Maintaining a Healthy Relationships While Raising Children

December 13, 2004

Raising children is one of the most rewarding and challenging undertakings a couple takes on. It is certainly not easy to raise children today (I’m not sure if it ever was), and it clearly requires a lot of energy and focus. However, I have recently seen in my practice with couples a tendency for the couple to become overly child-focused to the exclusion of the being a couple. What began as a couple madly in love with one another gradually becomes a couple disengaged from the process of being a couple and diverting most of their energy to the children. Through this process the couple disconnects from each other and then begins to feel that their needs as an adult in an adult relationship are not being met. This usually results in tension and conflict manifested in either tense arguments or withdrawal or a combination of both.

The responsibility of raising children is a daunting one for parents; however, nowhere in the ‘marriage or relationship contract’ does it imply that this process should supersede the task of keeping the adult relationship healthy. There needs to be a balance between the two tasks which, of course, requires some thought and planning. One idea that I suggest to my clients is to create a ‘date night’ where the parents plan an evening out each week with each other alone. That’s right; leave the children at home with a sitter. The benefits of this simple action are many. First the couple has an opportunity to tend to their relationship, and, secondly, the parents get to model for their children how a healthy adult relationship operates. This action also sets clear boundaries between the parent subsystem and the child subsystem within the family unit.

So, go out and have a nice time with each other, and try not to talk exclusively about the children. They will be okay and perhaps thank you one day by making good choices in their own adult relationships.

William F. Coffey, MSS, LCSW is a Senior Therapist is the Center City and Voorhees Offices. Request an appointment today.