In the last post, we talked about how parenting can take its toll on partnering. If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to check it out.
To quickly summarize…without proper care and attention, children can turn you from playmates to roommates. You can wind up focusing so much on being good parents you forget how to be good partners. This is how marital drift often starts.
But the good news is you can turn this around. Although the sooner the better, it’s never too late to prioritize your partnering over your parenting.
PRIORITIZING YOUR PARTNERING OVER YOUR PARENTING
There are many ways you can start to reclaim your partnering. Here are just a few:
Maintain a Regular Date Night.
I’m talking about a planned, scheduled, just-the-two-of-you date night. If you have to stop and think about when you last did that…it’s been too long! Budget for, and reserve, a regular sitter…even if you have to cut back somewhere financially to make this happen. It’s that important.
Carve Out Time to Be Together Each Day.
I know this is hard, but be creative. You may need to put the kids to bed a little earlier. I’m surprised by how many parents sacrifice time together just because they don’t want to go through the hassle of putting their kids to bed a little earlier.
There are other things you can do. Maybe you need to withhold the kid’s favorite videos so you can use them for those times when you want to spend some time together. My wife and I would take our kids to the park or the indoor playground at McDonald’s where they could play while we sat and talked. (Bring a friend for them to play with.)
Use your imagination, but do whatever you have to to get some daily time together.
Repeatedly Show Your Kids That Your Spouse Comes First.
When my kids were little and I would come home from work, the first thing I would do when I came through the door was to pull my wife close, give her a kiss, and hold her while we spent a few moments talking. When this happened, my children would try to worm their way between us, vying for our attention. But, like a mean father, I would make them wait their turn. (They hated it.)
This didn’t change when they were teens. They just changed their tactics. They didn’t try to worm their way between us anymore. Instead, it was, “Dad, can I have $20? Mom, would you drive me to my friend’s house? Dad, can I have the keys to the car?“ Again, I would make them wait their turn. This finally aggravated them so much they blurted out, “Why do you do this to us?!” I told them, “Your mom was here before you were here, and she will be here long after you’re gone. You’re short-timers here and you’re not even paying rent! So you can wait your turn.” (Needless to say, this didn’t go over very well.)
There are other ways you can impress upon your children (and your spouse) that your spouse comes first. Opening the door for your wife. Giving your spouse first choice. Sitting close together and occasionally making the kids find somewhere else to sit. Always defending your spouse in front of the kids. Again, be creative, but show your kids that your spouse comes first.
Lock Your Bedroom Door.
You cannot say you’re prioritizing your partnering if you’re not prioritizing your sex life. And one of the ways you do that is by locking your bedroom door. If you’re one of those people who feel it’s cruel to lock your children out of your bedroom, think about this…
I read a story about some parents who, after checking to ensure their child was asleep, decided it was safe to have sex. But just when things were at a climax (pun intended) they looked over to the side of the bed to find their child jumping up and down saying, “Can I ride too?!” The story ends with this couple promptly installing locks on their bedroom door.
Locks are necessary when you have small children who forget and who occasionally get scared at night. If you’re afraid they might get sick and you won’t hear them, then install a monitor. Just make sure it only works one way!
If your children are teens, locks are still a good idea. But the biggest deterrent is to tell them, “If our door is closed, you don’t want to go in there, because you might see something you can’t unsee.” (Wink, wink.) That will scare them off!
These are just a few of the ways to get your partnering back in front of your parenting. I’m sure you have others, and I would love it if you would leave comments and suggestions to help the rest of us out!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is…yes, you should love your children and yes, you should sacrifice for your children. But you shouldn’t allow your parenting to take priority over your partnering.
And the biggest reason why is that one day, your children will consciously or unconsciously pattern their marriage after yours. So set a good example of putting partnering ahead of parenting.