Why Separation is Good for your Marriage
Before you all get your knickers in a twist, I’m not talking about the kind of separation between you and your husband before divorce papers are filed. I’m talking about separation from your children.
Yes, I know what most of you are thinking and I will refrain from mentioning by name the websites that I am sure will hate this article, but I honestly believe that in order to keep a long and happy marriage you have to do just that, keep a long and happy marriage. After all, you are married to your husband not your kids!
I met my amazing other half when I was in my wild twenties. Life was good, I had the most amazing social life and a career in front of me that excited me on a daily basis. Then I met him and somehow it got better. We enjoyed life together and strangely we even enjoyed our lives apart! I had my friends, he had his, and those friends would get together on occasion and we would all be happy together.
We have things in common. Career, ambition, family values, morals, ideals and most of all dreams. It was perfect.
Then we had kids.
Please don’t read that wrong, I adore my children. In fact, my children are little miracles that I simply can’t imagine being without. But having kids changes your life. It changes everything. My dreams, my ambitions, my life goals, they all changed the moment my first daughter was placed in my arms.
Time away with just your husband may be difficult to fit into your busy schedule and you may find it hard to separate yourself from your kids, but time to just be a couple can be the difference between a healthy marriage and divorce proceedings.
When my first daughter was just 6 weeks old, my husband (who has a child from a previous relationship) knew exactly what to do. He took my beautiful, vulnerable, tiny baby girl out of my arms and placed her in the arms of his mother, then told me that we would be leaving the house as a couple for two hours, without the child, to do the food shopping together (I know… how romantic!).
Okay, so he may not have phrased it exactly like that, but that is how I heard it in my mind.
In my head I was abandoning my little girl. I was the face she knew. I was the smell she knew. I knew her cry and her movements and I knew instinctively when she needed her nappy changing. I knew. My mother-in-law wouldn’t. Would she?
I was a neurotic, nervous mess. My mother-in-law was more than capable. She had perfectly raised two intelligent boys and I was pretty sure she had never dropped either of them on their heads. They were still alive, so she had not turned her back and let them choke. So she knew what she was doing. My logical brain knew this. My illogical, hormone driven crazy new mom brain was convinced my child would fall apart the second I was not in the room.
My daughter never even noticed!
She got cuddles with her Nana, one-on-one snuggle time that formed a bond that would never break. I was wrong and my husband was right. And from that day on, I trusted him with that decision and it was the best thing we ever did.
That tiny vulnerable child is now 6 years old, more independent than I would like but she is brave and, (I pat myself on the back when I say this) still very much alive! YAY ME!
Two hours alone together soon turned into an afternoon, then a day, then overnight. My husband got to take me on ‘date nights’. He encouraged me to get dressed up and took me out to treat me, to make me feel special and to remind me I was still an amazing woman and not just a milking machine. At a time in my life when everything was changing and quicker than I could keep up with, the one thing he helped me understand stayed constant – that he was there with me through it all.
After two years we added a second mini person to the brood – because naively we believed that if one was ‘easy’ the second would be company! Oh Lord, how wrong I was! But my husband’s training had worked wonders on me. Soon after my second daughter was old enough, my amazing husband took me away for a night. My eldest daughter stood at the door waving with one hand and clutching a chocolate biscuit with the other, and my tiny youngest baby grinned wildly at her Nana.
We tripped an hour down the road to stay with friends. We drank, we laughed, we got to act like adults for a few hours. I went to bed and slept! A whole night’s sleep. I walked back into my mother-in-law’s home and felt better than I had in weeks, and when my daughters smiled at me I knew they had missed me and I was happy.
You see, time away from the children is beneficial for everyone. On their first day of school my daughters were not afraid to leave my side (which I have to admit broke my heart just a little) – instead they ran into the school and didn’t look back. They are not clingy. They are independent but they know that if they turn around I am standing there ready to help.
As for my marriage? I like my husband. I love him, of course, but nearly 10 years into our relationship I actually still like him. We still have dreams and ambitions in common. We still laugh. 10 years, and more than our fair share of drama, and we are still as strong as the day we met… if not more so. Why? Because we spend time apart from our children.
We can now go on holiday for a week to rejuvenate. We can book into a hotel and spend some much-needed alone time together, safe and happy knowing that my daughters love when we go away. Because they spend time with Nana. They are spoiled, get to stay up late, eat chocolate for breakfast and form a bond that is so incredibly important. They do miss us. But they actually appreciate us when we get home and they forget that Mummy is the nagging horrible one that tells them to do their homework and Daddy is the mean one that makes them eat all the green sloppy vegetables. They have missed us and are happy to see us.
The best thing I ever did for my marriage was to remember that I am married. Remember why we got married in the first place. Remember that I am allowed to be a wife as well as a mum and sometimes you need time out from being a mum to keep that fire burning. Away from the dishes and the morning school runs, the snotty noses and bedtime routines. Time to remember what cocktails we used to like to sip before kiddie bedtimes existed.
Over the years I have been criticised and lambasted for spending time away from my children. I have been told that I am a bad mum. I was told that if I didn’t want to spend every waking moment with them I shouldn’t have had them in the first place.
I disagree. I look around at the mothers that have acted just like that and wonder what marriage or relationship they will have when their children fly the nest?
Motherhood changes you. Parenthood changes everyone, husbands and wives. Growing older changes you. How are you supposed to love the person you live with if you don’t acknowledge and understand them changing? You have to spend time alone together to adapt and change together. Marriage takes work and sometimes kids distract from the work that needs to be done.
So to all the mums out there like me who are being berated – don’t listen to them. To all the mothers out there doing the criticising… get off your soapbox and stop judging others and concentrate on your own family. Look at your own marriage… if you are happy that’s amazing… but stop judging others for doing what it takes to make theirs work. And if you are not happy, stop trying to fix others and fix yourself. As our own Lady Lolita said, Motherhood is not a competition… but equally so, marriage should not be a chore.
If you married your best friend it is because you enjoyed spending time together – so why stop now?