1) Do something for your partner that she/he will love (a massage, read her/him a story before bed, write a short love letter…) especially if you don’t feel like it at all.
2) Be honest. Start your sentences with “I” and talk about your emotions as being your own. There is nothing worse than saying “You hurt me when you went out with your friends last night…”. Own up to the fact that you are the maker of your own feelings and thoughts, so instead say “I feel lonely at the moment and would love to talk to you about where those feelings are coming from”.
3) Do acknowledge your partner’s work (whether it’s at home or out and about). There is nothing nicer than saying to your partner “You look very tired, I can see you had a hard day today, would you like a hot drink?” (And yes, you might feel like it’s you who deserves that drink, but believe me, the more you offer kindness, the more it will return to you too).
4) Schedule in special time. Some find that too prescriptive, however, if you find you don’t manage to find that time otherwise it does help. Special time can be just the two of you doing something you love. Get your favourite take away once a week, watch a new movie, read for each other etc.
And yes, some couples also schedule in sex. If you feel this is at the bottom of your priority list at the moment, but still one of you is unhappy about this, talk about how you want intimacy to look like.
5) Have a “listening” evening. Each person has time to talk without being interrupted for five, ten (you decide what feels best) minutes. The other listens. Make sure you really listen and don’t let your thoughts drift off (if they do, make sure you come back to listening actively). Take what you hear as feelings and thoughts of your partner, rather than “the truth”. This means you won’t get into justification mode (“she always accusing me of this”, “I never said that…”). Active listening means you look each other in the eyes, you can nod, you might want to clarify points (but not question what the other has said!).
6) Share what you’ve been up to during the day, even if you think it’s too mundane or boring to share. Talk about how you felt when X happened or Y said this to you.
7) Schedule in some time for yourself. Even if it’s only short. Go for a walk/jog in the park, phone/talk to a friend, go out for coffee, read a magazine/newspaper without being interrupted, go to the library, listen to an audio book, take a long bath etc. Everyone needs some “Me time” to recharge batteries.
8) If you think your partner “should have done X, Y and Z (done the dishes, tidied up, phoned the bank etc.) but he/she hasn’t there is probably a reason for this. If you can, just do it yourself (without casting looks or moaning!) or find out how you can help (maybe there is another task you can do, to relieve him/her). Don’t ever fall into the trap of “I have done more than you”, “my day has been more stressful than yours” etc. It doesn’t help anyone.
9) Sometimes it is good to accept the situation as it is. If your house does look like a mess at the moment and there is no time to clean up, well, who cares? If you have spent the day instead being there for your partner and kids, than that’s what counts. You can have a clean house again. Someday. (But you cannot catch up on those magical moments between you and your children where you have fun and the bond you develop by being there for and with them).
10) I know fatherhood/parenting can be a time of worries (financial, emotional, work worries, etc.). If you like everything to be perfect, like me, you will struggle. Believe me, you are already doing an amazing job, you are raising the next generation; you reading this means that you care and want the very best for your family. You are perfect!
Finally, don’t forget, even if parenting is one of the hardest jobs, it is a wonderful, unique time. Enjoy that journey!
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