Marriage and Children
Do Your Kids a Favor: Put Them Second After Your Marriage
When was the last time you had a conversation with your partner that wasn't about the kids?
If your answer is, “I don’t remember”, then some important changes may be due in your marriage.
Married couples whose relationship is too heavily focused on the kids tend to neglect the ‘marriage’ part of their relationship. Neglect of anything leads to weakening and deterioration. Your marriage is too important to everyone involved, especially your children, to allow this to happen.
In her excellent book: Not "Just Friends": Protect Your Relationship From Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal (Free Press) relationship expert Shirley Glass identifies 5 steps a couple can take to keep the marriage bond strong.
I. Know What You Are Up Against
A child-centered marriage is one in which a couple's energy, time and passion are focused on their children's needs to the exclusion of their own.
The adults don't have an identity- either as individuals or as a couple- separate from their role as ‘parents’. Their only identity is "Mom" and "Dad."
You Likely Have a Child-Centered Marriage if:
*You never have a conversation where a child isn't present.
*You can't remember the last time just you and your spouse went out without your kids.
*Most of the laughs you share with your partner are about the children's antics and interests.
*Your children see you only as their parents, not as a man and woman who regularly show affection for each other.
II. Protect What You Have
Parents often feel guilty leaving their kids at home. But guilt-ridden couples should know that one of the best gifts they can give to their children is letting them see their father and mother being in love with each other and wanting to spend time with one another.
Your children likely have many friends whose parents are divorced. It’s easy for them to wonder if the same fate awaits them.
Children find it reassuring when they see their own parents sharing affection and having a private life as a couple. They also learn that the best relationships are mutually rewarding and satisfying.
III. Schedule ‘Just-Us’ Time Deliberately
Responsible parents have to do what's urgent and nonnegotiable. But you can say no to some of the outside demands on all of your time and energy.
How many extracurricular activities do your children have to participate in? Don't overschedule them, or yourself. One question successful couples ask is, “How much extra strain is this new activity going to put on our marriage relationship?
You have to put each other on your calendar. Your couplehood won't always get the time it deserves, but it deserves to get more than the scant leftovers of your time.
Some ‘us’ time Tips
*Try to leave yourselves time alone at night after you get the kids to bed.
*New parents should get the baby out of the bedroom.
*Older children shouldn't be allowed in when the door is closed (unless the house is on fire!).
*Get up 15 minutes early in the morning so you can ask each other over coffee: "How are you doing? What's going on?" (One husband calls it "coffee with hon.")
*Trust someone else to care for your kids sometimes and let go.
If Saturday mornings are full of sports practices and the afternoons are devoted to errands, make Saturday night your night. Hire a babysitter on a regular schedule, and take weekends or an overnight away by yourselves. If you have never done this before, your kids may offer some resistance, but hold your ground. Parents need their getaways.
IV. Be Aware: Love Is Not Enough
It is possible to feel love for your spouse and feel attraction to another person at the same time. If you find yourself captivated by somebody other than your spouse it's time to put up some walls - before you've slid too far down the slippery slope of infidelity. You need to take action to honor your commitment to your family and your marriage.
Also, couples who are trying to recover from an affair often become overly focused on their children. They want to believe that their love for their children will protect them from future infidelity. But that's naive. So be aware of the dangers.
V. Find Yourselves As a Couple
It's critical for couples to socialize with other couples so they have an identity as a man and woman relating to other adults. On double dates, try hard not to talk about your children all night. Think about what first attracted you and your spouse to each other. If you used to like to go hiking or biking or dancing together, go back to that.
Being a parent is one of the greatest honors of life. Your children “are a gift from the LORD, a reward from a mother’s womb (Psalms 127:3, ERV). Because so, they deserve the best you can give them. This includes letting them grow up in a family where their parents love one another as husband and wife.
Adapted from: Working Mother magazine, March 2003.