Having children changes the core dynamic of any couple’s relationship. All of a sudden, the two of you have this little being that you are both responsible for, in some aspects, a little intruder on your relationship. Your time together is no longer your own. While this is a wonderful blessing, it can also be a tremendous strain on your relationship. How you respond to this adjustment is important to the stability of your family. (If you don’t have children yet, save this newsletter!)
Many couples make the mistake of putting the children first. You might be saying, but that is what we are supposed to do, right? Wrong. The heirarchy is opposite of what most people think. Most think the heirarchy is children first, then spouse and then self. Well it is actually the opposite. It should be and needs to be self first, then spouse and lastly the children. Let’s explore the reasoning behind this. When you are on an airplane, the attendant explains that in case of an emergency, the oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. You are instructed that when this happens, put yours on first, then you may assist others. The reason for this is that if you cannot breath you are of no help to anyone else. So it is with relationships and parenting. If you are running on empty trying to take care of everyone else, how good of a parent or spouse can you really be? When you don’t take the time to take care of you, do you find yourself irritable, less patient, less able to cope with daily stressors? How good of a spouse or parent can you be if you are in this state? It is by putting yourself first and taking time to recharge your battery (on a regular, consistent basis) that you are truly caring about your family, because it puts you in the position to give the best of yourself to those you love.
The foundation upon which your family is built is your marriage. Children need and deserve a stable home. Yet many couples put their relationship on the backburner to raise their children. This is the most detrimental thing you can do to your children.
You are your children’s primary role model for how relationships work. If you are not taking care of your marriage, what are you role modeling to them.
If you are not maintaining a loving connection with one another, the marriage will inevitably fall apart. At that point you will either remain married and role model a distant and unloving relationship to your children, or you will divorce, thereby breaking down the family system.
It is so important to carve out time to nurture the foundation of your family. Leave the kids with a babysitter so you can go on regular dates, put the kids to bed early in their own beds so you can have alone time, send them to grandma’s on the weekend so you can have an overnight getaway. They may complain in the moment, but they will thank you in the long run. I never get adult children in my counseling office complaining that their parents went on too many dates or spent too much alone time together! Remember, you really are doing what is in their best interest, and enjoying the many benefits of a satisfying marriage in the meantime!
Children do no benefit from being the focus of the family. The family benefits from your marriage being at it’s center.
My hope is that at the end of this newsletter, you will sign out of your email, schedule that much needed massage, call the babysitter and make a reservation at your favorite restaurant for you and your spouse. Your kids will thank you for it!