An interesting story by Jaime Primak Sullivan on Yahoo illustrates the conflict between being a husband and being a Dad. The author details how her marriage almost fell apart because her husband abandoned her emotionally and transferred his reservoir of affection and intimacy to the kids. Contrary to the stereotype where men feel neglected because their wives put the kids ahead of them the author described how her husband ignored her needs – emotionally and physically – despite her frequent feedback to him about what she was feeling. Even when it came to disciplining the children, she would take a fairly strict approach and he would often contradict her and appease the misbehaving child. Finally, when she threatened separation, he listened and they began to work on salvaging their relationship which essentially boiled down to the principle that the health of their relationships came before the needs of the children.
The idea that our partner’s needs should take precedence over our kids needs is not new. Most marriage and family therapists often remind couples that when as individuals they are feeling being second fiddle to the kids that they have to make efforts to give their relationship the highest priority. My experience with modern child rearing practices has led me to the conclusion that the issue of conflicting needs between a couple’s relationship and parenting has become far more prevalent. Raising kids to compete in our 21st century environment has created two working parents, the helicopter parent and the over scheduled child. No wonder couples find little time for each other and the health of their relationship.
What to do about it? First, make sure your relationship is in good shape before you decide to have children. At times couples will falsely believe that having a child will resolve their relationship issues. Be on the same page as far as parenting strategies. Read parenting books, discuss the good and bad of how you were parented, adopt a philosophy of parenting and never disagree in front of the children. Nurture your relationships with your partner. Schedule date nights, set aside time each day to share and most importantly pay attention to meeting your own adult needs even if it means not always fulfilling what you think your kids need. Children who are raised by parents who are loving and caring for each other will have healthier relationships in their lives and will learn that they are not always the center of the universe – an important lesson in our hyper-narcissistic society. .