It probably doesn’t surprise you that finding time to be alone with your spouse after you have kids can be challenging. Yet, one thing growing families aren’t always aware of is how anxiety can build walls between couples.
We can be anxious about almost anything. For instance, you may be worried about losing a loved one, being left out, or carrying an unfair workload. Before you go home and begin carving out time with your spouse, let’s take a look at anxiety’s role in marriage. Because reducing this anxiety can help you break down your walls to be more present, open, and playful with your spouse – no matter how many kids you have.
Spreading anxiety breeds distance
How does this anxiety get stirred up among couples? Let me illustrate with an example. Imagine a triangle made up of a father, mother, and their new baby.
Ann, the mother, is anxious about being intimate with her husband, Joe, after their baby is born. She doesn’t like how much her body has changed. Ann doesn’t feel very attractive right now, so she starts falling asleep in the baby’s room. Can you see how Ann’s anxiety is leading her to pull away from Joe?
Meanwhile, Joe starts to take Ann’s absence in bed personally. Joe fears being rejected by his wife, so he doesn’t initiate intimacy with her. Instead, Joe begins working longer hours. He feels more confident and appreciated at work. When Joe is home, he is more critical and irritable with Ann. This backfires, and now Ann is avoiding being alone with Joe in order to keep the peace between them. Can you see how Joe’s anxiety is increasing the distance between them?
It may seem like this couple is caught in a vicious cycle with no way out. The good news is there is always a way out. So, what’s the next step?
Reducing anxiety invites connections
Recognizing they both have a part in creating their problems is the first step to finding a new way to relate to each other. For example, Ann can be more open with her spouse about her discomfort with her body. Joe can also take her time with the baby less personally. In doing so, this couple would realize that they are both trying to adapt to their growing family. Ann and Joe want the same thing, to enjoy each others’ company while creating a bigger family. Yet, their anxiety and tension were so high that it got in the way of them truly knowing each other.
Can you relate to Ann & Joe’s story? Whether you share their story or have a different story, do you think you would be open to enjoying your spouse’s company when your anger and worry have got the best of you? I think this quote by Louise Rausen, faculty member at Bowen Center for Study of the Family, summarizes how anxiety can interfere with finding a way out of marriage problems: “creative thinking and problem solving are often out of the question when anxiety is high.”
Creating practical ways to be alone
So, once you have recognized and reduced your worries, you can create practical ways to get some alone time with your spouse. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Once a day, set your kids bedtime earlier than your bedtime.
Once a week, feed your kids first, so you can share a meal with just your spouse.
Once a month, get a babysitter so you can have a date with your spouse. If money is tight, find another couple with kids who is willing to swap babysitting services for free.
Once in awhile, take an overnight vacation with your spouse.
Now, it’s your turn. I want to hear your perspective. Does fear and anger interfere with you being more open and approachable with your spouse? Share the creative ways you have for carving out alone time with your spouse.
Editor’s Note: This topic originally aired on Relationships 360 TV show.