One of the remarks that Jamie and I get often is how well we mesh. Despite the fact that we’re practically the same person; read: we’re both sarcastic, worst-case-scenario ‘I’ve got a rash so it’s probably necrotizing fasciitis’ and secure in our relationship, quick to make a joke about a situation, and both give zero cares about filling conversation gaps (embrace the silence people) and being so laid back, there are things that we do to make sure that our relationship stays healthy, and that we’re raising the kids without wanting to stab each other.
We Text, Call, Send Hilarious Things
Texting and calling throughout the day so we can ‘check in’ is nice, especially on those especially difficult days where he is dealing with irritating people at work, or I’m dealing with not talking to adults all morning at-home. He texts and emails me links to an article he’s reading that he thinks I’ll find interesting. I text him giggle-inducing GIFs and appointment reminders, news I think he would like and bathroom selfies. It’s a chance to connect when we’re not with each other.
We text like we did when we were dating. We check in. We connect often.
If It’s in the Middle of the Night, Insults Don’t Count
If it’s the middle of the night and you’ve been up dealing with the kids, you get a pass for something to the tune of ‘I’m a better night time parent than you after 3/4 of a bottle of wine than you are normally” because really, it’s the middle of the night and you can’t be held accountable the next day for those irrational fights or arguments that you had when you were sleep deprived, or you were five minutes into sleeping after drinking said wine, and someone told the kid to go back to her room to get a pillow when she was upset and had a nightmare, and it escalated in seconds to that kid puking all over the hallway. He says stupid things, I say stupid things, half the time we don’t remember – it doesn’t count.
Related: “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry” is a staple around here. I get hangry and I tend to lose it. On those days when I’m impatient with the kids, it’s usually the first thing he asks me when I call him ranting that we’ve officially got the worst behaving kids in the world – and the same goes with us, so there’s a standing “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry”.
We Go to Bed at the Same Time
99% of the time we go to bed at the same time. Unless it’s a release day for some nerd fest of a new video game that there’s a release party for, or I fall asleep with the kids and delusionally wake up as Jamie is pulling the sheets out from under me muttering like a ninety-year-old about the fact that I am sleeping on top of the sheets.
We’re terrible at putting the phones away though, so often we’ll sit there before we go to sleep browsing through Reddit, or our favorite websites chatting about what we’re reading, while taking turns rubbing backs and feets. You don’t have to rub feets, just make sure that you’re taking the time to connect at the end of the day – but try going to bed at the same time. It’s magic.
We Followed Our Friends Intimacy Rule
There are times when the weeks are so busy that I could fall into bed at the end of the day and be asleep within seven seconds. I think that’s one of the things that Jamie is most envious of, the fact that I’m near-narcoleptic and could fall asleep anywhere – but that doesn’t mesh well with getting busy.
Out for beers one night, Jamie was complaining about the lack of bow-chicka-wow-wow and about how lately it seemed that “life” gets in the way, we were given some advice to pick a number and stick to that number, as weekly intimate minimum times. If you’re going to have get busy three times a week, it doesn’t matter when you’re going to do it, but if you haven’t all week long you can bet that Sunday, oh, you’re going to make up for the lack of throughout the week. It isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t matter when, but it keeps you accountable for connecting physically.
Lifehacker says the happiest couples have sex 2-3 times a week – although I disagree with the overall happiness levels of parents (they say parents are less happy than their childless counterparts), because these kids crack us up, make us happy and bring so much joy to life while giving us something to spend money on for all of the costs that they come with.
We Call Each other Out
There are times when I am flat-out being a crazy person, and he will immediately call me out and tell me to literally ‘tone down the crazy’. We’ve got this crazy way of meshing, where one of us usually has patience when we sense the other doesn’t and will take the kids out of the house, out of the room, or take over the parenting, while the other one regains their composure or downs some emergency caffeine, or enjoys an hour of silence.
Not being afraid to be blunt, or telling each other that something we’re wearing is totally awful, and being one hundred percent honest is the easiest way to get through it.
It’s taken six years, but we’ve successfully learned that we can’t know what the other person is thinking, especially when I send him to the grocery store in search of something sweet and he comes home with the wrong thing, but keeping each other accountable is a big part of maintaining your sanity.
We do Date Night
We’re lucky enough to have lots of family around, so we’re able to usually schedule three to four date nights a month. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Some of my favorite date nights have been something like taking the opportunity to browse for new knives, or new wine glasses, without the kids – something that we’re usually rushed for when we’re shopping with them, or getting out and doing something active together.
Getting away for the weekend is even more important, once every few months, or a simple overnight and refreshes the way that we parent.
We Do 100%/100% Parenting
We know Dads that haven’t touched a diaper. Dads that spend a lot of the weekends and evenings away doing their hobbies. Jamie played a lot more hockey, a lot more golf and a lot more video games before the kids were born. I had a lot more spa days and read a lot more books. To be a successful parenting team, 50% isn’t going to cut it. You need to give 100%/100%.
He puts the kids to bed. I get up with them in the morning, so he gets an extra half hour of sleep. I don’t complain when he wants to go do his man-stuff at the gun range. He happily watches the kids when I jet off to spin class or for pedicures. I try to make sure that dinner is on the table (lately that’s been spotty). He volunteers to watch my BFFs kids while we go and do something. I make sure that he’s feeling appreciated (which apparently all I have to do is show up naked). He takes the kids and gives me a break. I text him to ask him his opinion of things like letting Olivia play outside, semi-supervised across the street with the older boy she adores. We both take part. We both give. We work together.
We Keep Things Funny (find what works for you)
For us, it’s keeping things funny. We were just marveling the other day how we’ve got the ability to take something funny that happened and keep it alive, for months and months. Jamie’s mom said something a couple of months ago that she’s still living down. We remind her every chance that we get, and find ways to work hilarious jokes about it into conversation to relive the hilarity. Having these inside jokes, finding the funny in things, works really well for us – and helps to lighten those situations when you’re both ready to snap and say things that you do not mean after you’ve been up all night with the kids.
The funny is part of our laid back style. From our parenting, to living, one of the most common things that we hear from our friends is how we find the funny, are funny, or that they envy our laid back-ness. Like one of our best friends recently said, “You guys take things as funny, or as a joke that 99% of people would find utterly offensive” you gotta find what works for you!
We Know it’s Okay to Yell Once in a While
About every four months we’ll have a good, ten minute yelling match, about something or other. I don’t even remember what we were yelling at each other about last time, but Jamie likes to tell people the story about how I am crazy and I threw a liter of cola at him. Though I don’t remember what we were fighting about, I remember that most of it ended up on me because we were in the car, and that Olivia thought it was hilarious, after scolding me. I remember apologizing, and being chastised by Olivia for throwing pop in the car. I remember making up, and explaining to Olivia that she was right, we don’t throw pop and that sometimes people get angry, and yell, and that’s okay because you have the right to feel your feelings.
Now? It’s another hilarious story that Jamie likes to bring out every once in a while.
I feel like being in a successful relationship is 50% luck of finding that person who is literally the yin to your yang, the person you fall in love with over and over again, the person you met and moved in with a month after dating because it was just right and half way the work of making it work, especially when there are kids in the picture. Staying connected, staying in love, staying accountable are how we make it work.