…..” and then we can all find a hundred reasons why we don’t: too much work, too many extracurricular activities, not enough money, not enough time, and on and on the list goes. The truth is this, though: if you don’t make the time for your marriage, you will wake up one morning next to a stranger. I say this because I am witnessing first hand many of my friends whose kids have gone off to college or left the house (and it’s sooner than you think, trust me) who are wondering what they have in common with their partner. A friend who is going through a divorce told me recently that it wasn’t any one thing that ruined her marriage, just years of neglect on both her and her husband’s part. She said that eventually, they no longer knew one another and their marriage faded into nothingness. So what can we do to not only prevent our marriages from fading away, but to nurture them?

First, I am a big advocate of the weekly date. I know this isn’t always easy, but I feel it is vitally important to reconnect after a long week of nurturing others. When my husband and I were new parents without much expendable income, we would ask our neighbor, a widow who had raised 4 boys, to watch our son for one hour a week, and we would go for a walk. During this time, we would talk about our son for the first part of our “date” and then limit our conversation to non-kid topics for the latter part of our walk. Surely there is someone in your life, a middle school child, a grandparent, a neighbor who can take your kids off your hands for one hour one day a week? (Think of it as a marriage work out.)

Second, pick a day on the weekend (we choose Sunday nights after the kids are in bed) to pull out your day planners and talk about what the week ahead of you looks like. This allows you and your partner to be on the same page regarding your kids activities, your own home/work schedule, and gives you the opportunity to plan your date! I love this time because I feel like my husband and I are re-connecting at a very basic level about our lives. Sometimes things are so hurried that we don’t know which direction either one of us is moving in. This allows us to slow it down.

Finally, one time a year try hard to get away together, even if it’s just for one night. I know firsthand that this is hard, but I think all of us need to put energy into making this kind of time with our spouse or partner work. My husband and I started this tradition by sending our kids to Grandma’s house for a sleep-over, and then we had the house to ourselves! It was free and freeing at the same time.

On a final note, I know many of us have very difficult children and can find ourselves overwhelmed on a continual basis. Parents will oftentimes say that this is a reason they cannot go out as much as they would like because their family life seems to engulf them. If this is you, I will say that a difficult family life is even MORE reason to get out with your partner as often as possible in order to build a strong marital foundation so you can adequately deal with your children.

All parents need a break, and all marriages require work. Get out on that date this week!

Do you have any tips or ideas for a good way to get away with your spouse? Please share them here!


Dr. Joan Simeo Munson earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. She has worked with incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson lives in Colorado with her husband and three energetic children. She currently has a private practice in Boulder where she sees adults, couples and adolescents.

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  1. SJR (Edit) Report

    To say that this takes great effort is an understatement. I am unfortunately in a dissolution process, and even though I KNEW the most critical aspect of parenting is to nurture the marriage, I never quite ‘got it’ according to my estranged spouse; in fact, both of us kept missing it. The “it” is a committed sacrificial love for the other that transcends faults and failures. If getting on the same page seems like a lost cause, find the help you need and stay committed for the long haul. The best thing for your children is to work on ourselves, and then the marriage for ‘as long as it takes’

  2. gpcruise (Edit) Report

    We take more spontanious attitude, my husband had a quick five minute job to do so I rode with him and we went to the oldest movie theatre in town, it was quite an experience! Our youngest is 15 and his brothers are 21+ and I did a ‘shock horror’ thing saying ‘our kids do not know where we are!!’ and that brought a round of chuckles. I am sure he thought of it beforehand, and knew what was showing etc. and that made it all the more special for me! Often, just stopping just to smell the roses is another thing, something will catch our eyes and we share it. There are times when I could cheerfully commit heinous crimes and I am sure he feels the same way but overall the relationship is strong.

  3. bwgrants (Edit) Report

    My relationship with my husband is always better after we spend alone time together otherwise you just blame each other for all the frusterations that live throws at us.

  4. Tammy (Edit) Report

    My husband and I are experiencing this same issue right now. We love our son and sometimes that seems like the only thing that is keeping us together. Our son is 8yrs old and has to have constant supervision. We always have other kids in our home all the time for him to play with and it is wearing on us. We never have any other parents/family wanting to take our child for the weekend or even just an hour so that we have a break. Like the other parents say “trying not to spend a million dollars for a sitter” that will come back and sit for us so that we can do date nights-is impossible. We are kinda new to our area and we don’t know a whole lot of people. I definitely don’t trust a whole lot of people with my child because I see what their children are doing and saying and the parents not correcting their children.

  5. toni vitanza (Edit) Report

    I cannot agree more. It’s no wonder so many men stray when their wives turn into chauffeurs in sweat pants for over-scheduled kids and forget how to have an adult conversation. Yes, all couples have to have what we call “housekeeping” conversations. We have found that these are great done through email…no more “I forgots” or “You didn’t tell me thats.” But don’t use what little alone time you have for this kind of stuff. I think it’s bad for kids to believe that it’s THEY who are at the center of the home. They are NOT; the counselor/professor was absolutely right. When my son back-talks (only occasionally) or sounds as if he is annoyed with me, my husband reminds him that “that’s my wife you’re talking to that way, and you’d better knock it off.” Works like a charm. And my son is reminded that his standing with either one of us is never more important than our standing with each other.

  6. Jean Tracy, MSS (Edit) Report

    Dear Dr. Joan,

    I love your article and agree with you about couples dating.

    Here are some dating ideas I suggest:

    Go to the park with your kids. Let them play while you sit on a bench and exchange love letters with your spouse.

    Put the kids to bed and have a candlelit dinner complete with soft music for after dinner dancing.

    When the kids are asleep, watch the stars on a clear night.

  7. Elisabeth (Edit) Report

    Dr. Joan, Thanks for this great reminder. It’s so easy for all of us to let our relationships sink to the bottom of the priority pile, but that’s such a huge mistake. (I’m going to implement your once-a-week planning session with my husband and see how it goes. Brilliant!) Regarding date night, one thing my husband and I try to do is switch off babysitting duties with other couples who are friends of ours — that way, we’re not paying $50.00 just to go to the movies, and our kids get a playdate with their buddies. It’s a win-win that doesn’t stretch our pocketbook too much. (My husband really likes that part especially! 🙂 )

  8. Frank Brogni (Edit) Report

    From a dad’s point of view, I always hated it upon returning home from work to hear all the complaints about childrens behavior during the day and it made the coming home experience a negative one. In order to combat this negative habit we made an agreement to set aside five to ten minutes each day, whether by phone or at home during a neutral time, to exchange only those communications from the kids or experiences with the kids that were important for both parents to know. Kids seem to think that if they tell one parent something that the other parent automatically knows it. If parents are to speak as one voice it is important for both to be informed.

    I applaud parents that will make time for themselves not only for the improvement and expansion of their relationship but it also models for their kids how parents nurture their own connection. As part of that expression my wife and I always made it a point of letting the kids know where we went and what we did to demonstrate how we socialized.

  9. Diana (Edit) Report

    Well after being married now for 18 years and having two daughters (one with ADD and one without) I couldn’t agree more. There have been many times that I have thought that my husband has no idea what I do all day, or what I think about. Another words, he didn’t know me. It’s a scary place. We have been lucky enough to work it out and find our way back, but don’t wait. By the way, one of my excuses has always been that I didn’t want to burden others with the challenges my daughter hands me. She never has challenged anyone like she does me. Go out!



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