Note from Melissa: Today I’m delighted to welcome one of the coolest writers I know to Inspy Romance! I first became acquainted with Gabrielle Meyer online sometime in 2012. We met in person at ACFW that year and have since become close friends. Together with two other fabulous writers, we have close-knit writing group…and we’re less than two months out from our annual summer retreat at Gabe’s house. I can’t wait!
Gabrielle is writing today about how the busyness of raising four kids has drawn her and her husband closer. (Sidenote: She has awesome kids!) Take it away, Gabe…
In less than a month I’ll be celebrating my thirteenth wedding anniversary. My husband and I met at the age of sixteen, started dating when we were seventeen, married when we were twenty-one, and had our first daughter at the age of twenty-four. Since then, we added a second daughter and a set of twin boys, who just turned four last month.
To say we’re busy is an understatement. I believe the parenting years can be some of the hardest on a marriage. Sometimes it feels like our romance has turned into a business arrangement, where we spend more time focused on our responsibilities and schedules than we do our love life.
So how do we keep the romance alive after thirteen years of marriage, four children, running two small businesses, and pursuing a writing career? As I pondered this question, I realized there are five ways we’ve discovered to keep the romance, if not hot, at least warm during this season of life.
- Remember the Past. Some days, when we’re struggling to get our four-year-olds to eat their asparagus, I look across the table at my husband and wonder where all the romance went. No longer do we talk intimately at supper. Now we discuss loudly, over the voices of our children, who should do the dishes, who should bathe the kids, and who should help with homework after supper. I love my husband dearly, but sometimes I need a little help to remember why we fell in love in the first place. I kept a journal during our dating years, and periodically we read it together. It reminds us of the early years and it brings back all those exciting, wonderful feelings. If you didn’t keep a journal, take some time to talk to your spouse about those early days. Talk about the moment you first saw one another, when you were introduced, your first date, first kiss, first time you said I love you. It really does rekindle the spark of romance.
- Look to the Future. Just as important as looking to the past, is finding a few moments to look to the future. Even though our days are filled with children and their activities, we’re always conscious of the fact that one day our children will be grown, and it will be just the two of us again. It’s important to work on our friendship and always look forward together. This included finding common goals, and dreaming. We discuss home improvements, vacations we’d like to take, ministry work we’d like to do, and how we’d like to retire. There’s nothing off limits.
- Meet Your Spouse’s Needs. This one goes hand in hand with looking toward the future. After our relationship with God, our relationship with our spouse should be more important than any other. During these years when our children require so much time and attention, it can be hard to put our spouse’s needs at the top of the list. I realized one day that I was meeting the needs of six human beings, mine included—if I had the time. I was nursing twin babies, while taking care of a three-year-old and a five-year-old. Often my husband was the last person to get my attention. But what I realized is that meeting his needs recharges me. To be the best mom I could be, I needed his support and his love, just like he needed mine to be the best dad he could be. If I’m meeting his needs, and he’s meeting mine, then ideally all our needs are being met.
- If Mama Isn’t Happy… One of my husband’s favorite tongue-in-cheek sayings is: “If Mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy.” All joking aside, my husband and I have realized that, yes, we need to meet each other’s needs, but it’s not our job to make each other happy. There is nothing he can do or say that will make me happy, unless I choose to be happy, and the same is true for him. I find that when I am unhappy, he can’t seem to do anything to please me, and I often put the blame on him. That’s a destructive cycle. We each have to choose to be happy, regardless of what the other person does, or does not do.
- Look for the Good. Life can get overwhelming sometimes, especially when you’re raising little ones. We work hard at finding the good in every situation—and in each other. Instead of feeling frustrated at the areas my husband falls behind, I try to focus on the areas he excels (and he does this for me too). My husband might not be the best at getting out in a snowstorm to shovel the front walk, but he’s great at playing in the snow with our children. He might fall asleep before it’s time to tuck the kids into bed some nights, but it’s because he’s up much earlier than me to go to work. If we’re intentional, we can always see the good in each other.
Finding romance in the midst of parenting can be hard, but it’s not impossible. I’d love to hear how you keep (or kept) the romance alive during the parenting season. If you’re not married, or don’t have children, how did your parents or grandparents keep the spark alive?
Gabrielle Meyer lives in Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four young children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society for ten years, and the Morrison County Historical Society for two years, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing historical romance inspired by actual people and events. In her “free” time she enjoys volunteering for her church and community and is a big fan of MOPS and AWANA. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or her blog.
Narelle Atkins says
Hi Gabrielle, Wow, you are busy!!! The small children stage of life is exhausting, and somehow my husband and I survived despite years of sleep deprivation. One of my kids didn’t sleep well for seven years. Thanks for sharing your helpful romance tips :)
Gabrielle Meyer says
Hello, Narelle! Ah, sleep deprivation. :) A constant companion during those early years. Just last night our twin boys ended up in bed with us. It just pushed me closer to my husband’s side. :) It’s wonderful when everyone is sleeping through the night (mom and dad included!). It makes life so much easier to deal with. Thanks for stopping by today.
Gabrielle Meyer says
Thanks for having me here today, Melissa! I had fun putting this post together. Write what you know, right?!?! :) I am counting down the days until our retreat!
Melissa Tagg says
YAY can’t wait for the retreat. The first part of 2014 has felt…full. So I’m soooo looking forward to several days of rest, relaxation and a TON of laughter, I’m sure. :) Thanks for being my guest today! Loved having you!
These are great points. Thanks Gabrielle.
Gabrielle Meyer says
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read them. :)
Merrillee Whren says
Hi Gabrielle, thanks for the wonderful advice. I had to chuckle about your husband’s saying. My hubby jokes around with that one, too. :)
Gabrielle Meyer says
It’s one of my husband’s favorite ways to tease me, especially when I’m feeling crabby. :) Thanks for stopping by to read the post, Merrillee.
Shelli Littleton says
Gabrielle … a few years back, we went fishing “like we used to” … at my husband’s uncle’s house/pond. I was the last to start fishing, and the last standing. Later, my husband said as he watched me fishing, it reminded him of the past and why he loved me. Who knew fishing would do that for him?! On one hand, it’s tempting to be a little offended, but we all have the same feelings … so just chuckle and choose joy. And go fishing more often!!