The kids are fighting with each other and trying to get our attention to tell on the other, the baby is sitting on the top of the dining room table holding the salt shaker upside down (very amused and laughing as all the salt is pouring off the table and onto the floor), our big dog Joplin is freaking out as she is cannot fit through the dog door because she has the kitchen trash can lid around her neck (all the kitchen trash is scattered on the floor) and our little dog Molly is in a barking match with the neighbors dog! By the way the TV is blarring cartoons in the background.
Meanwhile Andrea and I have to work, cook dinner, clean house, drive carpool to school, dance and theater lessons not to mention the baby's three therapies every week! Oh, and we have our blog deadlines that must be done by Monday.
This scene is the norm at almost any given hour at the Ott-Dahl house! Sounds chaotic, and trust us - it is! It would be so easy to get lost in our daily grinds and unconsciously begin neglecting our relationship – we are not perfect there are times when we have to put ourselves and our relationship “in check.”
The bottom line is we know we have a good thing and do not want to lose what we have but it takes commitment and work. Our established family routines, traditions and rules help. They not only make things predictable and fun for the kids, but also ensure our adult time, the coveted hours for just us.
Where do we find time for each other, for love and for sex? The majority of our time spent is "family time" or “work time”, but we make sure that we have the time to connect with each other.
These are some of the things we do to keep our love fresh and alive!
1. We are committed. The first fast hard rule is that we are committed to making our relationship a priority. We never give up, we know the grass isn’t greener on the other side and we both are on the same page.
2. We have an amazing sex life! While fatigue wins over our moods at times, but we rarely go for more than a week without sex.
I just can't stress enough (which is why we list romantic sex as #2, even though I believe it runs a close tie with #1) how important romantic connection is especially during sex. You MUST make time for it and I am not talking about just going through the motions of having sex, but going through the emotions of having sex. Connect.
While the term making love may seem corny, it’s corn that keeps the spark in relationships.
If things seem to become mundane, we mix it up - take a trip to Good Vibes ( a female friendly sex toy shop), spend a weekend away, read erotica to each other or just get silly and get playful.
3. We understand and practice the Five Languages of Love. Andrea and I practice Gary Chapman’s Five Languages of Love. It’s easy! We know what each other needs to feel fulfilled and loved. Whether it’s Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time or Physical Touch we take steps to make sure the others “love bucket” is filled.
And guess what, it’s OK to ask, “How is your love bucket today Babe? What do you need to fill your love bucket?” I know this sounds silly, but it can be so important for your relationship. Especially if you have gotten yourselves stuck in a rut, are having communication breakdowns or find yourselves lacking fulfillment.
4. We are committed to having “Date Nights” or a monthly "Get-A-Way". We never stop “dating” each other. This is our favorite! We typically plan a date night at least once a month when the kids spend the night with their grandparents or friends.
We are on a fixed income and extremely frugal, so Andrea scours the internet for local deals on Yelp, Groupon or from one of our member clubs.
Our favorite is our hotel getaways. We typically do not drive more than an hour away, but our nights away staying at a hotel near San Francisco or near a beach seem like we are as far away as Paris! Sometimes we never even leave the hotel.
Our favorite dates have been wine tasting, had buy-one-get-one free restaurant vouchers, hikes up in Tilden Park and romantic nights on our own private island on our houseboat (sounds luxurious doesn’t it? Remember I said we are frugal? We traded an old jetski for the houseboat, fixed up and now we have a vacation home out in the California Delta).
Next we are planning on a painting class!
5. We have our kids (if you have them) on routines, routines routines! Our time is our time and the kids know this. After dinner the older kids have their "personal down time" which means they can watch TV for an hour and then its reading or playing on their own until bed time. They know to leave us to unwind after dinner. It's a coveted rule in our house.
And the baby? The baby usually falls asleep around 7:30 so that leaves plenty of time for "us," that is if we are not too tired.
Even just spending time together; watching a movie, holding hands, cuddling on the couch while drinking a glass of wine or eating one of Andrea’s favorite desserts (she is a dessert-a-holic) just the two of us helps us stay connected.
6. We accept each other “as is.” It’s not possible to love everything about your partner; you are messy – you are neat, she works too many hours, gives herself a haircut with a flowbee, picks her nose in public – whatever!
As long as our actions or tendencies are not disrespectful to our relationship we embrace – unconditionally—the overall “package” that is our partner. This may mean shifting your focus away from your partner’s imperfections and towards the qualities you like and appreciate.
7. We work on projects together. We love accomplishing our goals! Together we are a powerful team and one of our favorite things to do together is to work on projects. Whether it be tiling our kitchen, painting our bedroom or building a play structure (by the way we found one for FREE on Craigslist) we always have a sense of “togetherness” and team when we complete our projects. Projects actually DO bring us closer together.
Look, relationships ebb and flow. There is a reason long term couples describe their marriages as hard work. It’s not always going to be easy, we all go through hard times but remaining committed to not just staying together but “staying in love” can be very rewarding.
Every couple goes through trials and tribulations – I call it “storming to norming”. What matters most is how you work together to stay connected and strong.
Bio: KESTON OTT-DAHL is an American memoirist. She is the author of the upcoming memoir Saving Delaney, a popular blogger and prominent parent activist in the Down syndrome community, as well as mainstream media. Her articles and activism have been covered by Yahoo News, Fox News and The Huffington Post, among hundreds of news and media outlets from California to New Zealand to South Africa. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her partner Andrea; their three children, Jared, Jules and Delaney Skye; plus two dogs, a cat and five fish.