Believe it or not – while the list of responsibilities, lessons, chores and joys of parenthood are too numerous to list, one of THE most important, and most difficult, tasks of parenthood is to maintain a healthy, vibrant relationship between the parents.
Once the baby arrives, it becomes everyone’s priority and treasure. That “status” often does not fade and the children soon become the most important focal point of the family. While there are many positives that come from being the center of attention of loving parents who are devoted and committed to the health and success of the child, there are often other factors in the family balance that may be slipping out of focus and may be declining toward a level of very little importance. All too often, the parents’ relationship becomes one of those items.
Many parents succumb, keeping the children in the spotlight, figuring they will rekindle their marriage after the kids are gone. Others believe that their most important mission is to give everything they’ve got to the children; to serve as a legacy and to make the next generation even stronger and more accomplished than their own. Regardless of the philosophy that parents subscribe to in order to justify why they prioritize the children over themselves, we know that there are some very serious consequences when this phenomenon occurs.
Without keeping an eye on their own relationship, parents may no longer feel loved or respected by their spouse. They may feel jealous of the attention their children get from the other parent and form a competitive, hostile relationship with a child or children. As the parents’ relationship becomes diluted, it may be more likely for one or the other to seek attention outside of the marriage. Decreasing sexual intimacy may leave them feeling irritable, disengaged and/or unloved. None of these are healthy for the parents’ relationship or for the family as a whole.
So what can we do to protect our marriages while still prioritizing our children and being the best parents we can be?
• Touch! Physical touch is critically important and does not need to be a long, drawn-out lovemaking session.
• Spend at least 5-10 minutes talking to each other every day without the distractions or company of anyone else.
• Plan “dates” to be alone, away from home for at least a few hours at a time, once weekly.
• Do something thoughtful to let your partner know you are thinking of them – and only them – once weekly.
• Use babysitters and relatives who will watch the kids so you can get a weekend away at least once annually.
• Set bedtimes for the kids and stick to them. Make bedtime early enough so there is time left in the evening while both of you are still awake.
Remember – you are setting the example for your children to learn how parents and lovers treat each other by the way you live your lives together and the way you treat your relationship. You are the FIRST and MOST MEMORABLE examples of “what grown ups do,” “how to behave” and “how to treat your partner” when they are in a committed relationship one day.
Set your best examples for how to become an adult who can love their children and their partner. Then you are truly prioritizing the future for your children!