Put Your Marriage First

Most of us try, but miserably fail at putting our marriage first.

Sure, we had the designated date night when the kids were young and we couldn’t survive without physical separation from them. But as the tedious demands let up and the kids’ activities kicked in, weekly date night just didn’t get first priority—and neither did our relationship.

Do you have to choose?

In 2005, writer Ayelet Waldman got national attention for an essay in which she professed loving her husband more than her children. Some people, including Oprah, applauded her; others vilified her. After reading her essay, and without choosing a side, what struck me most was a question posted by a reader: “Did you get married for the sole purpose of having kids?”

Chances are your answer is no. We all love our kids dearly, but we all need a healthy balance in our relationships. And that means giving back to the one that’s getting jilted.

Your relationship is the rock

“Think of your marriage as the foundation of your home and family,” says Jean Odwazny, licensed clinical social worker with the Child, Adolescent and Family Development Center in Lake Bluff. “If that foundation crumbles, so can the family.”

In more ways than one, you and your spouse are the first and most significant role models for your kids. How you communicate with each other, resolve conflict, deal with stress and disagree, provides your children with a positive example of how to behave in the world. Moreover, a strong relationship provides security for your children and models how a loving, respectful partnership should be.

Putting kids first just isn’t good for them

“When parents focus most of their energy on the kids, they don’t have the time or energy to relate as a couple,” warns Odwazny.

Putting all your emotional energy into your children can also lead to defiant, entitled kids who act out, or kids that become overly dependent on you as a result of all the attention. It’s like helicopter parenting on steroids. “All too often we see this type of competitive parenting,” Odwazny admits. “Parents become overly involved in every aspect of their children’s lives, physically and emotionally. By making their children the first priority—above themselves and their relationship—they are sending a message that their kids sit at the center of the universe.”

So now what do you do about it? Here are 6 great tips on how to rebalance your relationship with your spouse, and put your focus back on your marriage.