Having children is a dream for many people, and for obvious reasons. Yet it cannot be denied that these tiny, utterly dependent beings instantly put the parental relationship on the backburner. Having a child is a blessing, but after this transition from duo to trio, many couples find it difficult to protect their married life.
In the past, my husband and I were one of those lost couples who put children before their lives as a couple. For the first few years I had a “kids come first” mindset. We focused so much on our children that our marriage began to break down and our children were not thriving as much as we wanted them to.
When our kids were 8 and 6, my husband and I took a parenting class that completely changed our priorities. The recommended order of priority was as follows:
Of course, children need and deserve a great deal of love and care. Sometimes their needs will and should outweigh any other priority. Nevertheless, when we invest in ourselves, that is, in our growth, our happiness, and our purpose, we feel empowered, giving us more to give to our relationships. In turn, when we (constantly) invest in our marriage and keep our connection strong, this love energy flows directly to our children through us.
By exploring this idea, children and their parents share a very intimate connection. As the parents develop their love together, the effect spreads: their children directly benefit from this energy.
In addition, research suggests that children are happier and more secure when raised by parents who have a strong relationship compared to those raised in an unloving or confrontational environment. Children can sense the discord between parents, and unfortunately, they tend to take responsibility for their parents’ distress and unhappiness.
Relationship researcher John Gottman has observed that the stronger the relationship, the more children benefit from it.
Happier couples are also happier people.
In our own family dynamic, through simple changes, my husband and I have seen for ourselves that good parenting sometimes means putting our relationship first. It often seemed counterintuitive, especially to me, but this new approach wouldn’t have worked so well if only one of us had agreed to prioritize the other.
Not only were we happier and less exhausted, but we saw our children become more independent and confident. By putting our marriage first, we were able to create a more stable foundation for our children and a better example of lasting love.
We often live in the mindset that a marriage should work on its own, give us as if we were the client. We must ask ourselves, especially if we feel dissatisfied: “Am I treating my partner as the most important person in my life? »
We tend to prioritize our loved ones first. But once the honeymoon phase is over and if we are lucky enough to have children, it becomes all too easy to miss our partner and focus on the children. This can be especially true for the mother, as women are often raised to be nannies, and this desire to care for someone naturally shifts to children.
Questionnaire for couples with children
Putting our partner first and making sure they know it is essential to maintaining and deepening our love. Loving our partner deeply is one of the best things we can do for our children.
Feel free to answer the questions below with “true” or “false”. It can help you think about how to make your partner a priority and where you might want to try something new—in your thoughts, words, and actions.
Every couple is unique and has their own relationships, so tailor them to what you see as priorities for each other:
- I know what makes my partner feel number 1 in my life.
- While it’s okay to disagree about parenting, I don’t openly disagree with my partner in front of the kids.
- In my personal life, I spend more time interacting with my partner than anyone else.
- If I’m with my partner and someone else calls, I usually don’t pick up the call.
- When something important happens in my life, my partner is almost always the first person I want to share it with.
- When I go out with my partner without the kids, I don’t have guilt in my voice when I tell them because I know it’s best for them that we spend time together.
- My partner and I regularly have personal and genuine conversations.
- When my partner wants to show me something or tell me something, I give him my attention even if I’m doing something else.
- My children feel loved and a priority, but they also know they don’t come before my partner.
- My partner and I take an adult holiday at least once a year.
- Throughout my week I go out of my way to do little things that I know make my partner feel loved.
- My partner and I go on dates at least two to three times a month.
- My partner and I seek out and nurture our common interests and personal dreams, which are not necessarily child-oriented.