The Daily Juggle's - A Working Mum's Guide to Staying Together, 7 Essential Rules for a Sexy Satisfying Relationship when you've got kids.
The bricks wouldn't be too hard to move and the ground is quite soft so I reckon I'd have no problem digging a husband shaped hole! I don't think it will be too hard to find someone to help me move the body as they'll know that I endured a husband who talked in spreadsheets and once complained I didn't contribute to thinking enough about ISAs. (I was sponging his shoulders in the bath, 3 weeks after the arrival of our first child who was sleeping down the hall.)
Our relationship is one of strong personalities - we're often power struggling our way through our marriage. Think North and South Korea (I’m South Korea, obviously). I love him madly and he drives me mad and yet somehow it works. He accepts me completely and makes a good sausage sandwich, which in the daily grind of family life seem like pretty good qualities. We're learning everyday how to do the Daily Juggle and Keep the Love and so far these are my top tips…
1. LET HIM KNOW YOU HAVE A PLAN FOR HIS DEMISE
It does no harm whatsoever to let your partner know just how irritating they are. We have these discussions on a regular basis and take much glee in choosing just how we'd pop one another off when it gets too much. It's worth considering Kathy Lette's book 'How to Kill Your Husband'. I always considered myself a woman with a sort of Switzerland-esque passive view on life but since I got wed I have regularly thought about bashing him over the head with Henry the hoover. It turns out that my own mother did not let me into this Motherhood Omertà that she too often thinks of killing my father. Poison she reckons would do it. How my husband has gone form being the man who made my heart thud in desire to the man who buys me a mug saying 'I love Spreadsheets' is anybody's guess. We're muddling through and shouting and laughing in sort of equal measure. He thinks it would take 3 people to move his body into the garden and isn't sure I have even two friends who believe I am being so unjustly treated and who would be prepared to break the law. If only he could hear the pow wows at my friend Aoife's house then he'd know there are no shortage of wives who would sign up for the task. And we would return the favour in kind. So when it's good in our house we have sex and hug each other and talk about the future and when it's bad we know he would strangle me and take me to The Recycling Centre in the old carpet from the spare room and I would impale him on any number of his sporting accessories and bury him under the old path.
2. GO OUT AND DRINK A LOT OF TEQUILA AND GO DANCING and DO KARAOKE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN
Do you remember the days of dancing until 5 in the morning and doing shots and feeling like your partner was the sexiest person in the room? Beyonce and JayZ just writhed aorund the stage together at the Grammy's as she sung 'Drunk on Love'. Apparently it was smutty as she's a mum and no longer around to express herself in a sexual manner. But what that song says and what she was doing on stage with her husband is what I'm getting at. Getting drunk is a good way to feel like you're in love again. ( I am not recommending alcohol dependency as a life choice of course)
I do remember the drunken dates but in the manner of someone who has had several diazepam and who may have imagined it. On our first date I dragged him dancing and then to karaoke and when he bleated at 4am about having to close a deal later that day I winced at his weakness. He also refused to do anymore than kiss me on the cheek which was a bit strange, but hey that's another story.
When our kids came along the number of opportunities at which to mosh and sink jaeger bombs somewhat depleted. Thankfully, so too did the hangovers, but it's the fun I miss. So we made a pact. He will come and sing karaoke with me - actually let me qualify that - he will listen to me belt out some songs whilst getting a kick out of pressing the button that says 'Call the Waitress', and in return, at least every couple of months we'll dress up, go out and drink too much. We'll snog in the taxi on the way home and try to be kind to one another when we're hungover. Trust me, you will feel young and close to one another and not remotely like you do when he says 'On Saturday - I'm going to prioritise cleaning the gutters'
3. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS WHO HAVE KIDS - WITHOUT THE KIDS!
Have you noticed that when you have kids you spend a lot of your social life with other couples and their kids? A lot of the time this is fun, if a bit mental, as the kids are running around all feral, but it also means you spend most of your life seeing your partner as a parent and not as a person. I think this is bad news for sexual relations and for your friendship with your partner.
Sure we want our kids to get to know our friends’ kids and to have a bond and all of that, but it gets a bit dull after a while. The dads tend to migrate to a rectangle-shaped thing showing sport while the kids hang out with the mums and we chatter about them and what they're doing. Last Friday my husband and I hung out with our friends without their kids and it was such a total treat. No interrupted conversations (unless we're talking about the call for who wants more booze), and no chromosome related divisions of labour. Well I did make my husband wait outside in the rain for a cab while I finished my glass of wine…AND your other friends who don't have kids can come too and they don't feel like an exhibit in a museum. Simply soaking up the atmosphere of a pub that's not about place mats you can draw on and highchairs stacked in the loo makes you feel like you’re back outside of the limiting (but sometimes lovely) bubble that is your life with little kids.
4. LET EACH OTHER HAVE SPACE FOR YOUR OWN FUN
At our wedding we had a reading by Kahlil Gibran - it goes a bit like this:
'Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
And stand together yet not too near together.'
So be together but not so together that you can't each thrive. It sounds like really good advice and I think it is.
My partner likes to enrol in these insane sports challenges - the ones that require you to train for months (he doesn't), buy a lot of kit (he does) and spend a lot of time complaining about his injuries and plotting routes on his newest gizmo. It's tricky when they crop up because it means less family time and I often feel resentful about hanging out on my own with the kids, again! BUT without these challenges he goes bonkers. He's like a Collie with no sheep to chase. It's part of who he is and we make space for it where we can. My needs aren't physical, they tend to bemore about having space for my friendships and making films. Without being creative I start to become a bit Norma Bates.
BC (Before Children) we had the luxury of life being all about us, but now we've swung the other way where family (or children even) are everything and our needs are put somewhere on the list near putting the bins out. I guess the middle is what works for us. We try to make sure both of our 'cups are full' whilst understanding that sometimes your needs do fall to the bottom of the pile. But you can't let them languish thereforever or you'll wake up one day and be so far away from who you are that no amount of dates or dancing will fix it.
5. HAVE SEX EVEN WHEN HE SMELLS OF KEBABS OR BABY SICK.
Maybe you've got kids and you’re having loads of sex and I take my gimp mask off to you! I found an old card I'd written for my husband the other day and it said 'Well done us, we’ve had sex 6 times so far this year'. I wasn't even joking! To be fair to us though, we'd just had our second baby, a change in jobs, made a TV series and tried to grapple with The Daily Juggle. When I told my mum, she shrieked and panicked and signed up for a weekend of baby-sitting. 'You need Sex darling, it's the glue that holds things together'. Yeah I can see that, but we never seem to want it at the same time! So here's what we decided: the other person would allow themselves to be open (sorry) to the possibility at whatever time and just go with it. It works most of the time but what works better is just living a full life and feeling like the sort of person that another would like to dry hump on sight.
6. KEEP TALKING - HE FEELS AS DAUNTED AND LOST AS YOU BUT THE XY CHROMOSOME PREVENTS HIM FROM SAYING IT.
Women are blessed in so many ways and our ability to say things out loud is (most of the time) a good thing. Sometimes we talk way too much and it makes us indecisive and mental, but we do tend to say out loud what's worrying us about our lives. I guess where it goes wrong is if we're not talking to the right person. One thing I've learned form my partner (who came from a family where everyone's acting like they're in a Tamil soap opera) is this - get it out in the open; most things are much less scary out of your head than in them. And if you only talk to other peoplea bout the things that are bothering you, then you're missing part of the picture and could be creating a whole big drama out of nothing. I can't tell you how many clients of mine have wanted to change things in their relationships and thought they could do it alone. In the immortal words of Elton and Tina, “It takes two”. Sure it is scary putting things out there and asking for changes to happen, but when I say (mostly shout) that I am upset, I quite often find that my partner is upset too and it becomes a bit of a bonding experience to try to sort it out. When we don't talk, we don't have sex, and we don't like each other.
7. ACCEPT EACH OTHER.
God this one is tough. I'm not saying for a minute accept any sort of abuse or violence. What I'm talking about is the stuff you cannot change. You know he likes to be hyper organised and loves financial planning (and is a grumpy sod who shouts too much). You are disorganised and whimsical and buy shoes that are both too expensive and cannot be worn except with a whole packet of plasters ready in your bag. Or maybe, like me, you love to work and go away to places to shoot films and you can't be available to be someone's wife whilst making stories about other people's lives. We do not always get this right but we are trying not to make every little hiccup about ourselves. Maybe he did just forget to put the dishwasher on - not because he thinks it's your job but because he's knackered too and he just forgot. Maybe you didn't put the cheque in the bank, not because you never put him first, but because you too are hanging on by a thread.
We are learning all the time about what works for us, I'm guessing if we manage to stay married until we're 70 we'll still be learning....