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How to keep the flame in your marriage alive after having kids

By Donna Cuna-Pita Published May 09, 2021 2:31 pm

I married my high school prom date. When we first met, he was a lanky 18-year-old and I was an impossibly self-conscious 17-year-old. It was an awkward first date and I thought it would be a one-off deal—we’d go to prom and then we’d lose touch afterwards.

But here we are, 28 years later with two kids, three dogs, and a house in the suburbs. I was never the romantic type, and never daydreamed about my wedding day nor the groom, but I must say that this love of ours and this life we have built together have turned out to be more than anything I could’ve ever dreamed of.

We’ve been together for more than half of our lives but he still won’t take a bite of his food until I’m at the table. He still reaches over to my side of the bed at night for hugs (and other things). We still find each other impossibly amusing and incredibly interesting. Sure we’ve had our storms but we made it through, and our love is all the more stronger because of them.

I’ve wondered about this myself, how we’ve managed to stay interested in each other after all these years. Of course there are routines to marriage and life with children and not every day is easy or noteworthy, but we’ve found peace and purpose for those days when we doubted if we could make it through.

Here, some of the things I think that have helped both of us keep the love alive:

1. Stay interested and stay interesting.

I remember talking to a single friend about this. She couldn’t fathom how anyone could stay with just one person for the rest of their life and not get bored. I told her it was unrealistic to expect constant excitement but it is possible to not lose interest.

In our case, I’ve found that giving each other space to enjoy individual interests has helped each of us grow. I let him do his thing and he lets me do my thing. We let each other grow and shine as individuals while always staying as each other’s number one fan and cheerleader. Not everything has to be about you as a unit. Also make it a point to stay healthy and look good for yourself and each other. I know we can’t always be on top of this (yes, I now live in pambahay clothes, too) but it’s good to remind him once in a while what a lucky guy he is for having bagged you, and it’s even better to catch your reflection in the mirror and wonder who that good looking woman is. Oh wait, it’s you!

 2. Be with someone you genuinely like and adore.

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This might seem as a no-brainer but I remember watching an episode of Oprah where one guest said that he thinks the secret to their successful marriage is that they genuinely like and adore each other, and I found that so simple yet so true. You have to like the person you’re with. Don’t be with someone you tolerate, don’t be with someone who happens to be here now, certainly don’t stay with someone that makes you feel bad about yourself. You need to like your partner—what they stand for, their beliefs and values—because it is this genuine admiration for each other that will tide you through tough times and make ordinary days extra special.

3. When there’s trouble, find strength in each other.

Like Julia Roberts in one of her movies, I was what you might call a “runner.” If I find that the situation is too hard or not worth my time, I let go. This is the area where my husband has taught me the most because he doesn’t give up as easily as I do. He fights for what he believes in and our union is so much stronger because of that. He believes in us, he believes in me so much, that I can’t help but do the same. When the two of you come together as a team you’re infinitely stronger.

You need to like your partner—what they stand for, their beliefs and values—because it is this genuine admiration for each other that will tide you through tough times and make ordinary days extra special.

 

4. He’s not perfect and neither are you.

When you find yourself losing it because he left the toilet seat up again or when he just plainly breathes the wrong way, you have to remind yourself that you have your shortcomings, too. Don’t let the little things destroy the big picture. If there’s a behavior or habit that genuinely bothers you to the core, find a nicer way of saying it.

For example, if he always leaves the toilet seat up, you could tell him, “Honey, can you please put the toilet seat down after you go the bathroom? The kids and I might fall in there if you don’t. Thank you.” There’s no need for name calling and you wouldn’t want a shouting match over it would you?

Make it a point to stay healthy and look good for yourself and each other. I know we can’t always be on top of this but it’s good to remind him once in a while what a lucky guy he is for having bagged you.

There will be days though when we’re all just on the edge and super stressed so the smallest thing can tick us off. When I’m having one of those days, I step back and minimize exposure—the less the interaction, the less the possibility for an unnecessary confrontation. It also helps to let your partner know when you’re having a bad day so they know to give you space also.

5. If a problem gets overwhelming, reach out to others for help.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to others for help when you both feel like you’re drowning. During one of our toughest times as a couple, my best friend helped us find someone who could guide us through the storm. I also found solace and wisdom from my parents who showed overwhelming love and concern for us. Find strength from a divine source. You shouldn’t go through it alone.

These are some of the things I’ve learned after being with someone for over a quarter of a century. I am grateful that we are who we are and we are what we are. I will report back after another 25 years.

Banner and thumbnail photos from Donna Cuna Pita’s Instagram.