Getting the pulse on how our marriage is doing can be tough. With parenting, we know when we are struggling with our children. There is clear evidence when there is strain with our children, with changes in behaviour, sleep, and eating patterns, which we have to manage and keep on top of. We make adjustments—their bedtime, our bedtime, their routine, our response time, etc. Andrea Nair talks about filling your child's attachment tank with one-on-one attention and focused time, which helps their self confidence and helps with behaviour.
When it comes to marriage, attachment can also be affected. Struggling marriages are often a slow burn taking time before we notice the strain. Working on this relationship doesn't always have a sense of immediacy to it. We know that conversations are lacking, sex is infrequent, irritability is the norm, but we put off addressing it, believing it will eventually improve after things are under control with the kids. And it is understandable. Adults are able to wait, aren't they? Little personalities, minds, and behaviours are being moulded, trumping the adult work. While we are looking away, other patterns are forming, hurts growing, and marriages are changing and sometimes breaking.
Giuliana Rancic sparked some debate in February 2013 when she shared that she and her husband “put our marriage first and our child second, because the best thing we can do for him is have a strong marriage.”
I agree with this principle. If we persevere and work on creating healthy partnerships, then as a team we will work better for our kids. Cohesiveness at the top is important, even when it seems like it is the least urgent work. When we come together as a parental unit, helping each other with the huge task and gift of parenting, we will do better. Too often we divide and conquer parenting, each taking our roles, tagging each other in and out, like ships passing in the wee hours of the night. This can work for aspects of parenting—you drive her to soccer and I will get him to piano—but not necessarily as the main or only approach.
How much easier would parenting be if you felt loved by your spouse, and your “tank” felt full? How would you feel if you faced your week with regular adult connection time?
If struggling to find time to connect, try these Four Great Ways To Date Your Mate.
Another benefit to prioritizing your relationship is the model for relationships that you provide your children. If they see you honouring and cherishing each other, they will look to honour and cherish their mate.
Many parents are running on empty and most of us are hard pressed to find any other way to cope right now. The emotional reserves to address things are getting used up.
Children sometimes become the priority, not just because they are so important—and they are—but because the adult relationships appear to be, or actually are, a ton of work. It's easier, sometimes, just to pour into your children and not address what is going on in the relationship. Or maybe you have been trying, but have turned your attention away because you were the only one working on it. Your children might be the only ones interested in your attention and time. In more complicated cases, it might be time to bring in a professional, as it hasn't been divided focus keeping you from the connection you desire, but more difficult and pervasive issues that could benefit from professional support and aid.
In his book, To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First, David Code suggests that parents should spend less time trying to be the perfect parent and more time striving to be the perfect spouse. Prioritizing your relationship with your mate isn't about under delivering for your kids, obviously a great deal of sacrifice is in order when you are a parent—it is about not over-parenting and under-partnering, and finding some balance.