Being a parent, and getting married. They’re the two of the biggest milestones in anyone’s life, and two of the most rewarding, most enlivening, and possibly most challenging things.
Living with a person you’ve committed your life to, and raising children together, takes you through a gamut of emotions as the years pass. Sometimes you’ll love everything about being a spouse and a parent. Other times, you’ll want to run away to the Bahamas just for a few minute’s peace – and both of these reactions are totally normal.
Navigating the emotional terrain of parenting and marriage with grace, happiness, and not too many urges to break a plate, takes effort and a conscious decision to live an emotionally healthy life. Need a little help steering your course? Read on for some practical advice.
Know When To Put Yourself First
It’s easy to lose yourself in your role as a spouse, and as a parent. Naturally you want to take care of the people you love, and do what you can to be a positive presence in their lives. But with that comes the risk that you’ll go too far and deplete your own energy and emotional stores.
It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s true that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want your spouse and kids to get the best of you, start by giving yourself the best of you. Honor your feelings and needs, and make yourself a priority, too.
Make Honesty The Only Policy
Honesty isn’t the best policy when it comes to marriage and parenting – it’s the only policy. It all starts with yourself.
Be honest with yourself about who you are, and what you want out of life. Be upfront about your partner and kids. What do you love about them? What do you find difficult sometimes? Remember, this is just for yourself, so don’t worry about offending the people you love.
Now, it’s time to take that honesty into your relationships. Honesty with your partner and children encourages them to be honest with you in turn, and puts you all on a course to an open, loving relationship with no hidden resentment. Remember that honesty doesn’t mean bluntness – you can be honest and loving at the same time.
Appreciate The People Around You
You’re (hopefully) going to be spending a lot of time with your partner and children as the years go by. They’re your family, the ones you’ve chosen to share your life with. And sometimes, they’re going to irritate you! There’s nothing wrong with that – anyone living in close quarters gets a little frustrated with each other from time to time.
However, it’s important that little annoyances aren’t allowed to fester and become big problems. That’s why it’s important to take the time and appreciate the people around you. Remind yourself regularly of all the things you love about them and keep your focus on the good, not the bad.
Make Time For Yourself
Everyone needs a little “me time.” Making time for yourself refreshes you and gives you more energy and more emotional capacity to be fully present with your family. It’s also a vital chance to connect with your own self and check in with what you need right now.
Make time for yourself a regular part of your routine. Snatch a few minutes every day to read, listen to your favorite tunes, or just get some fresh air. Build in weekly time for hobbies, projects, or some straightforward pampering time.
Be Flexible As Life Changes
Life never stays the same. As you navigate the emotional terrain of parenting and marriage, you’re going to meet with some changes. Sometimes they take the form of new jobs, new friends, or a new location. Sometimes they come as challenges such as ill health or financial difficulties. Life will keep changing as you move through it.
You, your spouse and your children will change too. You won’t be the same person at forty that you were at twenty or thirty, and neither will your spouse. Your kids will change as they age and learn more about who they are and what they want from life.
Life will be much more enjoyable if you let yourself bend and change as it changes. Instead of mourning the old, embrace each new iteration with a sense of adventure.
Practice Open Communication
Open communication is an invaluable tool for navigating the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood. Open communication takes away guesswork, secrets and snarking, and replaces them with honesty and patience.
Learn to listen to the people you love, and encourage them to learn the same skill. Practice expressing your needs and feelings calmly and without judgment or accusations.
You might set aside a weekly family meeting time where everyone can air their concerns and be heard. Regular open communication builds a strong bond and a family dynamic that lets everyone feel validated.
The emotional terrain of marriage and parenting is a wonderful, strange place. Use our tips as a map to get you through it feeling joyful and centered.
Rachel Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.