A common message given in today’s society is that when you have children, your children’s needs always have to come first.
But the trouble is, marriages often end up falling apart because the time and effort put into meeting the children’s needs often means the emotional needs of each spouse are neglected.
Read below to find out how making your SPOUSE’s needs a priority is actually beneficial for your children, and your marriage.
1. Meeting your spouse’s emotional needs will give your spouse the strength they need to be a good parent.
What is often the case these days is that one, or both members of a married couple end up investing all of their time and energy into meeting their children’s needs, which means that they start failing to consider the needs of their spouse.
As their spouse feels that their emotional needs are not being met, they start to feel resentful and may begin to withdraw their emotional support from their partner, and invest less time into childcare.
As a result, the spouse putting all the energy into raising the children feels unsupported, neglected, and resentful that their spouse is not putting more effort into parenting. And soon enough, the marriage starts to fall apart.
You will be better parents if you and your spouse are nurturing each other’s emotional needs.
The more effort you put into meeting your spouse’s needs, the more they will also meet yours. This will give you both the emotional resources YOU need to be able to give your children the support THEY need.
Remember the love that created your children in the first place. You and your spouse were the ones that started this family, and you will be the ones left together after your children leave home.
If you keep working on your relationship while you are raising your children, then you will have the opportunity to enjoy this really special time together once your kids are grown up and independent, and re-discover the passion of your love.
If you have neglected each other, however, you may find that all that is left of your marriage after the kids move on is an empty shell.
Don’t let this happen to your marriage!
No matter how hectic things are with the children, make your spouse’s needs a priority.
And if you feel you are having trouble meeting some of these needs logistically, have a talk with your spouse about how you can overcome this.
The fact that you have recognised your husband or wife’s needs will make them feel loved and understood, and together you can come up with the best ways you can continue to care for each other, even in times of heavy strain.
Remember that your spouse is an individual with their own unique interests, rather than just a wife/husband and parent.
Understand that they need to occasionally have alone time (just as you do), and do your best to accommodate this as a couple. Having short breaks of time away from family life will give you both the ability to come back fresh and ready to give.
It is also important for you and your spouse to occasionally have time completely to yourselves as a couple. Leave the children with a babysitter or grandparents, and use this time to just fully enjoy each other’s company.
Keep communicating and keeping up with what is happening in each other’s lives, and keep the romance alive whenever you can. For example, doing little things to surprise each other, like buying their favourite treat when you do the supermarket shopping.
Make an effort to give your spouse regular compliments, and express your appreciation for what they do for the family. Remember there is nothing wrong with showing a little affection in front of your children.
You will be able to gauge what’s appropriate - obviously a make-out session or groping each other is off-limits, but things like a kiss in the morning and putting your arm around your spouse on the couch is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it is a sign to your children that you love each other.
2. Your children will have a great relationship modelled to them.
What some parents don’t realise is the massive influence that their marital relationship can have on their children’s ideas of what a ‘normal’ adult relationship is.
Without being aware of it, children tend to take in what they view of their parents’ relationship, and add it to their internal relationship model. This includes the way that you behave and interact with one another.
This relationship model is often what your children will base their relationship expectations on in their future romantic relationship.
That is, your children will tend to have the same expectations of how their future partners should treat them as how they see their same-sex parent being treated by their other parent as they grow up.
So if kids see their parents fighting all the time, and having a generally unhealthy and unhappy relationship, chances are they will grow to believe that this is what relationships are like.
Therefore, they may accept being treated less than they deserve in future relationships.
But when they see you and your spouse making each other’s needs a priority, they will expect their own future spouse to meet their needs as well.
So if you can maintain a healthy, loving marriage while you are raising your children, you will provide them with a great model of how relationship partners should treat each other.
In addition, when you and your spouse always present a united front to your children, they will view you as a team, rather than two individuals they can play off against each other.
Therefore, they will understand that you support each other’s parenting decisions and guidelines, and will be more likely to stick within the boundaries you have set.
3. Your children will learn respect.
There are times when your children’s needs DO need to be the number one priority – especially when one of their basic needs is being threatened. For example, when they are sick, tired, hungry, cold, thirsty, or scared.
But for their less urgent wants or needs, it is important that your children learn that sometimes they have to wait before you can attend to these.
That sometimes OTHER people will have needs that have to come first – even those of their mom and dad.
When your children see you and your spouse placing importance on each other’s needs, they become more aware of their mother and father as a human beings with needs, rather than just parents.
They will learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them, and develop a sense of respect and consideration for others.
Unfortunately, many parents are so concerned with immediately meeting their children’s every want and desire, that their children learn to expect that they will always be put first, and begin to view the needs of others as being less important in comparison.
This can lead to an unhealthy pattern of development where children become very egocentric (overly concerned with themselves), and don’t learn to value their parent’s time, attention and support.
So don’t feel guilty if you put a more urgent need of your spouse’s before a less urgent one of your child’s. You are simply prioritizing the needs of the family unit as a whole.
I hope this post has given you a fresh perspective on how placing high importance on the needs of EVERY member of the family (not just the children), actually keeps the family unit bound more tightly together.
It IS possible to be a great wife or husband and parent.
Please feel free to share your experiences of how having children affected the dynamics in your marriage.