How to stay connected while having kids... with Willemijn Laan
Now that I’m divorced I much better understand the impact of having children on a relationship. Having kids around will, understandably, automatically take away the attention from each other. There is a different energy use because of the focus on the kids, having less time to spend on your own wants and needs. I also see that the advice to ‘spend more time together as a couple’ is definitely a good one, but is not easy to do and definitely not the best solution when you’ve been drifting apart for a long time already.
Spending a few hours having dinner together is usually not enough to get the so-needed connection back again. I’ve already noticed that when I spend 24 hours together with my man and my or his or both of our children. When the kids have left and we’re alone, it usually takes a few hours to first get to spend time on ourselves, on what we need individually, before we get to the connection we so strongly have together.
That’s why it’s even more important to open yourself up to a few short daily practices to keep the closeness in reach on a daily and ongoing basis when you have children, but, equally important, with no children around.
My man and I are getting to be experts in the appreciation department (I have to give props to him for this because he’s a natural talent at it). It goes from telling him how soft his skin is, to how wonderful and loved it makes me feel that he made multiple cups of tea for me during a night on the couch, to how proud I am of him that his workday went so well.
The funny thing is that the idea of giving each other this many signs of appreciation during the day often makes people back up, go in defense and ask why this is really necessary to do… While often we don’t have problems criticizing our partner multiple times a day: “Why did you forget to buy cheese when you were in the supermarket, why do you always leave your dirty underwear on the floor, why don’t you ever put the toilet seat down?”. Sounds familiar?
If you find yourself in a situation like that… Ask yourself sincerely why it is easier to criticize than to appreciate. You don’t have to feel ashamed about it, because you’re not the only one. And the good thing is that you are reading this now and in a position to change this way of unconscious living.
Appreciation does not mean your partner will stop or continue whatever you feel is ‘wrong’, but it definitely is more fun and does give your partner the opportunity to fix things themselves instead of feeling the constant pressure of not doing it right. Which is usually something that loudly rings a bell in the connection department.
Research shows we need to give at least 5 signs of appreciation next to one point of criticism to keep the closeness and love flowing. Funny enough it does not come naturally to a lot of us to focus on appreciation in our lives. But when you start this practice and be conscious about what you appreciate about your partner, your colleague or anyone close (or far) to you it really does work miracles in creating, feeling and keeping deeper connections. First of all, it’s more fun. And fun is always a good thing and also something kids can relate to. Try to mix in some playful signs of appreciation. This is both fun as ‘educational’ for the kids to see their parents do. Because we all love to see and hear what we’ve done well in the eyes of someone else. This never gets boring. Second of all it makes you feel seen for who you are and what your intentions are. And this is the key to all good connections.
Being in a long-term relationship and especially one with children involved we often get into a ‘getting things done in time’ mode. And criticizing and withdrawing are two things that are close around the corner and are at the same time connection killers. Therefore, a second daily practice is to stop criticizing or withdrawing (not saying anything and keeping it all in), but to feel within and share this feeling instead of expressing what the other person ‘did wrong’.
So instead of “Why do you never keep your promise to pay back the money I lent you on time?” to “I feel stuck when it comes to lending you money. I wonder why it keeps happening that I don’t receive it back in time. How do I keep ending up in this situation and how can we solve this?”. This gives space to wonder and creativity.
It all comes down to sharing your inner world and realizing that in every conflict there are two (or more) people involved and if you are finding yourself in a conflict or criticizing someone, one of them is you.
Give yourself the opportunity to live more consciously and to deepen your connections.
Try out these practices and let me know how it goes!