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Making Time for Your Relationship

By Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

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Establish daily routines
Try to build time for just the two of you into the normal rhythm of your day. Tell the kids to leave you alone - perhaps after setting them up with an activity - and make the rule stick; soon enough, almost any child past two will come to respect it. Some couples have a cup of tea or glass of wine together when they're both home from work. You could arrange for the kids to eat early so you can have a peaceful dinner with each other.
Firm bedtimes will give you time to yourselves in the evening. Or pay an older child to play with your younger ones for a few hours over the weekend while you hang out together in another part of your home; a friendly ten-year-old is a preschooler's dream playmate!

Schedule regular date nights
By the time most infants are six months old (and for some, it's sooner), they can handle their parents going off for an hour or two in the evening. At this point, try to schedule a "date night" for at least once a month, and maybe even weekly. The first time or two, let yourself be as careful or nervous as you like: call home every fifteen minutes, carry a pager, leave the movie early because you can't stand being away from your baby, whatever - we've been there! But soon it will feel very natural, and the kids will see it as simply part of the weekly routine, even if they howl for a few minutes after your car pulls out of the driveway.

Let good moments last
As much as you both want things to be good between you, it's striking how hard it can be to let the nice moments last. For example, it might seem like a part of you doesn't want to give way to strong feelings of liking or love. Perhaps you fear that would imply you're letting him off the hook for the ways you feel he's let you down. Maybe you're afraid to melt, afraid to let yearnings for love and support stir within you, unwilling to chance being hurt one more time.

Instead, try to take the moment for what it is: it doesn't negate the past or de-legitimize anyone's grievances, nor does it mean you've agreed to anything from now on. These minutes together are like beads on your life's necklace: will they be pearls, or something plain or painful? You can help them be good by stretching yourself to be present when you feel far away, nice when you're irritable, open rather than guarded. Try to locate in him that which calls forth warmth and fondness in you. When he offers something positive, try to build on it rather than letting it hit the ground with a thud. Protecting these moments makes a sanctuary for your love, giving it room to live - and grow.

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 16 and 19. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and second authors of Mother Nurture: A Motherís Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.

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