8 Ways to Keep Your Partnership Strong (With Kids!)

You know how it is. It’s been yet another long day of balancing work and distance learning and general parenting and cooking and cleaning and laundry and ALL the other things that make up our lives in these pandemic parenting days.

The kids have fallen asleep (finally) and you’re five minutes away from falling into bed yourself. Then you look over at your partner and realize the two of you haven’t said a word to each other today that wasn’t about your kids. You were just so busy, you see.

You think maybe you should do something about this. But you’re too tired to even try. So you get ready for bed, crawl in, grab your phone, scroll for a bit, and fall asleep. You‘ve got to do it all over again tomorrow.

Sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. But I think we can all agree this is less than ideal. So what’s a parent to do?

It doesn’t have to take a monumental amount of effort to keep the spark alive. So with Valentine’s Day coming up, we’ve got a list of 8 simple ways you can keep your partnership strong—even with kids in the mix.

1. Get on the same page.

When it comes to your kids, you and your partner need to present a united front. Be on the same schedule, have conversations about parenting practices with regards to feeding, sleeping, discipline, and more. Make sure you’re operating from a place you both have agreed upon. If a problem comes up, hash it out between the two of you before going to your kids. Remember: you are on the same side, and that needs to be obvious to the kids, and to you. The kids are the enemy, not your partner!

2. Talk to each other.

This may seem obvious, but how many of you have been in this place: it’s been a long day, you’re upset about something small (why was I the one to do our kids’ laundry again?) and rather than talk about the thing that’s upsetting you, you just roll over and go to sleep. Then the next time it happens, your resentment grows. Over time it becomes a Big Thing and then one day, you just explode.

Try and avoid the explosion by talking about the thing that’s bothering you when it’s small. Chances are your partner is not doing this to intentionally irritate you, and has just been too busy to notice. While it takes more effort to talk about our problems, it’s always worth it. A little communication can make a world of difference.

3. Find something to do, just the two of you.

Whether it’s a shared TV show, a tandem bike ride, or just conversation (that’s not 100% about your kids!) over an after-dinner drink, find something that you and your partner both enjoy doing, then make a point to schedule into your week—every week. Make sure it’s something you both love doing, and treat this activity as sacred as you would anything else on your calendar.

4. Get away.

Easier said than done anytime, but once you’re able to travel again and it’s safe to do so, drop the kids off with Grandma and Grandpa and go somewhere. Even if it’s just to a tiny Airbnb an hour away from where you live, a change of scenery and an entire day and night in which you’re just partners, not parents, can do you a world of good.

5. Surprise each other.

Or if getting away just isn’t feasible for a while (like now), find a way to surprise your partner in a small way. Get him a new pair of sweatpants so he’s not wearing literally the same pair every single morning. Leave a post-it on her computer telling her you love her. Make a batch of their favorite cookies, just because. (And let them know you wouldn’t mind if they returned the favor!) Tiny, unexpected gestures can make a huge difference.

6. Stay in physical contact.

Remember when you were dating your partner, and just the feel of his hand on yours sent a little thrill down your spine? You’re probably not doing a ton of post-dinner, walking down the street, gazing into each other’s eyes while holding hands these days (who has time for that?) But you’d be surprised how much a little physical contact can do. Remember to hug, remember to kiss, remember to snuggle a bit at night before you pass out. It feels good—trust me!

7. Nurture your own life and your own interests.

This may seem counter-intuitive. But it’s so important. Before you were a mother and before you were a partner, you were just you. What did just you like to do?

I was an avid bookworm (and still am.) I loved long happy hours with my friends (and still do, though they’re on obvious hold right now.) I wrote creatively (and still do) and listened to French music (with headphones on.) None of these things are something my partner especially enjoys and you know what? That’s fine. Our own respective interests are what makes us interesting to each other! Nurture those interests and your time alone, and you’ll find you’re even more eager to spend time with your partner once you’ve had that time to yourself.

8. Remember: you chose each other.

You love each other. You’re partners in all of this, kids and beyond. Because someday your kids are going to grow up and move out. Somedays it seems, it can’t come soon enough, and other days, you never want it to happen. But that day will come, and when it does, you want to be able to look at your partner and see not a stranger you happen to have lived with for the past twenty years, but your partner. The person you chose to spend every single day with, because you love them.

Do you have anything to add? Let us know over on Instagram!

And if you and your partner still need some help, remember there are always professionals out there who are ready and eager to help.