I just came across an article about a therapist called David Code's who's written a book arguing that putting your childen second to your marriage is better for them:

Today's number one myth about parenting is that the more attention we give our kids, the better they'll turn out. But we parents have gone too far: our over-focus on our children is doing them more harm than good

Does he have a point?


asked 07 Feb '10, 09:49

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edited 07 Feb '10, 13:01

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Tammy ♦♦

I don't think there should be a "first" or "second" - clearly children are a very important part in the life of the parents, especially the mother (since fathers can never quite understand what it feels like to have a new life growing inside you).

It is, however, very important for a new family, to redefine and rediscover the relationships. The parents have to come to new terms, because they are no longer a dual relationship, but now it takes the form of a triangle. If the family can balance out the triangle to be of an equal shape, so to speak, everything will come out allright.

If however, any side of this triangular relationship is "overweighted", everything is endangered.

I would say it's all about finding the right balance - there are no real recipes and predefined "first" and "second" for that.


answered 07 Feb '10, 11:08

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+1 for finding right balance

(07 Feb '10, 13:27) Phil Seller

+1 nicely worded! I agree its all about the balance too.

(07 Feb '10, 22:34) Emi

One of the few takeaways I had from Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was that this notion that one thing could have ultimate priority over another is an oversimplification. It depends heavily on the situation.

The example he used in the book, related to work vs. family, was that if you had a night out planned with your wife, and you had a situation where you really needed to get something done for work, in some cases you might talk to your wife, explain the situation and agree between the two of you that the work really needed to get done, and in other cases you may reasonably decide that your relationship absolutely needs this night out, and you tell your boss the work will be late.

It seems like children vs. spouse should be the same. You have a role to play in both of their lives, and you have to live up to those responsibilities. I think Code is saying society is making us feel guilty if we don't spend every possible minute catering to our children, and maybe he's right. But that doesn't mean that one or the other is more important.


answered 07 Feb '10, 13:57

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+1 for the point about "feeling guilty". I think society does tend to do that.

(07 Feb '10, 22:37) Emi

I can't speak from experience (yet), but before we got married, we heard that most divorces occur at one of two stages:

  1. Very soon after getting married.
  2. Once the kids grow up and leave the house.

After surviving the first issue, we plan on taking care not to fall for trap number 2. In practical terms, this means making sure to find the time to be with each other, without the little ones. In the real world love needs maintenance. I would imagine that children get more from parents who truly love each other.

I wouldn't go so far to say which relationship is the most important, however. It just looks to me like it's far too easy to center everything around the children until you just don't have much in common with your wife/husband. Perhaps the advice in the article was exaggerated to compensate for this.


answered 07 Feb '10, 15:20

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Gilad Naor
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edited 07 Feb '10, 15:30


+1 for point about "children get more from parents who truly love each other" I feel that that is very true.

(07 Feb '10, 23:00) Emi

You can add another stage to your list, which is soon after the birth of first or second baby.

(08 Feb '10, 07:16) Benjol

+1 Benjol, I know 6 couples who broke up before their baby was 1.
Emi, I agree, it reminds me of the old saying "The best thing a man can do for his children is love their Mother." Which of course, goes both ways.

(08 Feb '10, 07:47) Neen

@Neen, you beat me to it :)

(08 Feb '10, 08:43) Benjol

@Benjol, thanks for the heads up :-). We still have a few months to prepare ourselves...

(08 Feb '10, 10:51) Gilad Naor

Many years ago, I heard a wise man say:

The best thing a man can do for his children is love their mother.

Which pretty much sums things up for me.


answered 08 Feb '10, 08:40

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Ah, great minds think alike! :)

(09 Feb '10, 05:17) Neen

There are two important aspects to this issue that are really separate:

First, love and relationships need to be worked on, and everyone must choose how to allocate their time according to their own goals. In other words, we each have to choose what to sacrifice for things we believe are more important in the long run.

Second, there are stages and times in our life where our decisions must be different than they would have been a decade ago, or would be a decade from now.

I can't really say that my relationship with my wife is more or less important than my relationship with my children, because there's no objective way to measure that, and it isn't a stark black and white choice. At this stage in my life I am spending more time with my children than with my wife. Similarly she is spending more time with them than with me. But we have 5 kids under 10 years old, and their needs far outstrip our needs - in other words we recognize that our whole family will benefit more if they have a good childhood and we have a good marriage, than if they have a mediocre childhood and we have a great marriage, or vice versa.

We are certainly putting aside other ambitions at the moment so that we can meet each others and our family's needs, because we recognize that in the long run we will value our family relationship more than we would value a stronger portfolio (career, financial, retirement, etc).

On the other hand that doesn't mean we're completely setting ourselves aside either - but we're allocating our time according to need, available resources, and our particular stage in life in order to meet our long term goals.

But the article is not saying we should put our children in daycare 24/7 - it's simply saying that a balance must be achieved, and many people have tipped too far towards the idea of "Great Childhood and Mediocre Marriage." It further points out that such families may believe they are providing a great childhood, but the reality is that the improper focus means that both relationships are suffering.


answered 08 Feb '10, 17:06

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Adam Davis
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Asked: 07 Feb '10, 09:49

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Last updated: 08 Feb '10, 17:06