Couples need to focus on each other more and their kids less, according to family coach and author David Code. Not only will their kids be happier and healthier for it, so will their marriages/relationships. And I’m taking notes: cause when I was married, I admit I sometimes put being a great parent ahead of being a great spouse. And I don’t want to make the same mistake in my next serious relationship.
Code argues that many of today’s married couples are ‘overparenting’ their kids; that is, they constantly supply them with a diet of attention, devotion and over-praise. Even though they may be doing so with great intentions, this child-centred approach creates self-centered, demanding kids. Moreover, the parents themselves end up anxious, exhausted, with little left to give each other. This is a recipe for family disaster, says Code, who has written To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First.
Code says that when couples start putting their spouses on the back-burner, it’s a countdown till they grow distant and detached from one another. Negative feelings and issues are swept under the carpet. They learn to subtly avoid each other; ie, stay up late to watch TV or work longer hours. Eventually, they become so ’emotionally divorced’ that it may even ill-affect the children. Cause kids pick up on tension between parents, and some might act out in response.
My girlfriend Hannah – a divorced mom/ step-mom of four who recently blended her family with her boyfriend’s – says she has learned from her failed marriage and is putting her new partner first: “If I don’t prioritize ‘us’ , I’m certain that the sheer chaos of having four needy kids will wear us down to the breaking point. I can’t let that happen – this time round, the stakes are even higher: I’ve already broken up the kids’ home once, I don’t want them to go through that again.”
So whether you’ve already blended your family with another’s, you’re in the process of doing so, or, like me, you’re thinking about what a healthy relationship might look like in future, here are some tips from Code worth noting – they’re all about putting your relationship first and breaking your over-intense focus on your kids:
- Have sex with your partner/spouse and have it regularly. Schedule it in if need to.
- Take a vacation together every three months, some with kids, some just as a couple. Code says this is a biggie, that people come up with excuse after excuse as to why they can’t/shouldn’t. He says, “Once your family has the memories of a couple of vacations under your belt, you’ll be happily addicted to travel and you’ll take pleasure in daydreaming and looking forward to the next trip.”
- Once a week, forgo running errands and shopping and focus on relationships including those with relatives and friends. Code says socializing recharges batteries and re-invigorates a marriage.
- Be present with each other. Even if it’s while you’re doing the dishes with each other or after you get the kids to bed, invite the other into your emotional and phsyical space to share.