This time of year is absolutely insane for us.
Corey helps direct the One Act Play in the district where we work, and they’re good. That means they usually make it pretty far in competition, which means lots of late nights, long drives, and weekend trips for competitions. I love how passionate he is about it, but it can be so draining on our relationship and on our family to have him gone that much! It doesn’t help that this is the season of meetings and paperwork and insanity for me in my job, so it all adds up to a lot of stress and challenges from now until about late April.
We learned the hard way last school year that it’s absolutely vital for us to be intentional about staying connected and close to one another in this crazy season. I’ve talked a few times before about our date nights and how much we value them, but there are a few other things that we like to do when things get particularly busy to stay sane and make sure we show our love for one another. So, here are 10 things we’re doing this year to minimize the negative effects of these busy, busy months:
- Watch a favorite show together with no distractions. We are so guilty of pulling our our laptops or phones while watching television together, and that’s always a distraction that leaves me feeling slightly discontented. I enjoy our lazy time on the couch so much more when I put everything away, cuddle up close, and actually pay full attention. It’s a lesson that I have to remind myself of over and over, but we try to have at least a few nights a week where we hang out without too many distractions.
- Dedicate some time to be alone. As in, without each other. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but we have learned over the years that if we’re constantly striving for more time together when things are busy, we each begin to feel like we lose a bit of ourselves and we start to get short with one another. Over this past year we’ve been better about having one night a week or so where we go our separate ways in the house and spend a few hours being selfish. For him, that usually means video games, and for me that means a Skype date with my best friend to watch The Bachelor. When we’re both taking care of ourselves, we’re more prepared to be kind to one another!
- Don’t forget the little things. I feel so much more connected to Corey when I spend a little bit of time each day thinking about something small I can do for him. Sometimes it’s bringing him a Coke after work, sometimes it’s leaving a sweet note in his pocket, and sometimes it’s just sending him an “I’m thinking of you” text. Any little thing we can do to go out of our way for one another makes a big difference to feeling like we’re still connected with life is crazy.
- Have dinner together. Sometimes it’s not possible for us, but we make a point to go out of our way to have dinner as a family, even if it’s inconvenient. Sometimes that means Jackson goes to bed a little late, and sometimes it means he eats and then goes to bed while I wait for Corey before I eat dinner. We’ve learned this requires a lot of flexibility and patience, but it absolutely pays off – I value family dinners so much, so making sure that we stay connected in this way is huge for us!
- Share something, even when you’re apart. Corey and I normally ride to work together, but we can’t do that when he’s working late (which is most nights this time of year). We do, however, continue to listen to the same morning show every morning (Bobby Bones forever!) and will occasionally text about something we heard when we get to work. It makes driving apart a little bit easier and makes me feel like I’m still connected to him even if we aren’t in the same car.
- Don’t neglect date night. We are so bad about letting our weekly date nights slip when things get busy. In fact, I don’t think we’ve had one in over a month. But I find that we are SO much happier when we are consistent about having an at-home date night every single week where we cook dinner together, play games, and don’t let ourselves be distracted by anything at all. It’s especially important when things get busy, so I want to make sure we get back to it before the One Act season really begins to get crazy.
- Get involved in each other’s work. This isn’t always possible, but it’s been a life-changer for us this year. Last year we really struggled during the One Act Play season because Corey was always gone and I was always frustrated that he was gone. I wasn’t involved at all in what he was doing and so I really didn’t “get it,” even though I know how much commitment it requires to be a part of those types of extracurricular events. This year, however, I’ve been more involved in the play itself and it has made a world of difference. I’ve been stopping by at rehearsal most days before I go to get Jackson, I’ve been engaged and interested when Corey talks about it, and I’m getting to know the kids that he’s working with. Suddenly, I don’t mind nearly as much when he’s gone for work, because I understand why he’s gone and what he’s doing. Like I said, this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone, but I’ve found that anytime we take the time to get to know more about one another’s jobs or what is keeping us so busy, we are so much more understanding and less snippy with one another when we’re together.
- Have patience with one another. I mean, duh, but it’s something I have to remind myself of on the regular! Sometimes when I’m exhausted from working all day and taking care of Jackson by myself all afternoon, I just dump it all on Corey when he walks in the door and expect him to take over. It can be hard for me to remember that he’s been at work all day too. This year, I’m trying to speak up for myself when I really truly need a break, but I’m also trying to have more grace with him and take over more of the duties around the house so that he’s able to get a bit of rest and relaxation when he is at home. I’m finding that our house is a lot more pleasant for the both of us this way, and when I remember to have a little empathy I really don’t mind taking on some extra stuff around the house – I know it’s temporary, and I know he’d do the same for me.
- Never underestimate the power of FaceTime. On nights where Corey isn’t home for Jackson’s bedtime, we always try to FaceTime right before Jack goes to bed. It gives Jackson so much comfort to see his dad’s face before bed, and it makes me feel much less alone to have Corey “there” for the nighttime routine. Sometimes, if he’s especially busy, he isn’t able to stay on the phone for the whole routine, and on those nights it’s just a quick “goodnight,” but if he’s able to get away for ten minutes he will sit on the phone with us while we read books, pray, and sing, and it’s so comforting to both me and Jackson!
- Don’t wallow! This is the most important tip for me personally. Last year when Corey was working a lot, I spent the first few months soaking up the misery and throwing myself a daily pity party for how lonely I was at home while he was working. Towards the end of the season, though, I finally realized that was absolutely ludricus and there was no reason I couldn’t enjoy myself while he was out working. I started hanging out with friends and spending time with my family on the days he was working, and I was immediately more happy, less stressed, and didn’t mind him being gone quite so much. It sounds obvious, but I had a hard time realizing that it was okay for me to make plans with our mutual friends if he wasn’t going to be around! This year I’m not giving myself any room for wallowing, and I’m already thinking of creative ways Jackson and I can stay busy and happy when Corey is working long days – this little shift in attitude has been huge for keeping me happy, which in turn means I’m more pleasant to Corey, which is wonderful for our relationship. Sometimes it’s all about staying happy while you aren’t together so that you can be happy when you are.
I’m not dreading the busy season this year nearly as much as I have in the past – I’m actually kind of looking forward to some extra mommy-son time with Jackson and some extra time to myself in the evenings to work and watch the shows Corey doesn’t like! I’m also looking forward to being more intentional about making the most of the time we do have together, so that these next few months go by quickly and with as little stress as possible!
How do you work to stay close to your partner when life gets crazy?