Let's face it - marriage and parenting is hard! As much as kids are a joy and family life can be rewarding beyond words, kids are tough on marriages! The challenges are many and wide ranging. Finding time for each other, getting on the same page with parenting views, sharing the increased load for household and task management, and finding the energy for sex, dates and affection -- all of these are just some of the things parents face.
But the danger comes when your children either become the sole focal point of your family life or you let your children come between you in various ways.
Here are some marriage and parenting warning signs that may signal danger for your marriage:
1. One of you starts sleeping in your child's bedroom or you frequently have your child in your marriage bed. Sure, for short periods of time, most parents will find a child in their bed for one reason or another (or fall asleep in their child's room). They may be sick, having trouble sleeping, or having trouble emotionally adjusting to some life event. But prolonged allowance of children in your marriage bed will eventually erode your intimate connection, making it not only difficult for sex but also difficult for that important touch and private intimacy that you share before you fall asleep and when you awaken.
If you are frequently letting your children sleep in your bed or are regularly sleeping in their room, take action now and get back into bed with each other!
2. One or both of you start overruling each other when your child approaches you with a request. This goes beyond simply forgetting to check with each other about what the rules are or what your spouse has already said about the issue. This is deliberately overruling the other parent's judgment about a situation. This may happen over time because of pent up resentment or a fundamental disagreement about marriage and parenting. A lot of times these disagreements aren't talked about openly and are played out in passive-aggressive ways.
If you find yourself overruling your spouse, stop immediately! Think about the reasons you may be doing it and tackle it at that level. Read a parenting book together or take a class. Deal with your resentment and disconnect.
3. You've stopped going on vacations or dates with just each other. I know prioritizing both marriage and parenting is challenging. It's difficult to find babysitters for an evening, let alone a whole week/end! Sometimes parents find it hard to leave their children, wanting to expose them to every kind of experience. Others just get so used to being with the kids, they forget to prioritize time with each other. Either way, losing that precious time with each other will eat away at your connection.
If you can't remember the last time you went out on a date together, plan one as soon as possible. Schedule it and make regular dates a priority. Build up your community of support so you can have babysitters on hand. Don't let your children be the sole focal point of your family life.
4. One parent is bearing more of the burden of household and parenting tasks. Obviously, this can lead to a lot of resentment. In marriage, parenting was never meant to be a solo endeavor, whether it's with a spouse, a grandparent, an aunt or a good friend. You know the phrase? It takes a village... These days, there are too many demands on parents to do it alone. Play dates, homework, soccer games, dentist appointment, laundry -- it never ends.
If you are a parent who feels all alone, talk to your spouse gently about it. Don't shame or criticize but do request more help. For some people, it helps them if you make a list. Have weekly meetings to coordinate schedules and tasks. If you're the one who thinks you might not be doing enough, pick up the slack! Habits are hard to change but it doesn't take that much to swing by the store on the way home or get up a little earlier to make the kid's lunch. Your spouse will be so much happier!
Remember, the best thing you can do for your children is to have a happy marriage! Don't wait too long to get help parenting effectively together.
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