You swear it will never happen: you will not become one of those couples who lets the fires of romance burn out as soon as children come on the scene. You know the ones – with puke stains on their T-shirts and bags under their eyes, they seem to have little in common other than an obsession with telling everyone about their wonderful child. Then one day you wake up with the Barney theme song running through your mind. You realize that your conversations with each other now revolve around sleep (as in who has had less), poop (as in who has cleaned up more), and the new host of Blue’s Clues. Maybe keeping the romance alive is going to be tougher than you thought.

Take heart! Though it may seem impossible, your love life can survive the diaper phase, if you’re willing to work at it. Here are a few words to keep in mind as you learn to redefine romance.

1. Plan

Often we think that true romance must be spontaneous. That may have worked when it was just the two of you, but things have changed. Don’t sit around waiting for a free moment – it will probably never come. Make your relationship with your spouse a priority and build romance into your schedule. Find a regular babysitter so your minds are at ease, and then plan a weekly date night and guard it zealously.

2. Flexibility

When children enter the picture, you may need to alter your dating habits. Perhaps you’ve always gone out in the evenings, but you’re finding that it’s a bad time to leave your child with a sitter. Or maybe the cost of babysitting makes regular dates impossible. Get creative! Try an afternoon date if that works better with your child’s schedule. Swap babysitting with another family. Put the kids to bed a little early and have a romantic dinner for two at home. There are many possibilities, but you’ll have to start thinking outside the box.

3. Boundaries

It’s hard to say no to a crying baby, but as your children get a little older, don’t be afraid to tell them, “It’s Mommy and Daddy time right now.” It’s also important to set boundaries for yourselves. It’s all too easy to give our best time and energy away to everyone and everything else, other than your spouse. Let the dishes sit in the sink for a few minutes, and carve out some precious time to reconnect with one another.

4. Intimacy

Now, about the “S” word – and no, it’s not sleep. Sex. It’s what made you parents in the first place, and it still has an important role to play in keeping your relationship strong. Our Hollywood culture doesn’t really prepare us for the fact that a healthy sex life requires work, selflessness and a sense of humor. The demands of raising children will impact your sexual relationship, but if you put your spouse’s needs first it can be better than ever.

5. Priority

Above all, remember that the greatest thing you can do for your kids is to love each other well. Maintaining a happy, healthy marriage relationship will bring needed peace and stability to their lives and will provide a great example for them to follow later in life. Make loving your spouse your first priority. Your kids will thank you for it – and you will, too!

This article was written by: Glen Hoos

Photo Credit: Christin Hume