Strengthening Relationships

Parenting puts a lot of pressure on a relationship, even a good one. With this in mind, here’s a short list of things to do to strengthen relationships. Make these things priorities starting this Valentine's Day (if you haven't already)!

Conversational Hearts Best Version2 2

Date Night: If you can swing it, get out alone with your partner.  There are good reviews of Date Night Restaurants on the Park Slope Parents website.

Recharge: Send your partner out to get recharged, or recharge yourself. The Pampered Parentrecommendations page has massage therapists and other services to help. These folks give PSP discounts on pampered parent services. It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  For dads, getting out and playing poker, going to Dad 411, or meeting up with other dads in your monthly or seasonal group are great ways to recharge. We also have an article on avoiding Parental Burnout .

Consider Therapy. This can be hard when you have limited time and young kids, but it can save a marriage. We have this list of Couple’s Therapists and Counseling. If you’ve got issues that start with you, or if your partner doesn’t want to attend, consider going to individual therapy

Read books about Relationship Resilience and do workbooks together. Parenting can stress relationships.  The big names in couple’s therapy right now are John Gottman (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work) and Sue Johnson (Hold Me Tight and Emotionally Focused Therapy) but don’t discount oldies but goodies like Harvell Hendrix (Getting the Love You Want, Imago Therapy) and simplified but useful constructs like Gary Chapman (The 5 Languages of Love are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch; quiz here.)  

Cuddle without expectation of sex. Be explicit that you just want to cuddle (and mean it). 

Have sex.  Schedule it if you need to. I’ve talked to many moms who feel like sex was a hassle, but they were always glad they did it afterward. If you’re co-sleeping, try a new place like a shower with the lights off. (We started a Sex after Kids Survey years ago; a Babeland/Park Slope Parents initiative that we never followed through with—maybe we need to dust that off!)

Practice Gratitude, especially with your partner. Have a Gratitude Jar (or text each other 3 things each day). Write 3 things that you are grateful for each day and re-visit them regularly. Especially tell each other what you appreciate about them.

Take charge when your partner needs a break. One friend said that the best thing her husband did was to put a beer in her coat pocket and tell her to go take a walk in the park when she was totally overwhelmed. 

Do more little things. Texts for no reason, flowers just because, notes on the bathroom mirror, phone calls.  Little things can do a lot to help a relationship. Put the dishes away, fold the laundry, offer to make dinner… do things that aren’t typically “your” tasks. 

Laugh more. Surround yourself with more comedy and less tragedy (including your steaming binges).  Share funny jokes and cartoons and reflect on funny times together. 

Practice Active Listening. Remember, it’s NOT about the nail.  This takes energy and time.

Watch things together. Co-viewing creates a shared history that helps couple's bond. 

This is a snapshot of some of the things that I discuss in my NYU Interpersonal Communication graduate class. 

So that’s some relationship help for ya. We also have this article: Wisdom/support for serious marital rough patch

Dr. Susan Fox

Ph. D. 1994, UCSB, currently NYU Adjunct

Founder, Park Slope Parents