Couple says marriage was saved by implementing counsellor's '3x3 rule'

Many parents will know the toll that stress and not sleeping can take on a relationship - often it can feel more like you're soldiers in battle together than two people in love. 

But one parent has revealed the relationship tactic she said just about saved her marriage, following a fight with her husband over a midday nap. 

Writing for Kidspot, Sydney mother Bek Day says her days spent with her toddler and preschooler leave her feeling drained and knackered. 

That's why when her husband "slunk off" for a midday nap on an "otherwise innocuous Saturday" it triggered an argument over how much free time each parent had. 

While Day's husband regularly enjoys a 45-minute nap on weekend afternoons, Day says she enjoys mindlessly scrolling on her phone while he cooks dinner. The pair both acknowledged they'd reached the point where they were acting like "selfish teenagers," guarding their free time like "rabid dogs". 

"I'd stopped caring that after a massive day at work, coming home to be ignored for an hour while he dove into parenting wasn't the warmest welcome home for my husband," acknowledges Day.  

"And he'd stopped caring that sneaking away for a nap and just assuming I'd keep everything running smoothly on what was my weekend too, was a kick in the guts for the person who did the majority of the child-wrangling during the week." 

That was when her husband suggested the '3x3 rule' he had been told about by a friend who had been through marriage counselling. 

"It was the catalyst for a huge, positive change in the way we relate to each other." 

The concept is simple: Each parent receives three hours each throughout the week that's just for them. 

"Those hours can be broken up or taken in a chunk - however it works into the schedule, but for three hours each week, both parties could spend time completely alone, doing whatever it was that filled their cups," she explains.  

"In addition, an extra three hours was to be put aside for couple time. Whether that was all taken at once as a date night, or divvied up into 30 minutes each night where you both put down your phones and talked once the kids were in bed, the idea was introducing some sorely needed balance into the relationship."

Day says they've been implementing the new rule for a month, and she was "shocked at how much has shifted for us already".

While they're not magically "rested and rejuvenated", the resentment that had previously been festering was gone. 

"Knowing that I don't need to guard my 'me time' with my life because it's been wired into our family's schedule has meant I'm less snappy when someone interrupts my precious 15 minutes of scrolling," she says.

Now instead of "guilty driving the long way home" to get another 15 minutes in the car with her podcast, she can put time aside to listen to it later. 

"And instead of snatching 10-minute blocks of hurried dot-point presentations about our day or frenzied calendar invites to keep us on schedule, we've managed to squirrel away several leisurely half-hours of conversation". 

They've even managed to organise a few date nights - and Day says she's more accommodating of her husband's midday naps.