It’s hard to believe that a couple might find it difficult to locate a thread of romance amongst the dirty nappies, mouldy half-eaten school lunches, mountains of dirty socks, and general stress and strain of raising a family, but it does happen.
The following is a not-entirely hypocritical list of tips for parents who find it tough to keep the romance alive while parenting small children.
Admittedly, some of these are untested ideas that seem worth trying (and we solemnly promise to find time to do so), but others are tried and true methods of fanning the marital flame.
If you or your partner happen to be flicking through the newspaper (by this I mean Facebook, obviously) and you find yourself saying or hearing the words, “That would be great if only we had the time”, write it down.
Since you probably have your phone in your hand anyway, it’s easy to keep a short wishlist of events or ideas you can draw from later.
When your parent/friend/Mum-at-the-school-gate/sister-in-law tells you about the “fabulous new restaurant that you simply must try” or the “brilliant show that you’ve just got to see”, instead of nodding and smiling whilst mentally lopping off her head with a blunt spoon, try actually listening to what she has to say.
Ask the pertinent questions – “How much did it cost?”, “Did he like it as much as you did?”, “What was so great about it?”, “Why do you think we would like it?” etc etc.
Helpful tip: “Why didn’t you invite us in the first place, asshat?” is not productive.
Chances are, you live somewhere that has access to deal websites like Groupon, Living Social, Ouffer, Cudo etc.
If you’re not familiar, these are called ‘group buying deals’.
They generally offer savings of around 50% in Australia, and often more than that.
We suggest you get onto these sites and have a browse – they’re a font of ideas and a great way of saving significant cash.
For example, Michael and I enjoyed a three-course meal at a small restaurant on Saturday night for a whopping $29 – for both of us.
Some deals even include a bottle of wine.
If eating out isn’t your thing, most sites offer massages and other pampering, or - for the more adventurous - we’ve even seen stand-up paddleboarding classes and tandem skydiving vouchers.
Another recent deal we enjoyed was a 90-minute night kayak down the Brisbane River followed by a gourmet buffet barbecue at the foot of the Kangaroo Point cliffs with free-flowing drinks and dessert, all for $55 each.
The value is amazing and the voucher sites offer up ‘date night’ activities we never would have considered, and – at the risk of sounding like an infomercial - at prices we can actually afford.
We’re not suggesting you grab a few ‘Madlibs’ cards on your way out the door, but hey, if you’re desperate they would probably do.
A better plan would be to give it a bit of thought before you go.
Something interesting must have happened to you or your spouse this week.
Try to steer clear of the “Work-work-work”, “Kids-Kids-Kids” trap.
What got you together in the first place?
Before you had children in common, what was it that drew you to each other?
Michael and I are giant nerds (especially Michael), so we watch and pick apart Joss Whedon shows while cursing the Fox network for cancelling Firefly. Bastards.
There have been many times we’ve been invited somewhere or asked if we’re available for visitors or babysitting etc and I’ve wanted to say no, for no other reason than Michael and I haven’t had a proper conversation all week.
On the rare occasion that I do say no, the evening passes in a blur of crappy TV shows and dishwashing and we go to bed still not having had that conversation.
The point I’m trying to make here is that if our expectations aren’t clear, one or both of us is bound to come away disappointed.
When a doctor’s appointment appears in the calendar, we know exactly what that means.
What’s wrong with putting a regular ‘date night’ in there too?
They don’t all have to be wine and roses, but something that takes you both away from the monotony of another exhausted sprawl on the couch.
Even sprawling on the couch together could tick off that appointment in your calendar.
You may be noticing a distinct lack of ‘marital flames’ in this article - at least, this is my husband’s comment on it. To this I say, ‘If you build it, they will come’ (no dirty pun intended). A fundamental difference between men and women (although admittedly a stereotype) is that men often look to sex for stress relief, whereas women prefer to de-stress first – to get ‘in the mood’. It may surprise some men to discover that their wives miss it as much as they do! With a closer, more fulfilling relationship, everybody wins.
Will you be going on holiday this summer?