The Force Awakens came out the week of my due date with my son. We had purchased tickets for the day after my due date, gambling that the traditional wisdom that first-time moms go late would hold true. In keeping with his now apparent fastidious nature, my son was born precisely on his due date, and Star Wars had to wait.
We are incredibly fortunate to have my parents 1.5 miles away, and so at two months old my son had his first babysitting experience without a hiccup, and my husband and I finally got to see Star Wars (that's us that night, and our ridiculous excited faces.) Since then my parents have been wonderful about making sure we get to go out together regularly; I recognize and appreciate the unusual luxury of this arrangement.
Through the exhaustion of parenting a baby and then a toddler, I found that we were struggling to connect despite this regularly allotted time to get out together. Without much animation, we rehashed the recent changes in our son, talked over household tasks we needed to get to, and while the break from constant child monitoring was much needed, we weren't taking care of our relationship despite the frequent opportunities.
Before our fourth wedding anniversary, I found myself wondering how I could create to the opportunity to experience and engage the connection that brought us together in the first place. Thinking back to our early days of dating, late nights of back and forth in-depth personal inquiries, the answer was clear as day. We needed to get back to getting to know each other.
I googled "questions to ask your spouse," and I wasn't disappointed. There were endless lists out there with suggested questions to help you engage with your partner. Some of them made more sense to me than others, but questions like "what would you do with a year's paid sabbatical?" and "who do you think has influenced who you are the most?" were perfect for us. We had a beautiful evening that felt just like when we were first dating, and as they did then, the questions wound around into animated and illuminating conversation that kept going well into the night.
Now before each date, I perform the same google search for ideas and have two or three questions ready for the moment the conversation lags. Before writing this I asked my husband if he had noticed that I was doing this, I hadn't ever explicitly told him. "I have, and I appreciate it. I feel like we've gotten into some great stuff." It was a nice answer to hear.
On our last date, we walked down the street, holding each other up as we laughed together with tears in our eyes. It has been a struggle to stay connected and invested in our relationship as partners and not parents, one I have carried a lot of guilt about not always attending in the way I wanted to, but I didn't know how and felt I didn't have the energy to figure it out. It's a real challenge to connect when you're a tired parent, and talking about the details of day to day life is anything but romantic or refreshing. It might feel like the spark is gone, or you just have nothing to talk about, but like everything else in a marriage, it takes some work to keep connecting. These questions are so simple, but they bring us right back to that place of intense curiosity and exploration that came so naturally when we were first together.
Looking for ideas for questions? I love this from the NY Times, The 36 Questions that Lead to Love.
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