Kicking Off “The Year of Us”
2022 was “The Year of Casey” and oh, what a year it was. I shared a reflection, back in November, outlining all of the steps I took to improve my physical, mental, and emotional health. That post is worth a read, but in short, I was so happy that I carved out time to focus on myself and I ended the year feeling really good.
While my “Year of Casey” work is ongoing, and will never truly be done, I wanted to issue a new challenge for 2023. After some chats with Finn, we decided to have a “Year of Us”, where we work to strengthen our marriage and prioritize our relationship.
Marriage With Young Kids
Finn and I have been together for 19 years (married for nine) and we’ve always had a very strong bond. But, I’m not going to sugarcoat anything – marriage with two young kids is incredibly difficult. We both work full-time jobs and devote every spare minute we have to our children. Date nights and time spent, just us two, have definitely been placed on the back burner over the past three years.
However, we know that a strong marriage will only make our family unit stronger and we want our kids to see a loving and happy relationship. Just as I want my kids to see me as a whole person – with friends, hobbies, and a life outside of them – I want to model a healthy relationship for them too.
First, Focus On Yourself
I will say that I think it was really important for me to spend a year solely focused on myself before I could even consider doing a “Year of Us.” I needed to be able to bring the best version of myself to my relationship. I thought, “If I’m not feeling energized or motivated, how can I devote any extra time and energy to Finn?”
It’s just like what I emphasized throughout all of 2022. In order to be a better mom, I had to take some time for myself and fill my cup first. The same goes for being a better wife.
Monthly Date Nights
Okay, so what does the “Year of Us” entail, exactly? Well, we are still in the beginning stages of it, but the first order of business was to prioritize date nights again. Mandatory monthly date nights are our first priority.
Typically, at the end of a long week, the last thing I want to do is put on makeup and head out the door for a dinner date. However, once I’m there and outside of the monotony of life at home, I’m always happy to be there. It can be hard for me to relax and open up when I’m at home. There are just too many things that I could be doing, like folding laundry, cleaning up toys, etc. When I’m away from the house and my to-do list, I can let loose and truly be present with my husband.
The Key Ingredient
Now, saying “Let’s do more date nights” is one thing…but actually making it happen is another. We decided to divvy up the workload for our dates. We switch off each month, and that person is in charge of choosing a time/place/activity, booking the babysitter, making reservations, and more. This keeps things interesting and helps share the load.
We’ve been trying to enjoy an activity and a dinner together, instead of just leaving the house for a quick bite to eat. At the end of December, we went on a mini golf date to the Puttery, here in Chicago.
And then a few weeks ago, we went on a double date with our friends to a candle-making class. Our February and March dates are already planned, with reservations at restaurants we’ve been dying to visit for far too long.
We have ideas on deck for the remainder of the year, including a spa day, a staycation downtown, and a hiking retreat. I’ll be sure to report back and share as we try out new activities together!
Onto a bit of deeper work to strengthen our marriage. Both Finn and I attend individual therapy each week and it’s been a godsend for our mental health. Before having Ellis, we did virtual couples’ therapy as we wrapped our heads around expanding our family with a newborn and a toddler. It was very helpful, but we stopped our sessions once Ellis was born because…well, life!
Now, we are trying to get back into a bi-monthly couples therapy session. The biggest barrier right now is dedicated time during the day. Our childcare situation is still a bit all over the place (we’re waiting for a full-time daycare spot to open up for the little guy) and we haven’t been able to squeeze in couples therapy on top of our individual weekly therapy sessions. This is definitely something we want to prioritize during our “Year of Us”.
Family Meetings & Digging Deeper
I’ve chatted a lot about our bi-monthly family meetings and how they have really helped us stay on the same page when it comes to our schedule and what’s going on with the kids. It’s one of the best things we’ve implemented for our family.
However, these talks are all surface-level discussions, as we chat about schedules, childcare, home projects, and more. It isn’t a designated time to dig deeper and talk about our hopes and dreams. Before kids, these talks happened all.the.time. We had plenty of time on our hands to daydream, vacation, and talk about the important things in life. Now, those conversations rarely happen. So, to aid in our talks, we purchased a few things…
For Christmas, Finn bought us a few books and games to help our relationship discussions. I think there’s definitely some overlap with these items (no need to buy all three), but it’s been fun for us to take a Saturday night, sit on the couch, and use these cards or books to spark meaningful conversations.
I also want us to read the book Fair Play (I’ve heard rave reviews) and also watch the documentary together. Another thing we have on our list is to dive into our Enneagrams so we can understand how our numbers affect our relationship. I’m a hardcore 3, but Finn has never learned his number. We think it could be fun to explore that a bit more together.
Other Ideas For Us?
As I mentioned, we’re still dipping our toes in the water and deciding how we want to steer “The Year of Us.” I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’ve ever done anything similar to strengthen your marriage.
And don’t worry, I’ll be checking in throughout the year to share our wins (and losses) along the way.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.