Juggling work, children and the ongoing daily grind can play havoc with even the strongest of long-term relationships.
And we’re constantly hearing expert tips about how to keep our love lives on track.
But what advice should we really follow, and what happens when a long-term couple, whose honeymoon period is a distant memory, stick to the professionals’ guidelines for a week?
Writer, Claire Dunwell, 33, and husband Ian, 47, have been together for 10 years and have two children.
They asked Belinda Gaskell, a personal and professional lifestyle coach, for tips on how to stop their marriage from hitting the rocks.
Here’s what happened when they followed them...
1. Have lives outside the relationship
Claire often teases Ian about how much he goes to the pub with his mates. She says: “Before the kids came along, we used to love our Saturday nights out and our relationship in the beginning was centred on socialising. When I got pregnant, staying home took some getting used to.
“Now, our priorities have changed but I still think Ian secretly hankers after the social life we had. He plays football every week, too, and I think I sometimes begrudge the time he gets to let his hair down.”
Having separate interests is crucial according to Belinda, founder of B-SMART coaching.
“Time together and time apart is essential to appreciate each other,” she explains. “It’s crucial to have outside interests so that some degree of independence is maintained so a couple has things to talk about.”
Verdict: After taking Belinda’s advice, Claire encouraged Ian to meet up with his friends for one extra night during the week.
She says: “When I told him I was going to the gym on his day off, leaving him to look after the children, he didn’t mind one bit. Give and take made all the difference and we were both definitely more refreshed for having that time doing things we enjoyed apart.”
2. Have some more bedroom action
Once children come on to the scene, intimacy is often the first thing to go in a relationship. Broken sleep and the demands of parenting mean sex takes a back seat.
“Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily about how good the sex is but more about how much you have it,” explains Belinda. “Sex has been proven to be important in long-lasting relationships as the feel-good hormones make couples feel closer.
Ian agrees: “Young kids are exhausting and Claire loves to be in bed early, while I like to stay up later. It does cause problems in the bedroom department and we often talk about how we should make more effort.”
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