For a Happy Life, Love Your Spouse More Than Your Kids, Says One Marriage Counselor

For a Happy Life, Love Your Spouse More Than Your Kids, Says One Marriage Counselor

Yes, little Johnny comes second in happy marriages. 

By Marianne Garvey

If your kid isn’t your whole life, boy, are you gonna hear it from the mom-shamers.

"Selfish," "bad mom," "neglectful," are all used to describe parents who take (much-needed) time for themselves and think, “hey the kid will be OK.” They just want their relationship with their significant other to survive — and thrive. And that’s a good thing.

Living for your kids and forgetting about quality time with your partner, like dinners, traveling, and sending the kids away for the weekend can be detrimental to a relationship. And yes, you can still love your kids and take a weekend away.

But guess what? Many therapists and experts believe that only focusing on your child or children is bad for the whole family in the long run.

Miriam Liss, a psychologist at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, wrote a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies on “intensive parenting” and found that “women who believed that parenting should be child-centered had reduced life satisfaction.”

Then there’s “helicopter parenting,” but if you’re hyper-focused on meeting every single need of your child, you’re likely neglecting your own, which can lead to depression.

Marriage coach Lesli Doares tells Personal Space that in today’s society, many moms can make you feel that “if you’re not slavishly devoting your life to your kid 24/7 you’re a bad parent” and so marriages often begin to suffer before the couple even realizes what’s going on.

Doares suggests, “leaving for a long weekend,” and sending your kid to grandma’s, which they actually think of as an adventure away from mom and dad.”

“If you experience any guilt, think ‘I’m taking care of my marriage which is actually the best gift anyone can give their children,’” she adds. “We think if we don’t do all this things our kids are going to suffer, but they’re not. And they get to spend special time with others where they do fun stuff.”

No matter what we choose to do as parents, there’s always guilt attached.

“You’re a bad mom if you go to work, or if you stay home and no longer have a career, so what’s the alternative? Someone is always out there judging you,” Doares says. “There’s a lot of fear that comes with parenting and I do think there is questioning when both parents work outside the home, so when they can spend time with their kids that’s what they do.”

If parents aren’t confident in their own choice to put their own relationship first, “that leaves space for guilt,” Doares explains, saying it takes a thick skin to brush off judgments form other moms.

“Judging comes form other moms’ own insecurity…I have confusion about what to do, I’m gonna project it onto other people,” she says.

Author David Code wrote a book in 2010 on the subject called, To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First. He sums up that “as we break our backs for our kids, our marriage and self-fulfillment go out the window while our kids become more demanding and dissatisfied.”

He tells The Guardian that overly-devoted parents “do not produce happy children,” and if you want the best for your kids, spend less time trying to be the perfect parent and more time striving to be the perfect spouse.”

“Today's number one myth about parenting is that the more attention we give our kids, the better they'll turn out,” he says. “But we parents have gone too far: our over-focus on our children is doing them more harm than good. Families centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives and our marriages for our kids.”

Code even suggests that kids who receive too much attention from parents become troubled. “By killing ourselves to provide a perfect, trauma-free childhood for our children, we're wasting our energy. The greatest gift you can give your children is to have a fulfilling marriage yourself,” he says.

Plus, they have to learn to become independent at some point, it may as well be early on, he adds.

A few tips on how to navigate your relationship if your children have been ruling the roost.

Acknowledge the stress

Talk about your relationship and what’s been going on and express that loving your spouse does not diminish your love for your children and does not make you a bad parent or person.

Focus on making the marriage number one, not the kid

Most experts say that kids raised to believe that they are the center of the universe have a tough time understanding they aren’t really that special in the real world.

A healthy marriage is a healthier family

A good relationship with your significant other helps every other area of your life, including parenting. Plus, as your kid grows, they want to see mom and dad happy and in a happy relationship.

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