I’ve had an unspoken rule about the decor of my master bedroom since the day my husband and I got married. The only pictures you’ll find in there are pictures of him and me. Walk around our home, and you’ll see plenty of pictures of our kids and family hanging on the walls, but in the bedroom, they’re banned. In a house that’s overrun with toys, that has crumbs ground into the carpet and a seemingly endless supply of sand on the hardwood floors, this room is just for us, and I deliberately exclude photos of anyone else.
It’s a symbolic way of saying that even though we’ve created a family of four and have a loving extended family, our relationship as a couple is special and belongs just to us. If all goes according to plan, our kids will grow up and move out of our house to enjoy meaningful lives of their own. When that happens, my husband and I don’t want to be left staring at each other, searching for common interests, wondering if we even know each other any more because all we’ve done for the last twenty years is focus every minute and every dollar on our kids. So, we invest in our future now.
We regularly leave our young children with babysitters to get a night out alone. We take mini-vacations without the kids, too. They’ve never slept in our room, either, not even as infants and not even on their first nights home from the hospital. It’s all tied to the same idea as the pictures. Our marriage deserves respect and privacy, so we create the time and physical space for it, in the way that works for us.
Don’t get me wrong. We love being together as a family, and we’re happy in this stage of our life. We wanted to raise children, and we value our time with them. They’re innocent and adorable, and they look at us as if we’re their whole world. But, it’s exactly because we’re their everything that they can’t be ours. In our family, we are the sun, and our children are the planets. We’re the center of our family, not the other way around.
It’s our job to make them feel safe and confident to orbit around us. It’s our responsibility to give them a stable, happy home. We put up a united front when they test our boundaries, and we show them what a healthy, respectful relationship looks like. To do this together, as a team, we make our marriage a priority, and it sometimes takes precedence over the desires of our kids.
I’ve never been a single parent or had to co-parent, but I’d imagine the same concept applies, just in different ways. To be the best parents to our children, we have to be strong enough to carry the weight of that responsibility. I can only speak from the perspective of my marriage, though, and, for us, that means our bond has to keep us coordinated on the day-to-day logistics of the family, in sync philosophically on how we want to raise them and allow for a physical and emotional intimacy that isn’t replicated anywhere else.
That’s a tall order, and one that requires continuous effort to make successful because raising young children is almost all-consuming. Even though we don’t have photos of our kids on the walls of our room, we lie in bed at night talking about them, looking at pictures or videos from the day, and remarking on the delightful highs and exhausting lows of caring for them. It’s because they’re the easiest topic of conversation that we don’t need to see their framed faces on our dresser when we go to sleep each night.
Instead, we close our eyes to our smiling baby faces on our wedding day, reminding us who we are as a couple and what made us want to jump into this life together in the first place. By bedtime, we’ve given enough of ourselves to everyone else. Visually declaring that our room is just for us, just for our marriage, is a subconscious nudge to keep us connecting, not just coexisting.