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People in happy long-term relationships/marriages - any tips?

(47 Posts)
plantsitter Fri 19-Oct-12 13:52:39

I have 2 pre-school children and I'm a SAHM and to be honest, although of course I love my kids, I'm feeling a bit squashed in drudgery. DH works long hours in a stressful job and is not enjoying that much at the moment either.

I think each of us resents the other a bit, and neither appreciates properly the work the other is doing. In short, we are getting on each other's tits and therefore not getting on especially well. I find that on top of everything else it's really depressing that we don't always seem to be on the same side and some days seem to be a criticism contest.

Any tips on how to feel closer to each other and more like a team than competing factions? We do have quite a lot of sex. But honestly I find it annoying that the only time one of us is nice to the other is when whichever one it is wants a shag!

Any advice much appreciated.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 19-Oct-12 14:13:58

I think it starts with consciously showing appreciation for each other's efforts. 'Please' and 'thank you' often get forgotten when you're thrown together 24/7 and that's when the competitive nit-picking takes over. I've heard some people say that you shouldn't have to say thank-you when someone cooks a meal or takes out the bins ... because it's what they're supposed to be doing anyway... but I think you lose something really important when you forget basic politeness.

PhyllisDoris Fri 19-Oct-12 14:20:28

with two young children you'll both be tired and irritable. Me and DH used to have huge arguments when the DDs were little, but I promise you it gets easier, and everyone gets less tired, and the kids get to be more fun.

Try to get some time together regularly, just you and DH - do you have anyone who would have the kids for the weekend now and again? My parents were a huge help in that respect. Maybe you could find some parents in a similar position and agree to have their kids one weekend and you have theirs another?

If you can't go away overnight, then at least get a babysitter and get out a few evenings a month.

I'd also suggest you find some family activities to do together at weekends - outdoors in the fresh air if possible, as fresh air always lifts everyones spirits.

What about if you took a part time job, or did some voluntary work? Though with voluntary work, you might not be able to afford the childcare - see above for options with this.

(apologies if you're doing all this anyway!)

Hullygully Fri 19-Oct-12 14:27:55

Agree that you will somehow stagger through the next few years together and reconnect when the kids are older...

Durab Fri 19-Oct-12 14:32:01

We've been married 20 years, mostly happily, although we've certainly had our bad patches.

This will probably sounds a bit cynical, but TBH I think longevity in a relationship comes from both parties lowering their expectations a bit and sticking with it when less hardy souls might call it a day. Those perfect marriages don't really exist. Some of the "happiest" couples I know are constantly at each other's throats behind closed doors, so it's dangerous to aspire to be like the public face they put on their relationships.

The things that have made a big difference to us (and may strike a chord with you) are:

- DH taking a pay cut to do a job he enjoys. Yes, it meant a reduced standard of living, but made him so much nicer to be around

- Me finally accepting that running the house and DCs is primarily my role (I work p-t) and deciding to get on and do a good job of it with a smile on my face, rather than feeling put upon all the time and/or complaining that I had to do it all in my own.

- We always make a point of having dinner together (and wine) on a Friday evening. When DCs were tiny it was after they were in bed, but now they're older they're just expected to make themselves scarce (in their rooms or watching TV) for a couple of hours on a Friday.

- We also have "coffee" together at least once a week. It occurred to me that with friends/colleagues etc it's not unusual to spend an hour or so having coffee (or a drink) and chatting, but that was something we never did as a couple. Now once a week we have an hour at the kitchen table with no TV or other distractions, just to have a chat. It sounds contrived, but it doesn't feel it. We look forward to it like a date and DH sometimes brings cake home with him specially. smile

Durab Fri 19-Oct-12 14:35:43

P I do symathise with (and remember well) the drudgery of having pre-schoolers, but with the benefit of hindsight, that's a very short period in your life (unless you're planning dozens of DC!) and things improve very quickly once they start school smile

Durab Fri 19-Oct-12 14:36:31

P PS blush

plantsitter Fri 19-Oct-12 14:52:36

Thanks for replies - have skim read and they look v helpful. Going to pick DD1 up from nursery now and will pick your brains even further when I return...

Kahlua4me Fri 19-Oct-12 15:02:10

Talking together certainly helps us. I am sahm and used to feel stuck in drudgery but spending time with dh when he gets in really makes a difference, just talking about his day or mine on an adult level.

It will get easier as your dc get older. I think that when you have kids and stay at home your world shrinks to mainly the size of your house which can feel quite restrictive but as they grow so does your world, if that makes sense!

Also try to appreciate each other and take time to do things for each other, ie run a bath, make a cuppa, all helps.

LibrarianAli Fri 19-Oct-12 15:47:14

I got some lovely advice when we got married which I use all the time
"Would you rather be right, or would you rather be kind" and I try and remember that when I'm feeling bickery.

Also, remember that you are each other's favourite person, so never treat them worse than you would treat any of your friends, don't speak to them rudely and do nice things for them. And absolutely expect the same back.

I'm just about to enter the SAH world so it'll be interesting to see if my Pollyanna specs are smudged/completely broken by the experience.

McBuckers Fri 19-Oct-12 15:51:39

Great post Durab. So true!

Lottapianos Fri 19-Oct-12 15:59:54

Spend some time together without the TV or any other distractions - at least once a week.

Like Durab said, eat dinner together at least once a week when the kids re in bed and with no TV in the background. It's amazing how little we talk to each other when the telly is on.

DP and I have always said thank you to each other for doing everyday household stuff like cooking, doing laundry or whatever. It's something he has always done and I just joined it with it too. I think it helps to avoid taking each other for granted

'Also, remember that you are each other's favourite person, so never treat them worse than you would treat any of your friends, don't speak to them rudely and do nice things for them. And absolutely expect the same back'

So true and so easy to forget. Remind yourself that you are on each others' side even at those times when you could almost murder each other!

Try to spend some time doing things together that you both enjoy, whatever that is for you

plantsitter Fri 19-Oct-12 16:08:03

Thanks for all these.

Durab - - Me finally accepting that running the house and DCs is primarily my role (I work p-t) and deciding to get on and do a good job of it with a smile on my face, rather than feeling put upon all the time and/or complaining that I had to do it all in my own. - guilty as charged blush

I think part of the problem for me is that my dad was such a git and my mum had doormat tendencies so I think I might go too far the other way. I think trying to be kind and not necessarily right is good advice!

WowOoo Fri 19-Oct-12 16:14:02

I know it sounds daft but I think a bit of time apart is good too.

What I mean is we have a separate social life and hobbies. Gives us something to talk about other than the kids, work and house related things.

Also I like having frequent weekends away from the kids and dh and so does he.
Dh went to Spain for a month . I missed him and enjoyed missing him. We were like newlyweds again for a couple of days when he came back.

I've only been married for 10 years ish, but we are still very happy I think.
Being nice, supportive and actively listening when we talk are all good things too.

Ragwort Fri 19-Oct-12 16:17:45

Well said Durab - I was also going to make a comment about not having too high expectations but didn't dare say it on Mumsnet grin. I am constantly amazed at the reasons people give for breaking up - both in RL and on MN. Obviously there are things that no one should put up with but I am sure all relationships go through bad patches and nothing is every totally 'rosy' all the time.

When my DH gets on my nerves or I am feeling down about our relationship I just remind myself that I am certainly not perfect and I know my DH is disappointed in me at times especially in bed grin.

Totally agree with the comment 'would you rather be right or be kind' - also another tip I learned is even if you feel like murdering your DH just pretend that you are back in the early days of your courting, take a deep breath, put a smile on your face and just pretend everything is wonderful. Try it - it works !

Also, I know some people disagree with this but we have lots of different interests, friends and hobbies so we don't rely on each other for a social life. DH travels for business and we are happy to spend time apart, inc. separate holidays.

Happily married for 25 years grin.

Chandon Fri 19-Oct-12 16:25:03

After 18 years, we are one of those couples.

But even my friends don't know how we struggled through DH being made redundant and drinking too much, about my PND, the time I threw all the plates on the floor, the time I walked out and vowed to never come back.

I think all couples go through the same sh7t, but some people have an inner determination to make it work. For us, it has always been that really we are great as a family, and that at the end of the day, even after a fight we can still laugh

crescentmoon Fri 19-Oct-12 16:36:58

enjoying reading the replies! i read John Gottman's 'Why marriages succeed or fail' and learnt alot about mine and DHs relationship. i also bought his 7 principles for making marriage work and it made me more pragmatic about seeking solutions. good luck OP

www.amazon.co.uk/Marriages-Succeed-Fail-Ph-D-Gottman/dp/0747593604

alistron1 Fri 19-Oct-12 16:44:06

Me and DP have been together for 19 years. We have 4 children, and TBH the time when they were little was very hard. No sleep, no money, no time...

I think retaining a sense of humour, being kind to each other and being 'friends' is vital. As kids get older though devel

alistron1 Fri 19-Oct-12 16:44:22

Bloody fingers! Devel

alistron1 Fri 19-Oct-12 16:45:17

Developing separate interests and cultivating those differences that attracted you to each other are pretty important.

wonderstuff Fri 19-Oct-12 16:45:39

I think that you have to make an effort to be nice to each other. You have to both have some time out. Bare in mind it does get easier as children grow (mine are 2 and 5 now - last year has been better, next year we hope to both get lots more sleep).

But for us the thing that has made the most difference in the last couple of years has been earmarking a weekend away without the kids - we are lucky to have family to take them both - its one night a year and we book a nice hotel, drink, eat and have fun together - remember what life was like before the children came along - why we got together in the first place. I see it as an annual service on our marriage - 11 years this year.

slambang Fri 19-Oct-12 16:48:26

As with dcs - pick your battles.

Doilooklikeatourist Fri 19-Oct-12 16:55:35

We've been married 18 years , have 2 teenagers now .
It's easier now that the children are older , money is still our biggest problem . DH worries about it , and I bury my head in the sand !
He's a worrier , and I'm a bit too happy go lucky .
I think that's why we work together so well !
I work part time , so do all the washing , cleaning , cooking , ironing , and yes it does annoy me sometimes , but that's my share , so I just get on with it .
I love to cook and make things look nice and tidy , I take pride in that and DH shows that he appreciates me .
We always kiss goodnight . Always unless I'm really tired and fall asleep while he's in the bathroom
He watches Strictly with me , I watch films I dislike with him .
I suppose the rule is ... Give some , take some .

RobynRidingHood Fri 19-Oct-12 17:52:48

Communication. The key to any successful relationship.

CMOTDibbler Fri 19-Oct-12 18:12:54

I agree about communication - it really is key, and all the unhappy couples I know don't really communicate about the stuff in their lives. You need to talk about what is and isn't working for you, and if he doesn't do his share of the washing up (or whatever) you just tell him, not seethe about it. And respect the other persons point of view, even if you don't like it - give them a chance to explain.
I'm not into date nights or getting away just the two of you, as ime they don't work to make you closer. You need the daily chat about what was good/bad about your days, and what you are going to do, in order to respect what is in each others lives.

DH and I have been married 15 years, and dealt with an awful lot of crap in that time, still going strong !

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