Q: With two young children in the house, my husband and I can barely remember "life before kids." I mean, I wouldn't trade our little ones for anything, but sometimes it's hard to find even two minutes for a meaningful adult conversation, much less an actual date night. How does a couple get a break from the kids to reconnect?
Jim: Most couples understand the importance of one-on-one time. But making it happen can be difficult.
For many young families, money is often a factor. It's not uncommon for new parents to be on a limited budget; the expenses of diapers, food and clothing can really pack a wallop. Just remember, an occasional dinner out (even if it's a burger and fries) is better than none at all. Still, when money is tight, try this: Put the kids to bed early, throw a pizza in the oven and enjoy a movie. Time together doesn't have to be expensive.
Another concern for many parents is trusting their children to baby sitters. Those first few times can be nerve-racking. If you're fortunate enough to have Grandma and Grandpa living nearby, they're probably itching to spend time with the grandkids anyway. But if they aren't available, consider asking trusted friends to watch your kids, or maybe trade baby-sitting with parents you know. The more time you spend with other families -- play dates, group outings, etc. -- the easier it can be transitioning to watching one another's children.
Here's another idea: Have a sitter watch your child in another room while you and your spouse enjoy dinner and a movie in the living room. Doing this a few times can work toward a level of mutual trust and comfort that can allow you to actually leave the house.
You'll probably need to get creative, but with some strategic effort, you can find opportunities to be a couple again.
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Q: I can't understand why my wife is so resistant to good advice. I try to politely make reasonable suggestions when I think she could use some help making decisions, but it usually doesn't go over well. Am I missing something?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Ideally, husbands and wives should be able to offer each other advice in ways that strengthen their relationship. But for most of us, that's often not reality.
It can be tough for spouses to accept correction from one another, even if it's wise counsel. Here are some tips to help avoid the baggage that often accompanies advice-giving.
First, keep in mind that unsolicited advice can be hard to swallow. Before you speak, ask your wife if she's open to hearing what you have to say. Then be careful to share your thoughts in a tone that will help her feel loved and cared for.
Second, check your motives. Take a moment to assess how you're feeling toward your spouse and why you want to give advice. If you're a little angry and want to push a few buttons, it's probably best to stay silent for the time being. Share your thoughts some other time when you're more in control of your emotions.
Finally, create an environment where it's safe for advice to be shared and received. You can build safety in your relationship by encouraging each other daily, building each other up, and nurturing each other in ways that are honoring and loving. Never give advice in a tone or manner that demeans or insults your spouse.
In a marriage that's sustained by love and encouragement, mutual advice-giving can become a positive and enriching part of daily life. I pray that's the case for you.
You'll find lots more information to help your marriage thrive at FocusOnTheFamily.com.