It happens to the best of us – one day you may wake up, dishevelled, exhausted and low on patience from raising your kids, look at your partner across from you and think to yourself, “Who is this person and what did they do with my spouse?”. Because our attention is so heavily focused on our little people once we become parents, it’s only natural that sometimes the big people in our life get overlooked.

The truth is – if you don’t consistently put your best foot forward, even the best relationship may find itself crumbling. If you’re feeling less than enthused about your love life and would like to save your pocketbook from counselling sessions, it isn’t too late. Make personal changes starting today.

Start by bookmarking the following 16 Traits That Will Save Your Marriage After Kids as a daily reminder of what it takes.

16. Gratitude

It’s not usually good to compare your own situation to another’s – but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed to cherish what you’ve been blind to right in front of you. Gratitude is the first step to evolving as a person and becoming a better partner and parent.

Think of the thousands in a worse spot than you and remember that some pray for the things you unintentionally take for granted – whether that’s your health, home or your children.

15. Dedication

It isn’t good enough to try your hardest some of the time – not when it comes to the relationship that your children are influenced by the most: the one between their parents.

To truly make things better for everyone involved, it isn’t even enough to meet the other person half way. Each individual has to give 100%. Don’t think of the huge goal you are trying to attain, since it can become overwhelming. Just think of giving a little bit more of yourself to your partner, every day. Small steps lead to big victories.

14. Communication

Communication encompasses a wide spectrum of things – what you say, what your body language says and also what you keep from your partner. Our word choice is also extremely important when we talk to our kids during times we don’t get along with our partners. What, though, is the fundamental part of communication? Listening.

With children to look after, one on one time for adults to talk uninterruptedly is rare. That’s why it’s so pertinent to carve out a chance for you to speak. Make it a regular thing after the kids are in bed or before they have woken up – and watch your relationship get better for it.

13. Empathy

If we could all live a full day in the shoes of our spouse, many arguments would never begin – and many relationships would be saved. Recognizing what your husband or wife goes through on a regular basis, how they feel about the kids, if they feel fulfilled or not in their current state, or what they wish for, helps grow intimacy.

I’m speaking for many women when I say one of the sexiest things a man can do is to acknowledge a woman’s feelings. I’m sure men probably feel the same (if they would only admit to it, am I right?). Ask questions if you can’t see life from his/her vantage point or take on some of your partners responsibilities to get a feel for things that bog them down.

12. Humility

We’re all incredibly complex people who are constantly learning. To think bringing kids into this world won’t change us is the worst idea to bring into parenthood. Kids exist to challenge us into becoming better people – and raising them is full of trials and errors.

Recognizing we won’t always be right, and admitting that out loud to someone we share parenting responsibilities, with means the world. There is no way to be a perfect parent or partner, but a million ways to be a good one.

11. Flexibility

When you live with another person, you can’t accept everything to go your way. Now throw in a kid, two or even three, and the chance of everything panning out just the way you planned gets even slimmer.

To prevent arguments from happening on a regular basis, you need to learn how to accept defeat and roll with the punches. I’m not saying you should be a push over and not fight for the things that are deeply important to you, on a moral level – but let’s be real – most arguments that couples have are over petty things.

10. An Open Mind

They say it’s mighty hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Good thing, then, that we’re humans. If you’ve been raised a super particular way by your parents, you can’t expect your spouse to have had the same upbringing or your child to be a carbon copy of you.

Understanding that you need to mesh your ideals with your partner’s when it comes to raising your kids is step one in bettering your relationship. It’s all about give and take, remember? So the next time your spouse wants to ensure the kids get a proper swimming education, and you couldn’t care less, try to at least doggy paddle.

9. Affection

Affection isn’t sex. Affection at its core is just two or more individuals being nice to each other. Sounds easy, right? We all know, though, that the theory is always harder than the practice. While hugs, soft touches, compliments and encouraging words are so very common in beginnings of a relationship, the romance tends to dull out over time – especially once you have kids who steal most of your love.

The key to ramp it back up is to plan several affectionate little things per day. Whether that’s surprising someone at work with lunch, buying your partner a shirt they love, or simply sending a naughty text – it’ll make your significant other feel cared for and thought of.

8. Mental Balance

There are times people get into a relationship, have kids, try to find their own identity in motherhood or fatherhood and end up with a lot of mental health concerns. Whether it’s increasing anxiety, paranoia about the safety of your children, or various levels of depression – as the adults in the home, it is up to you to seek out ways to still your mind.

The first step to making a rocky marriage after kids better is to get a handle on your physical and mental health. When your foundation is good to go, everything else will come so much easier.

7. Reliability

It’s one thing to not follow through on your word when you’re just letting one other person down. It’s a completely different thing, though, if you don’t stay true to your promise if there are children involved. Balancing work, home and parenting life is hard enough as it is alone – so the sheer idea of having someone else to completely rely on is dreamy.

We all get busy but our subconscious tends to be available for what is important to us. Next time you say you will do something – do it. If you’re scatterbrained, write it down and don’t waiver until it’s accomplished. Physically check it off as completed and watch the person who matters most to you smile with joy.

6. Control

Words that come out of our mouths unfiltered and backed by extreme emotions only lead to more issues. Next time, rather than taking a ball and running with it, pause before you react. Even if you’re so angry you’d want to scream – see the moment as a challenge to better yourself.

Learning to withhold judgement by not lashing out vocally towards our spouses and kids is a sign of maturation. We’re all capable of it and it definitely can save a lot of hurt feelings in the long run.

5. Sex

Obviously marriage is so much more than sex – but physical touch can do wonders when you’re stark raving mad at your baby daddy or mama. A lot of people say they can’t get into the mood physically if they hardly have 1:1 time to talk to their spouse – which I completely understand.

But this becomes a question of who came first – the egg or the chicken.  Let’s hope neither does and you do. See what I did there? In any case, sometimes you just need to close your mouth and let your bodies do the talking.

4. Acceptance

Accepting things as they are and as we are is not an action of defeat. Accepting things means letting go of our perceptions and making choices based on truth.   An adult relationship that also governs over offspring in the house is hard work – and that’s okay. We need challenging times in our lives to undo the conditioning of our own childhood – and make conscious choices for the first time.

When you look at your partner from a genuine place of acceptance, knowing he or she is a human being with flaws, composed of many experiences that have shaped his or her life –  you will recognize a bit of yourself in them, too. And in that acceptance is the start of a good relationship.

3. Humour

Remember before things got serious (bills, chores, temper tantrums and all), when your spouse and you made fun of each other a lot (without those really offensive comments)? I know it was a reality at some point, because the entire honeymoon period is essentially that – but it doesn’t mean you can’t get it back.

Laughter is a medicine and shakes away our daily stresses. As parents, we so rarely get a chance to step away taking care of kids – so learning to let loose at home is essential. It’s also a good way to get into touch with our inner child. Next time your kids are tumbling around – take your partner’s hand and join them. You’ll see how quickly problems dissolve once you’re laughing.

2. Time For Yourself

Recharge whenever you get the chance to. Nap when those little tykes of yours do. I know – it’s one of the pieces of advice I also rolled my eyes at – a lot. But if you don’t take me up on it – at least step out of your home once a day – all by yourself. No, the house won’t burn down and you will be better for it.

If you don’t make time to be an individual outside of the role of “mom” or “dad”, what will you bring to the table when it’s just you and your spouse alone in a room? It’s easy to revert to talking about the kids (I see all of you nodding your head in agreement), but we should never lose track of being an evolving person with your own agenda and goals, aside from parenthood. Your kids will leave your nest one day, after all, so ensure you are left with a spunky identity of things that make you you.

1. A Head Start

We all have preconceived notions of how life with kids with be. But not too many thoughts go towards how your relationship will be once you become a mom or dad. Perhaps the people who have already become parents don’t want to scare their friends by talking about the more difficult parts. Perhaps it’s just one of those things you can’t explain in words and only come to know once you enter that phase of life. Or it’s still a taboo in our society to admit to struggling.

Whatever your opinion is, at least tell your own kids when they’re old enough to get a head start on bettering their relationship before they beget kids. Knowing how you want to handle arguments, resentment and parenting differences ahead of time will save you time and headaches. Whether that takes place in the form of premarital counselling or a looser format, like setting aside an hour a day to discuss your parenting future, it won’t do damage.