My husband and I are in a great parenting stage for our marriage. We have one teen and one preteen. We can leave them at home without having to find a sitter and spend time together. Walking the dog and running errands have become favorites because the kids don’t want to go. My husband and I get to chat about life and enjoy our time together. Life is pretty comfortable right now, but that was not always the case. In fact, for a long time, it felt impossible to have alone time together. It got me thinking about how to prioritize your marriage with young kids. 

I’m sure if you read the post I wrote about blessing my spouse and saw pictures of me running around “kid-free” doing “all the things” for my husband, you were probably thinking… “Sure, Carrie, good for you. But what about when I have a bunch of little kids that need me every second of my life… and I’m exhausted. What then? It’s much easier said than done.” 

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Prioritizing Your Marriage Doesn’t Have to Mean Date Nights and Doing Extravagant Things

Friend, I hear you…because I was you! Reading stories like the ones I wrote about blessing my spouse made me want to cry because it felt unattainable. I cried at the sight of a picture of coffee and a bible. I whined when my friends and family members would take their kids to the grandparents for the night to have quality time and adequate rest.

IT MUST BE NICE!” I would yell… I was so stinking jealous of it all! I knew that my husband and I needed these things in our marriage, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I didn’t have what they had. 

What We Did to Prioritize Each Other With Young Kids

We did some things in that stage of life that helped us stay healthy as a couple, despite not having family nearby to help. We didn’t always win in this area, but we learned a lot. Prioritizing each other doesn’t have to be grand gestures and elaborate date nights.  I want to share what we did well to encourage you that it is possible to keep your marriage strong in this tough phase.

Prioritize Your Marriage by Communicating

When you have a child, your life changes considerably. It probably changes differently for you than it does for your spouse. It’s important to understand each other in this.

When I had a toddler on my leg and a nursing baby, I just wanted my space. To my husband, that just seemed like I wasn’t attracted to him. You guys… my husband is hot! I am ridiculously attracted to him, but I have had enough physical touch from my kids to last a week by the end of the day. It had nothing to do with him, but if I don’t communicate this fact, he will feel like something is wrong with him. 

The baby and toddler stage of parenting was the most difficult stage for me. In contrast, some women thrive in that phase. I wish I could say that about myself, but I can’t. I sucked at it! I feel like I was a good mom to my kids, but that stage tested my marriage and sanity. Guilt overwhelmed me that I didn’t love every second of having toddlers. To add to that, I felt guilty about the fact that I fantasized about a night alone in a hotel room watching TV and eating ice cream instead of a date night with my husband. Luckily it was only for a time, but that time felt neverending.

Communication is key

I loved my babies and feel blessed to have the opportunity to stay home with them, but it was so much harder than I had envisioned. Communication with my husband about these things helped us make it through together.

Communicate the difficulties you are facing. Your spouse is not a mind reader.

Be honest about your frustrations… Sometimes this takes some soul searching. I didn’t realize how much I was feeling like a failure from the get-go.

Parenting is freaking hard! Period!

Look For the Positive and the Funny Stuff and Share That Too

Share your wins… Like that ONE TIME, I got housework done while keeping the children from climbing onto the fridge or destroying the house. Focus on the successes. 

Tell the funny stories that happen every day. Like the time I woke up to the toddlers playing “rain” in the living room with the Kix and Cheerios. Yep… it is exactly like it sounds. The room was covered in breakfast cereal and they were laughing harder than they have ever laughed before. It may have been the most fun they had had up until that point in their life.

Write these memories down because these are the stories you will want to remember ten years, twenty years, thirty years from now. They are the stories to tell at your kids’ graduation parties, weddings, and Christmases to come. We kept a journal of some of these stories, and we love to go back and read them. 

Include your husband in your life during this time. If you have a spouse, you are not alone in this, even if it sometimes feels like it. I found the baby and toddler stage to be incredibly lonely. I longed for adult conversation, but I was also exhausted… Not a great combo!

How to Prioritize Your Marriage With Date Nights… Once in a While

Go on dates! This one seems obvious. People are always saying that good marriages have weekly date nights. BUT… we encountered several problems with this. 

Date nights are great, but weekly date nights do not equal a guaranteed happy marriage. In some cases they equal stress and frustration.

We don’t have family nearby, so we need to find a babysitter. Consequently, finding a babysitter was incredibly stressful and expensive. I hated asking people, and we were on a pretty tight budget. Luckily, we are blessed with friends who were willing to watch our kids, but it was still difficult for me. If my husband planned the date but didn’t book a sitter, I was a mess. The thought of doing this every week was overwhelming. Once every couple of months was a more realistic goal for us.

Need help figuring out what to do on a date night? The Adventure Challenge Couples Edition is a great tool to get you to do things together. Many of the activities can be done with kids around; if not, the book will let you know in the clue of the adventure. It is a book of scratch-off adventures. Once you scratch it off, there are no take-backs. You must complete the challenge. Then you take a picture and document it in your book. So Much Fun!

The Adventure Challenge Couples Edition Book if you are not sure how to prioritize your marriage with young kids.

Prioritize Your Marriage With a Date Night at Home

Our kids had a 7:00 bedtime. I know that sounds crazy early, but that was the only way for us to have any time as a couple. Often,  we would feed the kids at 5:00 and then make our dinner after they went to bed. We could sit and enjoy our food while having adult conversation. Those were lovely times. 

Thanks to 2020, I have now discovered Door Dash. If we had this when my kids were smaller, it would have been a regular occurrence. 

When the weather was nice, we would make drinks and sit on the porch together. We went through phases of coffee, milkshakes, protein shakes (once we realized how many calories were in a milkshake), hot chocolate, frappuccinos, and iced tea. In the summer, it doesn’t get dark until close to 10 pm. Our kids would often ask us why they have to go to bed and we still get to play outside. I loved that time!

Prioritize Your Marriage by Showing that You Appreciate Your Spouse

Going on dates isn’t the only way to prioritize your spouse when you have small kids. Simply doing things to let your significant other know you are thinking of them, even though our kids consume so much of us, is a great way to handle this life phase. Here are some ideas:

Kiss them hello and goodbye.

Leave sweet post-it notes around the house (I have found notes in the dishwasher, microwave, cabinets, closet, etc.)

How to prioritize your marriage with young kids by leaving notes around the house. This note is inside the cabinet door by the cups and bowls.
This has been here for years. I can’t bring myself to take it down.

Write notes on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker

Mail a card to their workplace- my husband still sends me cards and postcards from his work. I love it.

Stuff notes into jacket pockets or leave them in their car

Send texts throughout the day… and I don’t mean “Can you grab milk on your way home?” I mean… “You are a Hotty McHottersen and I’m lucky to be married to you” type texts.

Read childhood books to each other- I learned so much about my husband doing this.

Plan the dinner menu around what your spouse likes (probably not broccoli in my house)

Brag about your spouse to others instead of complain

Use only kind words even when you are grumpy (This one takes serious self-control)

Make them a cup of coffee

Keep a love journal and pass it back and forth

Different seasons call for different ways of doing things. Focus on simple ways of making your marriage a priority when your kids are young. Share your best ideas in the comments below!

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How to prioritize your marriage when you have young kids


  1. Pingback: The Benefits of Blessing Your Spouse | Messy Joyful Journey

  2. I can relate to a lot of this especially the exhaustion. We have 7 kids and our first grand baby on the way. We had to learn to pause and take time for us.

    • Wow! 7! Good for you. You must have had to be super intentional to do that. It’s so easy to let the kids take over all of our time and attention.

    • These seem some fantastic tips to keep the spark alive in your marriage !! Thanks for sharing!.

  3. I can so relate to you, Carrie! We have 11, 8, & 2 year olds. I don’t want to be touched because of being constantly touched by my 2 yo. I love your ideas! Another one we do is after the kids go to bed we sit on the couch and just chat for 10 minutes or so. Sometimes we are so tired it just comes out in chunks or we just sit together. Thanks for your article!

    • Yes! Couch time is a great idea. We used to talk when we would get into bed. My husband fell asleep mid-sentence once WHILE HE WAS TALKING! Moving the location is a much better idea. Lol. Thank you for the tip.

  4. communication has been absolute key for us as fitting date nights in without any child care has been impossible. Love this post!

  5. The night we were married, Larry told me he once asked Granny what she missed most about Grandpa Collins after he died. She said they always kissed good night and told each other they loved each other before they went to sleep. She said she found it hard to go to sleep at night after he died. Larry said he wanted us to begin the same tradition in our marriage. Even when he was away from home for work, neither of us could go to sleep until we could tell each other we loved each other. We also made it a point to kiss and say we loved each other when we first awoke in the morning and when we left the house. one morning, Larry left for work before I got up. After he left, I realized he hadn’t come to kiss me good-bye–and I really felt sad. A few minutes later, the phone rang. “i forgot to kiss you god-bye.” He missed it as much as I did. Even after 55 years, we still do these things.
    Before we married, I wrote a note to myself: “Remember, you chose this man. Some day, your children will grow up and leave home, and your parents will not longer be there. Never forget to stay in touch through the years so you won’t wake up one day as strangers.” Pretty astute for an eighteen-year old!

  6. Great post! Marriage is tricky and it takes work! I totally agree with your list! And for sure communication is key! We will do lunch walks (currently working from home due to you know what) and we’ll just talk, which usually turns into funny anecdotes, which results in one of both of us laughing until we cry. The people in our neighborhood probably think we’re weirdos! But it keeps us focused on us for a bit. I love you list of little sweet things to do! I’ll have to try leaving little notes around the house.

  7. This is an amazing and very necessary post. It’s so important to make your marriage a priority!

  8. It’s so hard when they are younger. You’re wishing they were older but still wishing they stay little forever. My husband and I just keep reminding ourselves that some day we’ll miss this and we’ll have all the time in the world for us. Days we get to out without them we feel like we keep forgetting something ? odd when it’s so quiet nowadays.

    • Haha! I always felt like we forgot something when we were out without our kids too. Sometimes I would feel a moment of panic… like we lost them. It’s a funny time. 🙂

  9. Great insight and tips for something that so many forget… your children would love to see their parents happy and filled with love and joy!

  10. Suzan | It’s My Sustainable Life Reply

    Wonderful reminders and suggestions for keeping the relationship a high priority.

  11. lisa manderino Reply

    I am in the same phase that you are. I call it the sweet life. All those same feelings when I had littles were there. I did not get to go on dates with my husband. We took our first trip away from the kids 10 years after becoming parents. I like your ideas to show love, I think I might do those! Looking back it is so much easy to believe the phrase the days are long but the years are fast!

  12. This is just so relatable, the seasons of marriage and life with kids. I loved the baby/toddler stage but I too just did not want to be touched, and the only thing I really wanted was an hour or two ALONE. This defintely made it more challenging in the short term to connect. I love your ideas for showing your partner love. I find it is often the smaller simpler things that happen regularly that keep us connected.

  13. Great information for couples with children still at home. However, my husband and I still have date nights after 17 years of marriage, and occasional candlelight dinners as well. We have no little ones at home, but still important to have that “together time.”

    • Yes! I hope we have “together time” forever. We have been married for 17 years, too. 🙂 Our kids are now old enough to leave home, so it’s much easier to get that time in but no less important.

  14. Seriously, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to feel like real humans when you have young kids. My hubby & I don’t have children and I find it hard haha. These are really great tips for anyone really. Listening to each other, appreciating the little things, & making time for one another, so key.

    • It’s true. It was hard for us before kids… but with kids, it felt impossible. Either way, it’s important to be intentional about it.

  15. I love when my husband leaves me sticky notes in unexpected places. It is small things like that that will melt your heart especially when you are miffed about something trivial!

  16. Halimeh Salem Reply

    I seriously need to take this into account and change my life.

  17. Okay, I totally needed to read this today. I have a two year old son and a daughter who was just born last month so I have been a little crazy to say the least. My husband and I try to talk often about our days, but I can totally relate to wanting time alone. Thank you for being so real!

  18. Great article! My husband and I love to do “coffee and conversation” as our mid-morning break from work. Homemade cold brew, a little snack enjoyed in our outdoor living room!

  19. Great list! We’re just coming out of the stage of having young kids where my oldest can babysit and it’s the best! It’s also helpful to know that the time that your kids are young is temporary and you will come out of it!

    • Yes! Our lives changed the day we could go for a walk together and leave the kids at home. That stage felt like forever, but now I cry that they will be gone soon.

  20. I love this! We have one kid now, he’s almost 18 months old. Luckily he has a strict bed time and we can have our together time. When future kids come into the mix, I will have to remember this article, and know that this phase will pass, but to also enjoy it while they are little

  21. Fantastic advice! I wish we would have focused on this more when my kids were young. We always seemed to be in survival mode instead of focusing on thriving in our marriage in those early years.

  22. These are great tips! We tried the weekly date night thing and it just stressed me out Sooooo much! Once or twice a month is more realistic and we don’t even have kids!

  23. I don’t have kids, but I’ve heard how tough it can be on a marriage. Will definitely keep these helpful tips in mind!

  24. Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog Reply

    Wonderful and excellent reminders no matter how long you may have been together. Yes, it does take some self-discipline when juggling the kiddos. We still write silly notes and leave them lying around!

  25. I totally feel ya. I have 3 kids between 10 and 3 and finding a time to have a quiet conversation is tough. Let alone make our relationship a priority. But as a child of divorce, it has to be for me. I can’t go through another divorce. It was too painful. So we have rules… Like don’t go to bed angry. Rules for how to kindly communicate when we are upset. Communication is so important!

    • My husband and I are children of divorce as well. I love that you have rules for communicating when you are upset and not going to bed angry. It is so important to be intentional and wonderful to be on the same page with your partner about it.

  26. Young children can wreak havoc on a relationship. These are great ideas for keeping the romance alive without breaking the bank.

  27. Great advice! We have 4 kids and just celebrated our 25th Anniversary this year. Marriage can be tough. There are so many distractions to take you away from giving your spouse the attention they need. And the longer you are married, the more complacent you can become. We work hard to have date nights and time alone to focus on each other and communicating.

  28. Cindy Moore Reply

    Definitely been there with young kids and all that goes with parenting while trying to maintain a healthy relationship. Like you said, communication is key. It’s so so so so important!

  29. Haha, this was so funny to read. I’m happy that after so much years of marriage, you still find your husband stinkin’ hot! I love the little notes ideas, even though so simple they can really make your day

    • It is true. The little, simple things really make a difference. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  30. This is so much great food for thought! It is so difficult to find that time together when you have children. Mine are now 9 & 14 and we still struggle with this, especially during COVID! This reminds me to take the time and make this a priority! Mrs. Accountable

  31. Pingback: Gilmore Girls Self-Care: When all you have the energy for is TV. | Messy Joyful Journey

  32. Excellent article!! It is so hard to put forth effort into marriage when kids are draining you, but it is worth the effort!

  33. I can relate to so much of this!! I was totally overwhelmed with being a stay-at-home mom too, it was way harder than I thought it would be. We also live far from family, so have to find babysitters when we want to go out. It’s not easy, but it is almost always worth it for us! We started to do some at-home hobbies together, like puzzles and playing cribbage, as a way to spend time together after the kids go to bed.

  34. Thanks for sharing. I can relate to just wanting my me time over couple time after a long day with the kids. I want to be more intentional about spending quality time with my husband.

  35. Pingback: How To Keep The Romance Alive After Having A Baby | Middle Class Dad

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