The title of this article has probably shocked you. "How could you say that?" I hear you gasp. "My children will always come first. What kind of person would put their partner before their children?"
A smart one, I dare reply. Yes this is shocking and rather confronting to read. But as parents we need to hear it.
With one in three marriages ending in divorce, this is a topic we need to address.
As a child of parents who divorced after many years of being unhappily married, I learnt one valuable lesson from their mistakes. The best gift you will ever give your children is the gift of a solid relationship with your partner -- two parents who love and adore one another. And here's why.
Your children joined your partnership, not the other way around.
Before sh***y diapers, years of broken sleep, screaming toddler tantrums, endless laundry and bills, there was the life BC (before children) that you shared with your partner. You most likely devoted hours every day to feeding this relationship that blossomed into a deep intimacy and devotion you thought nothing could break... until you had children.
Don't forget the reasons you fell in love with your partner and who they are besides being a parent. Remind yourself what activities you used to do together that defined you as a couple.
Your relationship with your partner will be the model through which your children perceive relationships and intimacy.
Children are like sponges; they learn through observing and imitating behaviours. The dynamics between two parents who have a strong and loving relationship will serve as a solid foundation for a child to learn about gender roles, intimacy, respect and healthy boundaries.
A child will watch their father adore his mother and develop an internal model about how a man should treat a woman. It is powerful for a child to watch their mother have a strong sense of self within her intimate relationship with her partner and live according to her values.
As parents, the way you handle conflict and stress as a couple and within the family unit serves as a powerful role model, which a child will replicate when they step into the world. Investing in your relationship with your partner will ensure both your emotional needs are met, creating a strong bond as couple to handle future conflict and problem solve together as a team.
You children will one day leave the nest and you will be left alone with your partner.
Yes, parents, one day the inevitable will happen. Your beautiful children will grow up and depart the nest, leaving you all alone with your partner. As busy parents, it is so easy to get caught up in the demands of raising our children that we have no energy to invest in the intimate relationship with our partners.
But relationships are like bank accounts; you make daily deposits and withdrawals. If you're stuck in an unhealthy balance of investing every ounce of energy into the kids and investing nothing with your partner, once your kids leave home your 'bank balance' will be pretty non-existent.
If you don't invest daily with your partner, eventually you will be left with an empty home. You will find yourself living with a partner who you feel you no longer know, leaving you both to rebuild from square one.
How can you invest in your husband when you're both so exhausted from the never-ending demands of raising a family?
Life is a balance, and we are all busy juggling multiple demands at once. I hear your frustration when you say you have no energy left for your partner. But let me challenge you.
If you noticed you were driving your car one day and it was running low on petrol, would you keep driving for days or would you pull over and fill it up? I'm guessing you'd make a stop at the servo, no matter how tired or busy you were, because you know the consequences are you'll break down somewhere on the side of the road with no petrol. That becomes a non-negotiable priority for you.
Unfortunately, it's harder to see the supplies of our relationships are dwindling -- we can live in denial and hope we don't 'crash and burn'. But until we make our relationship a priority, we are skating on thin ice.
Here are some tips you can implement every day:
- Schedule in 10 minutes every night as an appointment in your phone to talk and reconnect
- Make some form of intimate contact every day, whether it's hugging, holding hands or caressing
- Save up for a date night once a month
- Write each other small notes of gratitude daily thanking each other for their hard work.
- Listen to one another and speak using positive language, without casting blame.
- Engage in activities you used to enjoy before children. This might be cooking together or watching your favourite movies once the kids are in bed.
It's never too late to start making small investments in your relationship that will reap large rewards for you as a couple and your family as a whole.