They say the first year of marriage is your honeymoon phase. It's supposed to be the easiest year of your marriage.
I don't think that applies to second marriages or stepfamily situations though. It wasn't for us at least.
That first year of marriage was HARD for me. The hype around the wedding was over, and all of a sudden I was a stepmom with three kids. Reality set in, and quick!
You've probably heard me say that becoming a stepmom was like moving to a foreign country. It was. Transitioning from a bachelorette living life all alone, to a house full of kids didn't come without some growing pains.
In a year and a half I had to get used to life with three stepchildren, an access schedule that controls our life, an ex-wife and then a newborn baby. I also had to figure out how to be married amongst all those extra stressors.
There was some serious adjusting and learning curves.
One thing that makes me sad is that my husband and I never got that newlywed phase. We never had a period of time where it was just us, as the married couple.
I'll be honest, when I see young couples get married, I'm a little envious of that time they get "pre kids".
I also get envious of friends with newborn babies who get to focus all their time and attention on being a new Mom. When I had Reese, within a few short days it as back to life as usual. The other kids needed me too!
Don't get me wrong - there are so many things that I am grateful for during that first year and a half. It was just different than I pictured it would be.
Like I've said before, as a little girl, no one sits around dreaming about what it will be like to be a stepmom when they grow up
Sorry, I am rambling. There is a point to this post.
What I am trying to say is that over the past five + years we've gotten better at being married and being a blended family. OUR honeymoon phase is at a different time.
Those first years were tough. Learning to be married, parent and co-parent all at once is a lot for one couple to handle it.
I'm not saying that we were ever "bad" at it - but as with anything new in life, there were some growing pains.
I don't know if it's gotten easier, or if we've just gotten better at it - all I know is that 5 years later I don't lay awake at night worrying as much as I used to.
I wrote the draft of this post while sitting with my husband on a weekend getaway sans kids (A much needed one at that)
While we sat there, knowing the answer, I asked him if he thought there were things we could do to improve our marriage. Specifically I asked him what we were going to do differently this year!
"Well, you're not going to get as mad at me.... and we're going to have more sex" he responded as he chucked to himself.
funny guy eh?
"So then you're going to communicate better and not bug me as much?" I replied...
"I will communicate better... as long as when I do communicate, you don't get mad about what I am communicating about"
"Fair enough. We have a deal"
In all seriousness though, every year we make a point of being better. The truth is, whether it be marriage or parenting, we're all just figuring things out as we go. When you know better you do better right? There's always room for improvement.
This year, these are the three things we've decided to do differently (aka better). The good news is, it's only February and we're already seeing a difference!
1. Not deal with issues as they happen
I'm an open book. If I'm upset, you're going to know in about 3 seconds. I like to deal with things right away.
This works well for me in many situations, however when it comes to marriage and parenting it's not the best approach. My husband (while he claims to be the opposite) is kind of the same.
This year, instead of dealing with things right away, we're going to table the issue and talk about it later. For example, if there is an issue with the kids and a disagreement in parenting strategies, instead of telling each other in the moment, we're going to save it until later and say...
"I didn't appreciate it when..."
"I think we should have .... "
"I wish you would have ..."
"I didn't agree when you...."
This way, the emotions aren't running high and we can take a step back and deal with issues in a logical way. That, and the kids don't see us as being divided!
2. Regular Date Night
Straight up, in 2017 I was a bit of a hyprocite. I encouraged every stepmom I worked with with to schedule weekly "date nights", while my husband and I went WEEKS and sometimes months between dates.
2017 was a crazy year for us (in a good way) but we had a lot on our plate. It seemed like we were always on the go. We were over-scheduled and over t-red. Even when we would schedule time for a movie night, one of us would be sawing logs within 4 minutes of pressing play.
It really took a toll on our marriage. We didn't feel as connected (because we weren't taking time to connect), and we didn't have an identity outside of parenting the four kiddos!
This year, dates and alone time are non-negotiable. Four weeks into the year, we've already had much more alone time, and I can say, we're better parents for it!
3. Regular Check-Ins
In 2017 we were both so busy living our lives that we really weren't in tune with what each other was going through. Maybe that's an exgaggerastion. We were in tune but we weren't as intune as we usually are.
There were times that I knew he was stressed with work, but I didn't know why he was stressed with work. There were times when he knew I was overwhelmed at home, but he didn't know why I was overwhelmed at home.
We've started to check in with each other more.
It sounds corny but we communicate our goals with each other. We ask what the other person has on the go that week, ans see if there is any way we can help.
It's crazy how a simple check in can make you feel more supported! We definitely feel like we're back on the same team.
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