Rodrigo and I just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and I got to thinking what are important elements that help marriages stand the test of time?
I interviewed family/marriage therapist and founder of Playa Vista Counseling, Rachel Thomasian, to give me her expert advice on how to create a strong bond with your mate in the age of constant comparison on social media.
Q: How should a married couple keep the spark alive after kids?
Rachel: Having kids is one of the biggest stressors on a marriage. As delightful as children are, they bring so much stress that unless you have some relationship protectors and enhancers built in, that spark is inevitably going to die out.
Anyone who has kids knows, when you’re sleep deprived, exhausted from running after a toddler all day and wiping butts, the last thing you have energy for is a date night or some intimacy. The easiest way to keep the spark alive is to flirt, whether this means stealing a kiss while your partner is washing dishes or texting a cheeky message from work, it sends the message that your partner’s still into you.
There are so many excuses to not go on date night: you need to find a babysitter, it’s expensive, you don’t have time… but time alone with your spouse can be the thing that makes or breaks you after the kids. Pick at least two nights a month, put it on your calendar and just do it.
Speaking of doing it, as unsexy as it sounds, sit down and talk about your expectations of intimacy, put it on the books. If you commit to this, you won’t even have to think about it and you’ll actually have a sex life instead of letting it die out, which happens to way too many couples after having kids.
Fairytales and movies have mistakenly taught us that good relationships should just happen effortlessly and the connection and spark should come naturally. This couldn’t be farther from reality. Successful couples make time to communicate, they put in effort to schedule dates, and they have difficult conversations without going to war with one another. All of this is hard work but your relationship is totally worth it.
The best relationships are the ones where couples make time for each other. It sounds way too simple but since time is the hottest commodity, people think the easiest place to cut time is out of their relationship, in the end it ends up being the most damaging.
Q: How has social media played a role in negatively impacting relationships?
Rachel: With social media, you’re exposed to the highlight reel of everyone else’s relationship and it’s very normal to start comparing your relationship with those. It’s easy to start forming the belief that everyone else is happy in their relationship except you. Even if you’re satisfied in your marriage, think of what it does to see only the best moments of everyone else’s relationship and hold that up against your own which is naturally a combination of good and bad. If nothing else, social media adds one more distraction from your relationship. It’s one more thing that gets in the way of connecting. Let’s put it this way, I don’t see any way social media can be helpful to a relationship, so limiting it and using it mindfully is best for any marriage.
Q:What’s one simple daily habit couples can do to strengthen their bond?
Rachel: The one tip I give every single couple I work with is to pick a time every single day where you will sit down with your spouse for 15 minutes, turn off your electronic devices and get rid of all other distractions and communicate with each other eyeball to eyeball. I don’t care what you talk about, as long as you’re not using this time to fight, keep it positive. People are surprised with how often and how easily 15 minutes turns into an hour long conversation where they feel loved and heard by their partner. Think about it, it’s something you naturally did in the beginning of your relationship that falls by the wayside after having kids.
Q: What’s the number one cause of divorce in 2018?
Rachel: The top few causes are: money, difficulty managing conflict, lack or mismatch of communication, lack of intimacy and connection, infidelity
Q: How can you know you’re marrying the right person.
Rachel: Marry the person who brings out the best version of yourself. If the person you’re with makes you want to be kinder to others, engage in healthier habits and happier all around, you’ve found yourself a winner. Ditch the guy who makes you angrier around everyone and you find yourself drinking in excess with. Consider the opinions of the people you love and trust, if your mom and your best friend are not a fan of your guy, maybe he’s not the one. Look for someone who shares similar values and dreams. Don’t wait for the relationship to improve after you get married or have kids, that’s just not going to happen.
Q: What are some red flags?
Rachel: Some red flags to look out for, indicating problems in your relationship are:
– Not connecting on any level: little communication, no intimacy, completely different priorities
– Not having fun with one another
– Disagreements getting out of hand
– A lack of general respect, resentment or contempt for one another
– Having the same arguments over and over
I would say these are problems that you’re not going to solve on your own and it’s time to get the help of a professional who can help you learn some new skills to fix your issues.
Wound love to hear from your thoughts on how to keep the spark in your relationship alive. Leave a comment below!
Sandra Thomasian, MD