Quick note: Ava and I share weekly parenting tips over at the Kabongo Blog. We call our tips “Mondays with Ava & Shara.” We decided to post the following marriage tips on the Mommy Perks blog today as these ideas seem more fitting for our Mommy Perks community.
Generally Shara and I write about kids and parenting but while I was biking around central park I thought, “The divorce rate is really high. I am divorced and so is Shara. Divorce affects kids so this certainly does fall into the Parenting arena!” Since I plan on remarrying I started thinking, “What would I do differently this time around?” Of course, as usual, I look forward to Shara’s tips as she is happily remarried.
1. All the books say to water your marriage like a plant or it will wither and die. They also all suggest date nights weekly…well anyone with young kids knows that’s a crock. Date night at the end of a long day of work and or playing with kids – all you want to do is sleep. So I would schedule a breakfast or lunch time meeting weekly.
2. There would be a strict no cancellation policy. No text, no email, no phone for an hour at least. Canceling hurts feelings and marriages. You can only cancel if you are sick with 101 fever or more and/or your boss will fire you if you are not at the 9am meeting, etc.
3. Say four nice things a day to each other. You will be surprised how that helps. Laugh a lot, too, because laughing builds binds and happy families.
4. Do one nice surprise thing a week for your mate.
5. When you started dating you made an effort to look and talk nicely. You showed each other respect and love. Don’t get lazy or take advantage of your relationship. Keep it special.
Ava’s replies made me laugh a bit. “That’s a crock.” LOL. She is right, though. How many of us can actually go on a date night every week or even afford it? Not us. We’d have to pay for babysitting for FOUR kids and pay for the date as well. I like Ava’s idea of working around that. If your kids are in school, perhaps you can plan a breakfast or lunch together. Or at the very least, a home-date after the kids are at school or in bed for the night.
That said, here are my five tips:
1. My first tip would be this: Marry someone compatible in the first place. If you would feel degraded by someone who never helps around the house, marry someone who DOES. If you would feel degraded by someone who expects you to do most of the child rearing on your own, marry someone who sees parenting as a mutual journey. If you would feel degraded by someone who looks at other men or women and flirts, choose someone who thinks you hung the moon. Choosing a great partner in the first place will help to stop so many other issues from corroding your relationship. It’s much easier to build on a great marriage when you started with one… rather than putting band aides on cuts too deep to heal (metaphorically speaking).
2. I love this quote: “The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” Theodore M. Hesburgh. This is true for step fathers (and mothers), also!
3. Laugh, laugh, laugh – like Ava said. We try to laugh with each other AND with our kids. We want our kids to see that life can be fun, silly, goofy and that laughing reduces stress for everyone.
4. I asked my husband to weigh in for the last two tips. His first tip was this: be good enough friends with your spouse that you can TALK about things. Even if it means you argue from time to time, that’s better than not talking at all. You need to feel heard and listened to and you need to have a mate you can talk with and open up to.
5. His next tip was this: know each other well enough to know your partner’s dreams. What do they want to do, hope to do, love to do, etc? And then support those dreams. Help each other fulfill the dreams or say good-bye to the dreams if needed. Do it together as a team. Let your kids see you working together as two people who love and respect one another.
Ava Parnass is an author, songwriter and child therapist who specializes in marrying entertainment and social-emotional literacy for kids.
Shara has a background in education, early childhood, preschool work, marketing, small business ownership, freelance and special needs. Shara was a nanny for 16+ years working with children birth-13. She has four children of her own.