Recharging the Battery Pack: Getting Ready for the Second Decade of Marriage
As couples move into the second decade of marriage, stress comes from every side, putting pressure on the family relationships. Usually, by this second decade of marriage, there are children with their persistent needs. In addition, one or both partners is likely to be caught up in the demands of a growing career. The fine lines forming about the eyes and mouth signal that aging is an unrelenting, if, subtle, reality. Lurking around all these concerns is a sense of apathy with decreasing energy to confront these many other demands and distractions that pull at the bonds of love.
Recharging the relational batteries is needed to restore vitality and energy to what is all too often a tired relationship. In order for our relational light to shine, our personal batteries must be recharged. Caring for our own needs will, in the long run, make us a better husband or wife, and eventually better parents. Here are a few suggestions on how to do this:
- First of all, remember that you do not have to be perfect. In fact, you cannot be. No one ever is. Don’t strive for your or anyone else’s definition of the perfect husband, wife, or parent. Simply relax as much as possible and be yourself. Do the best you can in all situations and then move on.
- Nurture your marriage and intimate relationships. The arrival of a baby invariable rearranges the relationships in a family. Though familiar patterns and routines are unavoidably thrown askew, husband and wife should not ignore their own intimate needs. They should avoid the temptation to focus all of their attention on the children to the point that the children are all they have in common. It is important to continue to share with each other the many little things that make life exciting: their work, hobbies, books they are reading, and the hopes and dreams they have for themselves and their family are just a few. Husband and wife should regularly get a sitter and get away for relaxation without the constant responsibility of the children.
- Parents should claim time at home for themselves. This means putting the children, if there are any, to bed early enough to give the parents time for themselves. One father complained bitterly that he and his wife never got to be together alone to talk. “Our whole evening is taken up with the chore of putting sixteen‑month old Jimmy to bed. He plays and interrupts us until he falls asleep around nine‑ thirty or ten. By then I am tired and frustrated.” Claim some time each day for yourselves and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Nurture your relationships with other adults. Men find support with other men; women gain strength from being with other women and couples are enriched by sharing time with other couples. Many parents feel guilty about leaving their children with a sitter or in a nursery. As long as the caretakers are reliable, you should not feel one tinge of guilt. Again, you can come back to your parenting role as a much more effective and loving parent if you have had a chance to relax and find stimulating adult conversation.
- Both partners should pursue their own creative interests. It seems this is often easier for the husband who finds outlets though his career and sports. Mothers often feel guilty about doing the things they enjoy such as art, sports or additional education pursuits. She is still a person, as well as a wife and mother. She needs to find a passion and pursue it.
- But do not over-commit yourself. The care of a child along with other household duties, is a time consuming and important job. When both parents work full‑time the demands on body and soul are overwhelming. For many families, this duel career will be necessary. But ideally, one parent will be able to give a predominant amount of their creative energies to the rearing of children, particularly during the pre‑school years.
During these middle years, the demands on the marriage relationship can be overwhelming. However, pain and discomfort can be reduced if the couple keeps the focus on each other and keep their relational batteries charged.