7 Ways to Revive Your Marriage With Kids in the Home


7 Ways to Remember Your Marriage While Parenting

Lori Murray

15 mins

“Marriage will be less complicated when the kids leave. For now, let’s just survive.”

In our young, childless days, my husband and I had plenty of space and time to work on our relationship. But when the kids came, our marriage became a partnership of dividing and conquering, with very little time invested in each other. Date nights were rare, and evenings were often spent lying side-by-side on the couch with the TV on before going to bed exhausted, ready to do it again the next day.

Gradual neglect built a wall between my husband and me. Brick by brick, we grew more distant, and eventually, our marriage looked more like two roommates caring for little people. We were so busy surviving parenting that we forgot our marriage needed work, too.

The breaking point came in the fall of 2011, when, after years of whirlwind survival, my husband and I separated—with our kids still being in the home. We had let the seeds of frustration, score-keeping, and resentment grow until we no longer recognized why we were together in the first place. We had kicked the can down the road for years and years, but eventually, it stopped rolling.

7 Ways to Revive Your Marriage With Kids in the Home

Fortunately, that’s not where our story ended. We realized being apart didn’t make our lives easier. It didn’t take away the stress, busyness, or frustration—it made it feel lonelier. While we were apart, still parenting, doing housework, and going to bed alone, we recognized our love was still there; it just needed a more solid foundation and tools to keep it strong.

We also knew that the odds were growing increasingly against us. According to research published in the September 2022 Journals of Gerontology, 36% of people who divorce are older than 50. Pew Research data from 2017 says the divorce rate after age 50 nearly doubled between 1990 and 2015.

Time was of the essence if we were going to make it. It was time to buckle down (and in).

So, through tears, hard work, and lots of prayers, my husband and I developed tools that redeemed our marriage during our time with kids in the house and have continued to help us firm up the foundation of our marriage as current empty nesters. We’re nowhere near perfect, but we feel closer to God and one another than ever because of the action steps we decided to take (and not procrastinate on) with kids still running around.

Over time, we began to trust that it was worth the long haul. We started to see that we could thrive in our marriage and not just survive. No matter the stage of your relationship and life, I believe these seven tips can help your marriage make it the distance and allow you to know God more deeply in your family.

7 Ways to Remember Your Marriage While Parenting

1. First Comes Love, Then Comes Counseling

Often, couples don’t seek help until they’re in crisis mode, whether with kids in the house or not. We were no exception. We ignored yellow flags, such as choosing tasks over our relationship and saving conflict resolution until the kids went to bed for the sake of comfort or to not rock the boat while the kids were running around.

7 Ways to Revive Your Marriage With Kids in the Home

However, marriages don’t need to be falling apart for therapy to be helpful. We learned that talking through expectations, frustrations, and how we treat each other is invaluable, and I wish we had dove into the therapy space before crap (sometimes literal, thanks, kids) hit the fan.

With the help of a counselor, we started to identify problems that needed to be addressed and resolved. This allowed God a space to heal and grow us in areas we were holding back. No more circling back to the same arguments we couldn’t put down—money, sex, chores…the usual suspects.

We learned how to clearly communicate expectations, discuss our feelings, and find ways to invest in each other and our marriage. We made serious headway in our top pain points, like agreeing to discuss purchases over $100, sacrificing elsewhere to pay a housecleaner, and seeing that sex does build intimacy and help us work better as a team. OK, honey, you were right!

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)

2. Church Can Be a Blessing, Not an Obligation

Sundays used to be our only day without sports, work, or meetings, so sleeping in began to take priority for some weeks. And on the days that we would make it to service, it felt like a painful obligation with a get-in, get-out mindset, with no intentionality or room for God to show up. This began to spill into the rest of our spiritual lives, with God’s fingerprints growing fainter and fainter.

Remembering your marriage

Seeing our marriage crumble gave us space to reflect on where we were lacking—one of those areas being placing God and church on the back burner. We knew if we wanted a healthy and thriving marriage (let alone a family), we needed to make moves for God to be more present in our lives—and have a purpose behind doing so.

We committed to making Sundays at church a priority and joined a group with other families to grow closer to each other and God before sleep, our schedules, or even each other. We weren’t always on the same page with how, and sometimes it felt like my husband and kids were sprinting to the car after service, ‘hangry’ and frustrated because I was talking with a friend or getting to know new people. Over time, though, we realized that it wasn’t the weekend message in the auditorium we were coming for; it was the people, the church we were getting to know and grow with.

Going to a Sunday service isn’t the main event; it’s the pregame, the fuel for the rest of our week. Those weeks are entirely different when we start them with God at the forefront and committed to making it a family practice, no matter what life throws at us schedule-wise.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37).

3. Find the People Who Are for Your Marriage

Getting around other people who are married and willing to do the work on their marriage is surprisingly hard to find. But it’s easy to have a girlfriend who thinks it’s ludicrous that your husband’s not excited about the new $500 duvet cover or doesn’t put the toilet seat down. And you’ll always find a buddy who’s appalled that your wife’s pissed about your Saturday morning golf league or the dirty boxers on the bathroom floor. Misery loves company.

Remember your marriage

We found that surrounding ourselves with people who weren’t for our marriage was only causing a deeper wedge in our relationship. It became what we thought was a safe space to air grievances without telling our partner what we were ever feeling, which in the moment felt good but was hurting our intimacy. I was carrying around my frustration and complaints, villainizing my husband, assuming he wanted to make my life harder. I had forgotten we were partners committed to loving, caring for, and outdoing one another with honor. (Romans 12:10)

We decided to find friends who are FOR our marriage. Whether they had kids or not didn’t matter—being pro-marriage was what did. We needed people who were fighters for marriage—theirs and ours- and for us to know God better in our marriage. Friends who spoke the truth and wouldn’t blow sunshine up our butt. Friends who would hold us accountable if we’re fooling ourselves at times or making crappy choices.

We knew that we needed to examine our circle of influence to have a successful marriage.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)

4. The Cheesy Saying Applies: Date Your Spouse

How do you squeeze in time for dates when you have little ones or a calendar full of kids’ activities? Whether it’s finding a babysitter, scheduling a couple of hours, or thinking of ideas for dates, we realized this one needs to be on our radar. Date nights are opportunities for fun and connection, so not having them regularly added to the tension of all work and no play. Eventually, that’s exactly how our relationship felt.

We learned our dates don’t need to be elaborate, expensive, or even outside our home, but they do need to be a part of our marriage. In fact, according to a study by the National Marriage Project, 83% of wives and 84% of husbands who had regular date nights were very happy in their marriages, compared to 68% of wives and 70% of husbands who did not have regular date nights. On some dates, we grabbed a milkshake at McDonald’s, two straws, and talked in the car with no commentators from the backseat. For other dates, we dressed up and used the gift cards to a fancy restaurant we’d been given for Christmas. Sometimes, we’d even put the kids to bed early, make a meal at home with a cheap bottle of wine, and sit at the table the entire evening.

Remembering your marriage with kids at home

We started with once-a-month date nights, and as our kids got older and more independent, we actually needed to schedule time on their calendars for dinner or to grab a movie. Oh, how the tables have turned!

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. (Song of Songs 8:6)

5. Vacate the Area

Whether it’s an overnight stay-at-home while the kids are with grandparents or a week away on the other side of the world, we saw the need for a getaway. A place to shake off routines, take a Sabbath, sleep naked without fear of little eyes (and ears!). Bonus points if you have no cell reception & can completely set your phones down!

These getaways helped evoke the nostalgia of why we fell in love and revived the fun and intimacy to keep stoking the fire. They don’t have to be anything extravagant or exotic, but dedicating time, money, and attention for an extended period with my husband has been vital. Weekends with kids staying with the family eventually became week-long Nana Camp, and we all came back home smiling with new stories to tell (and others we’ll keep to ourselves).

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Songs 8:7)

6. Get Naked

When our kids were little, I often felt “touched out,” so the idea of more touching once they were in bed or occupied was tough. We often went to bed exhausted and were anxious to get as much shut-eye as possible before waking up to do it all again. And lots of times, we chose sleep over having sex.

By forgoing that intimate time together, we removed a very important element of marriage from the equation, and it became easier to see each other as partners or roommates. If I notice we’re picking at each other, inexplicably on a different page, or things feel “off” for some reason, I immediately think about how long it’s been since we’ve had sex. In my experience of over nearly 25 years of marriage, it practically always points to that.

The solution is simple and mysteriously helps us get back on the same page, or bed —whichever works. If this one is really difficult—either due to trauma, trust, or something more, I encourage you to talk with a sex therapist. I believe making love within marriage is a vital part of your relationship.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

7. Projects, Hobbies, and Interests, Oh My!

What do I like to do? Honestly, until about five years ago, I couldn’t remember. My hobbies and interests became driving carpools, making dinners with only five ingredients, and being able to locate a lost phone in under 24 hours. Booooooo. My husband did a better job of this than I did: golf, hiking, collecting vinyl music, and vintage stereo equipment, but I had forgotten what I liked to do.

7 Ways to Revive Your Marriage With Kids in the Home

Cue the trial and error: painting, thrifting, golf, gardening, playing guitar, spin classes. I found some that stuck and some that felt more like modern torture techniques. Some I could participate in with my husband, some solo. I love to spend hours digging through treasures at estate or yard sales and doing home projects in our 100+-year-old house, and I really enjoy cooking again now that I have fewer critics at home. My husband and I are also discovering and rediscovering fun stuff to do together: renovating our attic, buying a tricked-out van to travel and camp in, and lots of live music. It’s been interesting and refreshing, and actually added some things to our date list. The bottom line is to find some things you like and do them together and separately!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Making it the Distance

None of these habits strictly began after our kids left the house, but they’re deeply woven into our newly empty-nester lives. After a little “freedom paralysis” (the first few weeks without our kids at home), we’ve settled into our new rhythm: one high on affirming each other, spending time with friends who want to love their spouses better, and dreaming about our future.

Now that we have more uninterrupted time together, it’s valuable to understand that not all that time “counts” as quality time. We still work to spend intentional quality time and intentional quality conversations together. We have a list of planned trips, from weekends to week-long adventures, so that we can enjoy our marriage in new settings. We still disagree or snap at each other more than we care to admit, and we can’t blame it on the tension of parenting or the chaos of juggling other peoples’ schedules, but times like that are getting fewer.

Remembering your marriage with kids at home

So every married man should be gracious to his wife just as he is gracious to himself. And every wife should be tenderly devoted to her husband. - Ephesians 5:33

Marriage takes a ton of effort, and once the kids leave the house and you’re sitting across the table from your spouse, it’s a new beginning—one that the world is saying loud and clear is not worth the trouble. But God says it is.

Will we be among the 36% of empty nesters trudging on solo, or will we contribute to the undoing of that statistic?

While being together is fantastic, we also see the fruit in spending time as individuals. We put several “rocks in our river” that never budge, and we believe they make us better human beings, friends, and spouses. Things like Crossroads Camps have been integral to our personal growth and relationship with God, as well as each other. Those never get dropped from our calendars. I host a women’s group that helps me connect with other women in all stages of life to become better wives, mothers, and friends. My husband leads a monthly hiking group, which means we get to do something active together with other couples we may not have met otherwise. Marriage is still not easy work, but it’s worthwhile work, and I love the person I get to do it with now more than I ever have.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

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At Crossroads, we major on the majors and minor on the minors. We welcome a diverse community of people who all agree that Jesus is Lord and Savior, even if they view minor theological and faith topics in different ways based on their unique experiences. Our various authors embody that principle. Therefore, there are many viewpoints expressed in our articles that don’t necessarily fit with the opinions of our leadership. We are okay with that. And we think God is ok with that, too. The foundation of everything we do is a conviction that accepting Jesus as who he said he was leads to a healthy life of purpose and adventure—and eternal life with God.

Lori Murray
Meet the author

Lori Murray

Cincinnati native living in Richmond, KY. Wife, mom, and recent empty nester. Loves thrifting treasures, music, good craft beer, and sitting around a campfire where the best conversations happen. Always up for an adventure.

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