Carving out quality time to connect with your partner can seem tricky when you’re juggling kids, work and friends, but relationships expert Jacqui Manning believes simple changes can pay big dividends.
If you can’t remember the last time you had a conversation with your partner that wasn’t about work, family or the kids, you’re not alone. New research from Carnival Cruise Line revealed that 30 percent of parents admit they haven’t had a grown-up conversation with their other halves in over a year, and 45 percent default to talking about their kids.
As life gets in the way, it’s completely natural for our romantic relationships to evolve as we welcome kids and other daily pressures into our lives. But, the connection you enjoyed with your partner when you first started dating is there – you just may need to work a little harder to celebrate it.
Change your dialogue
Start small, paying attention to how you speak to your partner. "Saying 'you’re special, I value you' gives the other person a sense of appreciation which makes them feel loved," says Jacqui. This also has a flow-on effect to the rest of the family, as your children will pick up on the language you use with one another. "The best gift you can give your kids is a happy foundation for your family. If you’re putting that effort with each other, the home will be more harmonious," she says.
If you're time-poor, scheduling in date nights or your own time to connect can bring back the spark in your relationship. "Regular time to connect gives you both something to look forward to," says Jacqui, "It’s extremely important to keep that going throughout a marriage." If you don't have any time scheduled, it's never too late to start. Why not block out a child-free day or night in your diary once a month, or make a special effort to spend your anniversary alone each year?
A bit of self-care goes a long way in a relationship. "If you have more energy in the tank you’ll be a happier person and be able to act in a more positive and fulfilling way for your family," advises Jacqui. Don't be afraid to set aside time to do the things you enjoy, because when you're happier and more confident, you are a better partner.
Take a short break
Pack your bags for a weekend away sans-children. You don't have to go far - a drive to the coast or a three-day cruise around the harbour will shake up your routine. "People feel guilty about leaving their children at home while they take a short break, but kids are resilient," says Jacqui. "It can be a really nice way for them to develop relationships with others, away from mum and dad."
Ignite the passion
Of course, your sex life won’t be the same as the day you were married, but if it's too hard - or tiring - to be spontaneous, scheduling in a day of the week for 'special time' will have a profound impact on your relationship. "It doesn’t always have to be about sex," says Jacqui, "It can be about getting naked together and seeing what happens."
If you're unhappy with what is going on in the bedroom, speak out, as these feelings can drive a wedge between a couple. "Have conversations about sex outside the bedroom so you aren’t feeling vulnerable and oversensitive at the time," advises Jacqui, "Always be as open as you can with your partner."