Q: Sometimes I feel that my wife and I spend so much time in our roles as Mom and Dad that we neglect our own relationship. Do we just need to recognize that our needs as a couple have to be put on hold until our kids are older and less demanding?
Jim: I think most couples with children can relate to your dilemma. A household can only be as strong as its component parts -- namely, husband, wife and kids. Healthy families are made up of healthy individuals, and happy, successful marriages tend to produce thriving, well-adjusted kids.
Since loving, connected spouses make the most effective moms and dads, the best thing you can do for your children is to concentrate on creating the strongest possible bond with your mate. There are at least 12 distinctive qualities we've identified here at Focus on the Family that are vital for successful marriages. Here's a brief look at them:
1. Lifelong Commitment. Marriage is a lifelong adventure, filled with triumphs and defeats. Couples who understand this enter their relationship with the attitude that despite the challenges of life, they are dedicated to one another and won't throw in the towel when times get tough.
2. Shared Spiritual Intimacy. Thriving couples share a deep faith. They look to their Creator as the foundation of their relationship.
3. Respect Each Individual's Uniqueness. Don't lose sight of what drew you together before the children came along. Parents who know who they are and where they're going naturally encourage every other member of the family to make the same discoveries. They motivate kids to search out and follow their own paths and to develop their special interests and talents.
4. Positive Communication. Communication is the heart and soul of any vibrant relationship. It's important for husbands and wives to spend lots of time talking and trying to understand each other's thoughts and feelings.
5. Healthy Conflict Management. The key to marital success lies in the way a couple handles the inevitable conflicts of marriage -- i.e., by keeping short accounts and not letting anger fester.
6. Spending Enjoyable Time Together. Thriving couples are intentional about spending enjoyable time together. They schedule regular date nights and develop meaningful family traditions.
7. Cherish. Successful marriages are made up of two people who treasure and honor one another. You can do this by writing down a list of the things you value about your mate, reviewing it often and sharing it with them.
8. Nourish. Nourishing is a matter of discovering your mate's "love language" and learning to use it to express affection.
9. Shared Responsibility. Couples with vibrant relationships talk openly about their roles in the home. They devise a workable plan that preserves fairness in the way it divides household tasks and responsibilities.
10. Mutually Satisfying Physical Intimacy. Thriving couples regularly celebrate their marriage with physical intimacy. They understand that this includes affection, tenderness, warmth and physical touch.
11. Coping with Change, Stress and Crises. Successful husbands and wives recognize that external trials and pressures will come upon them. They prepare for hard times and make provisions for seeking outside help when needed.
12. Community Minded. Healthy marriage partners realize that they need other people and other people need them. They are involved in supportive communities where they have many opportunities to give and receive encouragement.
If you'd like to know more about how to implement these "Traits of a Thriving Marriage" in your own home, visit our website at focusonthefamily.com and click on the "Marriage" button at the top of the page. You'll be glad you did. So will your kids!
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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