How to connect when you don’t have money for a babysitter, a relative close, or a tribe of friends to kid swap.
This post is not precisely PG so if the topic of sex makes you squirm; you may want to choose any of my other posts. I do feel, for homeschool families especially, that connecting with your spouse is vital to a healthy family environment.
Date Nights Without a Babysitter
When you are first married, date nights can seem so incredible. You look forward to the end of the week. You can get up leisurely on a Saturday and head off to brunch at 11 am. You can cuddle and watch a movie without interruption. You can go out with friends or head to a farmers market or do pretty much what you want with the love of your life.
For us, children were wanted and a blessing after eight years of infertility and numerous failed fertility treatments. We were so happy when had our daughter and then our son. We love our kids fiercely. We went from movie nights to family nights, from brunch to trampoline parks, from long talks at night to falling asleep to reruns of Seinfeld at 9 pm.
Having children changes things.
We have had a total of 6 date nights in 15 years of marriage. It seems par for the course as most of our friends have said the same. Either going out becomes expensive with paying for a sitter and dinner, or it becomes repetitive. We haven’t lived near family since my oldest was 3 and while a few times friends have watched my children, we do not rely on them. About three years ago, I became agitated in our lack of alone time. I complained to my husband about not spending quality time together. We didn’t have the luxury of grandparents or aunts or uncles close who could watch our kids, and the lack of connection was affecting our intimacy.
Date Nights Lead to Sex
I realize my blog is rooted in my Christian beliefs but let’s be honest; date nights lead to sex. Sex in a marriage is healthy and needed for connection. Strictly talking women and men’s brains here, most women need to feel connected in ways that are not physical touch. They need to see their husbands put in an effort by showing them they are important. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, a woman needs to feel valued. Men need to feel respected. They like to know their wives respect them as men first and providers second. To understand this further a team of scientists at Harvard Medical School (HMS) (Medical Study Here) studied brains of those in love for varying periods of time. What they found was that during the initial getting to know you phase, a brain in love will flood with two hormones, dopamine and cortisol. These two hormones work together to give you that “feel good” feeling while you deal with a stressful situation (First dates…. am I right?) What they found was that couples who had been together longer had phases of these hormones that flooded the brain. They could vary depending on the seasons of life or even during hormonal imbalances. What was interesting was that the study found that couples together for seven years all go through a similar time of hardships. Many times they try harder to make their relationships work, but other times they use old habits as crutches. Couciling sessions tend to spike around this time as well, as an average of 4 out of 10 couples seeks counseling around the ten-year mark.
The most exciting thing I found in both studies was that couples who made time for each other had a more considerable amount of dopamine in their system and when hooked up to scans and shown pictures of their spouse, their brain lit up in areas known for pleasure. The scientists concluded that couples who are thinking about each other during the day, who take time to do things for each other were happier overall, even if they were in counseling. What they also found was husbands and wives who do acts for each, typically had more sex. During the study, the scientists found that during orgasm with a loved spouse, not only was dopamine released but so was oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin is known as the love drug and is released during pregnancy for women and men while doing things like cuddling their children or relaxing. Vasopressin is linked to behavior and is known to deep affection towards the other person. All three of these hormones flood the brain and explain why, after the passion of the first few years of marriage fades, the hormones become more prevalent solidifying attachment with behavior. This means that couples who try to make connections with their spouses daily have higher levels of these hormones overall and when they hit a rough patch, are (chemically speaking) more likely to move through a hard time. Couples who do not make a habit of connecting have lower numbers of these hormones and are not making the connection between “feelings” and behavior.
We need connections
We need to connect with our spouses. Our brains need us to, as well as own feelings of value and importance in each other. I realize how hard it is to make time to connect with your spouse when your children as small, or you have multiple kids, or your family lives in another state or across the country or even in another country altogether. As we have traveled with my husband’s job, we have had to come up with creative ways to make time for each other. Some of these you may have already thought of, but I hope you can take a few of these suggestions and use them to make connections with your spouse.
It is tough when you need to make connections and can’t seem to make the time. Then you read articles that say things like “just make time.” Easier said than done.
What if your husband is on an oil rig?
What if he is on deployment?
What if he works long hours?
What if he is an over the road trucker?
What if you are a nurse who works nights?
What if you are TDY?
What if you just had a baby and are all touched out?
What if you are deployed?
What if you both work swing shifts so as not to need a sitter?
Most articles I read during a hard time in our marriage when I felt we weren’t connecting all said to head out of the house or get grandma to watch the kids. The fact was, at that time, we couldn’t. We had no extra money and while I was running a business and he was working hard, we were paying off debt. Going out on date nights meant spending at least a hundred dollars between babysitting, dinner, and a movie. Even when we tried to do it on the cheap with coupons and things, a babysitter was at least $15 an hour where we lived. We just couldn’t afford it. While my logical brain understood this, my womanly self missed my husband. I longed for the intimacy we had, and the loss of Mr. B. doing things that annoyed me. (LOL) I felt disconnected and that disconnect lead to a breakdown. First in our communication and then with our intimacy. The less we talked the more I pulled away and the more my husband stopped trying. We had to break the cycle.
Ideas for ways to connect
- Movie and Pizza in
- Game night (board games)
- Play video games together (We like classics like Super Mario Brothers)
- Watch your favorite sports team
- Make an art project together using Bob Ross on Netflix
- Read aloud from a book together
- Cuddle in bed
- Text messages throughout the day
- Take a lunch date
- Make care packages and send them complete with pictures (Deployment)
- Write emails back and forth
- Write down what you love about your spouse
- Leave notes for each other
- Hold hands
- Kiss hello
- Make a favorite meal
- Eat after kids go to bed
- Have a no phones rule after a specific time
- Take family walks
- Take trips to the park and let the kids play while you talk
- Hold hands in the car
- Buy something thoughtful (like flowers or favorite candy) on the way home from work
- Figure out their love language
- Have a favorite dessert together
- Create a playlist of your favorite songs and add it to your spouses Spotify.
Another way I learned to connect better was to follow a blog called The Dating Divas. They have a surprising number of date-night-in ideas complete with printables and food options to get your creative juices going. The website was perfect for my husband and I as we could put the kids to bed early on a Friday night, head to our bedroom and watch a movie or do questionnaires with themed food and fun printables with either games or questions. They have all different types of ideas, like Superbowl and March Madness for those sports fans or romantic comedies or British TV. They even have ideas for backyard camping, or hiking, or truth or dare. The point isn’t the TV show or movie or even the action you both are doing. The point is to connect and do things together just the two of you.
Awkward is how I roll
I will not lie, it was awkward at first. Answering printable questions made to get the both of us talking felt disingenuine. I realized though that we didn’t know what to say to each other, so the games and puzzles and questions helped. I felt weird at first saying to my husband that I needed more of his time. I knew he worked hard and stressed over his job. I hated being needy. I hated whining or making him feel bad because at that time he wasn’t meeting my needs. I felt selfish asking to spend time together because my kids needed me. At the same time, I valued our relationship and that need to feel valued translated into my feelings of sexual intimacy towards him. I needed to change it up and have him work along with me. Ignoring the issue wasn’t making it go away. Complaining about money each time we did go out didn’t make me want to be around him. We needed to reach a happy medium between ignoring and complaining.
I had to change my idea of what date nights meant. I also had to take advantage of the resources I had available. For me (since this blog is relatively one-sided) it had to be a perception shift. I had to look at our unique relationship and see it for what it was, not for the ideal of what I thought it would be. I also had to understand that date night can mean just a quiet evening in reading together, or watching a movie, or even watching Arrow while lying in bed and eating brownies.
It wasn’t the place I needed, but the time. I needed my husband to make the time for me, but just as importantly, I needed to make the time for him.
Relationships are hard. Marriage doesn’t come with instruction books and a set of plans. It takes two people still choosing each other day after day.
Seventeen years together and I wouldn’t trade him in quite yet.
I love you, Mr. B., I still would rather spend time with you than with anyone else, even if it is just to watch some superhero show and yell at the TV “THIS DUMB SHOW MAKES ME CRAZY!!!”
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