Three years ago, I came up with a list of 10 ways to really love your spouse. This was one of the items on my list:
Love is in the small things. Small surprises, gentle touches, little acts of service. Love her in the here and the now.
I believe that for a marriage to remain healthy, couples need to regularly express love for each other, and this does not have to be done in a big way. Instead, we simply need to spend uninterrupted time with our spouse, and to schedule couple dates on a regular basis.
What happens then when young kids enter the picture? Many parents end up spending so much time caring for their kids that they neglect spending time with each other. This is especially if the couple is busy engaged in their day-to-day work, with barely a weekday evening not spent making sure the children are cared for. Then on weekends, parents end up fetching their kids from one class to the next, with barely a moment to properly catch up with each other.
However, it is still possible to find different ways to date our spouse; even with young kids whom we are not able to leave at home alone. Here are some creative ways to do so.
- Have a movie night
Kids need to sleep early, and it is important for parents to get a daily sleep schedule going. This will help the children get the rest they need, while providing Mum and Dad with some much-needed couple time alone, which they can then spend catching the latest movies or K-dramas on Netflix or Disney Plus.
This is a feasible option for couples who just don’t have enough energy to get dressed and head out. And when the kids first arrived, this was what we did on most nights – if only to provide us with a small measure of strength for us to keep going.
Connect with your spouse on new ideas and plans, or to touch base on the latest happenings at work or with the kids.
- Go on a supper date
There are some couples who desire more than just a movie night in. One idea is for you to order in your favourite foods and indulge in a small bedtime snack after the kids hit the sack. This could be as simple as a local dessert or a full-on cheese platter complete with deli meats, nuts and crackers.
For those with a healthier palate, a simple side plate of fruits paired with a cup of caffeine-free tea might work to help you wind down. And what do you do when enjoying the food? A good idea would be to connect with your spouse on new ideas and plans, or to touch base on the latest happenings at work or with the kids.
- Take a walk in the park
Parks and beaches are lovely places to take the kids. Pack some simple finger foods and drinks, a picnic mat, a ball and other favourite toys, and you’re ready to go.
If your kid likes to muck around in the sand or if he or she is happy to kick the ball around, this could be the perfect way to connect with the kids, while concurrently stealing time to talk with your spouse. My wife and I have spent many such moments at a nearby park or beach, and this has shaped many of our family memories. And when our kids were old enough to play by themselves, these moments became precious times when I could enjoy a peaceful chat with my wife, while keeping my stomach full with sandwiches and coffee.
- Rope in the in-laws
Fellow parents Jerrold and Rachel Hong shared that when their kids were younger, they would get help from their parents whenever they went over for dinner. The kids would spend time with their grandparents, while the couple would head out for a short 20-minute jog. They shared that it’s important to be realistic about expectations of couple time, especially during a season when you have very young children. Cultivating a strong support network can go a long way in helping you care for the tots.
We love in the here and the now, and every moment matters.
- Make use of the in-between time
In fast-paced Singapore, much time is spent ferrying the kids around for enrichment classes such as art, sports or martial arts. Parents often find themselves sending their children to these classes, and then waiting for the kids nearby. One parent shared that she and her spouse would take turns surprising each other with a new cafe find nearby, and they would spend time chatting over cake and coffee.
Whether or not you choose to go on a cafe-hopping expedition every week or take pains to surprise your significant other with a special supper treat, it is crucial for couples to make time to connect with each other – even in the small moments.
In my counselling work, I have observed that my clients with marital issues tend to have drifted apart emotionally for some time. While some blame their busy work schedules for the distance, others have commented that it was hard to find time for each other during the early years when they first had kids.
All of them agreed that things might have taken a different trajectory if they had chosen to spend more time with each other, intentionally tried to understand each other better, and given the emotional support needed to keep their marriages healthy.
For love is in the small things. Small surprises, gentle touches, little acts of service; constant connections. We love in the here and the now, and every moment matters.
© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy and counselling agency which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, mentoring, mental wellness and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two tween boys aged 12 and 10.
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