Tips: Loving your Spouse and Loving your Children: How Can You Do Both?
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, August 2005
Having a strong, dynamic, vital love relationship with your spouse is a wonderful gift to give your children. The love you feel for your spouse and the love you feel for your children are different kinds of love. And you have plenty for each.
There need not be a competition. Don’t get hung up with whether you love your spouse more or less than your children. It is futile to ponder whether you would save your children or your spouse if you were in a sinking boat. What is important is not to pit your spouse and your children against one another and to make one feel "less loved" than the other.
Part of this is a language problem. The word love is only one word and we are asking it to do a very big job ... Just think of it. We "love" our spouses, we "love" our children, we "love" our pets, we "love" our houses, we "love" our new outfit, we "love" our teacher, we "love" our coffee. How can one word be expected to express the myriad emotions we have for our children and our spouses? It cannot.
It is very positive for children to see their parents as loving, connected and committed to each other. A danger is that, some children can feel they are not worthy because they get the message that their value as a human being is somehow less important than the value of their parent. Children are not less significant. Their role is just different.
The love between spouses is a different kind of love and incomparable to the love between parents and their children. These different kinds of love can be good without harming or diminishing the other. Having said this, it is clear that having children changes a marriage. Some changes are positive some are not. Looking at the practical ways we can respond to these issues will contribute to the quality of our relationship with both our spouse and our children.
There are both negative and positive effects that children put on a marriage. Being aware of the plusses and minuses that are common to all marriages with children, allows you to find your own way in balancing family and married life. It will help you strengthen your marriage and bring you a lifetime of joy in raising a family together.
Among The Negatives:
1. Lack of energy, fatigue, feeling of being “on call”, change of physiology (hormonal changes), lack of privacy, can all contribute to limited sexual and intimate life.
2. Interests are redirected and conflicts arise over discipline or time spent with children.
3. Couple’s focus (and conversation) is solely on their children and things related to the children’s lives and well-being because that takes a lot of time (and there is not much time left if you factor in work and the needs of the child early on).
4. Putting marriage on hold is potentially dangerous.
Among The Positives:
1. Bringing a baby into your marriage (by natural birth or adoption) can provide great joy in sharing raising this child and parenting together.
2. Couples can perpetuate and create family traditions, legacies, etc.
3. Children can forge a couple bond; giving a common goal and interest.
4. Gives you the chance to have some play time together.
5. You can see attributes in your spouse that foster a deepened love.
It’s All About Balance
Here are some tips to keep balance in your marriage while raising a family:
• Stay Connected - Be playful, open and stimulate desire. Touch base with each other during the day and after a long day.
• Try New Things Together - Work together for a cause, take a class, do something you have never done before or something you let slide that you did when you first met.
• Problem Solve Together - If one of you has a problem with the other it becomes a problem for both of you. Find ways to work it out respectfully.
• Be Nice to Each Other - Don’t take each other or the marriage for granted. Be respectful, appreciative and helpful.
• Talk About Things Other Than the Kids - Current events, classes, community activities, your future, and your values.
• Remember What's Important to Your Spouse - Take interest in what your spouse values and be aware of what he or she finds important.
• Have a Fixed Bedtime for your Children - Create rituals around bedtime such as reading out loud, talking about the day or cuddling. Reserve the rest of the evening for your spouse. Children need structure and parents need private time.
• Carve out "Couple Time" - Stay away from the internet, t.v. and cell phone. Don’t be afraid to lock your bedroom door or use a do not disturb sign. But, of course you have already explained to your kids that mom and dad need private time and shouldn’t be disturbed unless there's an emergency. You are teaching your children to respect your boundaries (but you must respect theirs as well).
• Hire a Baby-Sitter or Exchange Child Care with Another Parent - Plan dates. Unless you put it on your calendar, it won’t happen. Get away for an overnight without your children.
• Demonstrate Your Love for Your Spouse as well as Your Children - Everyone needs a hug, a kiss and hearing "I love you".