09 Sep A Connected Couple Equals a Happy Family
Todd and Lisa live a busy life. Lisa, an Executive Marketing Director and Todd, an IT programmer, both put in 50+ hours at work each week. They have 2 kids, ages 8 and 6 who go to school and participate in sports and music lessons. Todd and Lisa share a common feeling – guilt. They each get home from work around 6pm and spend a couple of hours each night with their children before bedtime. Constantly exhausted, they neglect each other and their marriage.
For this couple, family takes priority on the weekends. Todd and Lisa try to make up for time lost during the week with the kids. They run from one sporting or music event to another. They also connect with extended family. Whether it is a week night or weekend evening, both crash into bed by 10pm.
Over time, Todd and Lisa grow distant from each other. Most of what they discuss involves the kids or work. After the kids go to sleep, they flop down on different couches in their living room and silently watch TV. They feel dull around each other and struggle to share simple pleasures. They say, “It’s like we live parallel lives”.
Couples struggle to manage busy schedules. More often than not, couple time doesn’t even make the calendar.Yet this time is vital for the survival of the family. If couples do carve out time, they feel guilty about being away from the kids. Instead of viewing couple time as a necessary component to relationship/marital health, it has become an indulgence. The consequence: a disconnected, lonely couple.
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow studied what motivates human beings. He created a hierarchy of human needs in the shape of a pyramid, known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. While Maslow did not originally create this within a couple’s framework, the identified needs certainly can apply. He claims that humans must achieve these needs in this order to feel fulfilled in life:
- Level 1: Food, drink, shelter and warmth
- Level 2: Safety, security and stability
- Level 3: Affection, love, intimacy, friendship
- Level 4: Self-respect, achievement and independence
- Level 5: Personal growth and self-fulfillment
Todd and Lisa have achieved levels 1 and 2. However, level 3 is in jeopardy as they do not share any affection or intimacy. Whether or not they love each other becomes increasingly questionable. Todd and Lisa seem to prioritize their kids but if they really want to create a solid family life for their growing children and beyond, they must relate to each other in a better, healthier way.
In order to reconnect deeply and consistently, they must recommit to their marriage. Todd and Lisa must give their relationship the same type of attention and concern they give their children. Their relationship becomes their third child. I often tell couples in this situation, “Your relationship, that space that sits between the two of you, is your new baby”.
Perhaps you are similar to Todd and Lisa. Just like caring for a newborn baby, your “relationship baby” might ask for more than you feel you can give right now. But like a new mother or father, you adjust. You figure out how to nurture this new life. You struggle through at times but you find your way.
This process requires conscious awareness, practice and forgiveness. Speak honestly and openly about what you desire in your marriage. Talk about what you dream of, hope for, aspire towards as a couple. If you could fulfill your highest relationship potential, what would that look like? Imagine the fantasy, even if it seems distant or lofty. Give yourselves permission to get dreamy in your conversations. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t create it.
Todd and Lisa want a strong family unit, now and long after the children are grown. They have recommitted to their marriage. They now nurture their “relationship baby” too. They are doing this hard but necessary work.
Remember that together, you are the foundation of your family. Be the strongest foundation possible. Make that commitment to each other now. Your children will thank you for the stability as well as for the wonderful example you set for them.