Should you love your kids more than your spouse?

Should you love your kids more than your spouse, and is this a healthy attitude? Today, Oprah had on the woman who wrote this article about why she loves her husband more than her children. The following is a quote from the article:

After reading the article, I agree with her that people putting their kids before their marriage isn’t always the best way to do things. Often, this shift of focus results in loveless marriages (that may end in divorce) and spoiled kids that feel they are the center of the universe (because they are in the eyes of their parents). The author of the piece also says that the loss of intimacy and passion in most marriages is directly related to how much of yourself you devote to your children.

How to you guys feel about her hypothesis?

I think she is absolutely correct. The parents are a couple and their relationship should be primary. This doesn’t mean they don’t love and care for their children - but the goal is for the children to grow into happy, self-sufficient adults who then move on with their lives. A strong, loving relationship between the parents is a healthier example than an unhappy couple that neglect one another because they are overly involved with the children.

At some point, the kids move out and the couple are once again alone together. If they haven’t nourished their relationship over the years, what do they do at that point?

I don’t believe you can compare the two. There are certainly things that a spouse can do that will make my children the priority, and vice versa. How do you judge who you love “more”? The extent to which you will go to have them in your life? Deciding who you would choose never to see again if you had to?

Sorry to double-post, I’m having difficulty articulating what I mean. I guess based on this quote, I’m saying it’s really a moot question because you don’t really have to love one more than the other under healthy circumstances.

Well, I was using her wording, but I suppose the question could be rephrased. Perhaps it would be better articulated as follows: Should your kids or your spouse be your first priority?

Also, I would appreciate it if everyone could identify their gender, and whether they are married and have kids.

I am an unmarried man with no kids.

Female, no kids. Well, my husband is in a better position to take care of himself if a situation requires my attention for both my kids and spouse, so in a particular situation, I might choose my kids. I’m not sure that priority covers it, either, because it would depend on the circumstances.

Can you give a specific example of where you might have to prioritize one over the other?

Married father of 3 here.

If I had to pick, I’d pick my wife in a heartbeat. I love my kids, but part of our relationship is my raising them to be be self-sufficient adults that will leave me. I intend to be with my wife until she or I die, and I don’t anticipate outliving her for long if she passes first.

Please don’t get me wrong- I’d be heartbroken if anything happened to my kids, and would likely spend the rest of my life grieving, but they are not as vital to my sense of ‘me’ as my wife is.

Unmarried, no children.

Nothing else to add?

Sure. When the woman was on Oprah, she spoke about how many mothers view holidays, specifically Valentine’s day. She said many of her female friends would spend Valentine’s Day baking cookies and cake for their children to take to school, and helping them fill out Valentines for their classmates. She, OTOH, would have plans with her husband (dinner, gifts, etc.). To her, her relationship with her husband trumped the relationship with her kids.

SHIT! Pressed send way too soon. Anyway, I think that the kind of love someone has for a child is different from that of a spouse, and that it can’t be compared or quantified. In some ways, the parent-child bond is a one-way street, because the child can’t reciprocate (until they’re older), and so the spousal relationship is stronger because of that, and also because you selected one another, whereas you didn’t select your children. The husband, unlike the pre-conscious child, is a full human being capable of emotions and desires beyond warmth and food, so the love is deeper and more meaningful than an instinct-driven relationship between a mother and her offspring.

However, I would sacrifice my hypothetical husband to save my hypothetical child, because the husband has lived more of a full life than the child, and it’s less of a tragedy if someone who is 30+ dies than if someone who is 5 or under does. I would assume most people would do the same.

I just find it a little odd that she’s comparing the two relationships at all. Of course you’re not “in love” with your children, you’re not supposed to be. On the other hand, your husband does not depend on you in the same way your children do. Not better, not worse, just different. Frankly, I think this woman is a little cracked if she’s feeling guilty over not being “in love” with her child, since the “in” implies reciprocation. It’s just a really weird article all around.

I’m nearly married, no kids. Female.

I’m not planning on having kids, so maybe I’m a bit skewed here, but I would put my husband first, unless it was a life-threatening type of thing, or the kids had abandonment problems. (if me going on a date with hubby while the kids have a sitter would adversely effect a kid with psychological problems, etc).

Kids are supposed to grow up and move out and start their own lives, where you’ve chosen your mate to be with forever (if all goes well).

Perhaps, but not in an absolute sense. Would you save a 5-year old child before your favorite scientist/artist/businessman/inventor? I think the point she’s making is that she views her husband as the center of her universe. He is the most important person to her. I don’t think she deifies him in some unhealthy way, just that she feels he is more important than anyone else.

Her point is that many women (although it can be applied to men) act as though they are *in love * with their children. This can be seen in the way many parents are more interested in getting their kids to like them, rather than being parents. Many parents do have the emotional relationship one would have with a significant other, with their kids (minus the sex). I think she is speaking to parents who act this way.

Aw, heck no. The babysitter can help the kids with the valentines. But that’s not about love, or even priority (in general). It’s about balance. Of course, it’s not healthy, and generally not necessary, to sacrifice one of these relationships for another.

Married, with kids.

The kids needs come before our needs. Our investment in them via genetics and having them hang around up to this point is such that their survival is vital to our happiness.

Our wants come before the kids’ wants. We plan to still have a life together once the kids are on their own (I hope to live to see the day). Therefore we invest in the relationship by indulging ourselves and each other.

I don’t see it as an issue of loving one more than the other (kids vs. spouse). The relationships are inherently different.

I didn’t realise it was a competition.

Married with kids also. I totally agree with Qadgop .

To go all the way, If I were in a situation like Sophie except I had to choose for either my spouses life or my child’s, I choose for the child. I fully hope and expect my wife to do so as well. Life is a need. I also think that it is pointless to compare the love for a spouse to that for a child. Spousal love can be very intense and all encompassing, but it doesn’t have the unconditional aspect that parents usually reserve for their kids.

I asked this same question as a poll a little while ago. I believe that kids should be the most important relationship. They depend on the parent for wellbeing and that relationship is permanent. A spouse should be an independent adult and many of those relationships are temporary. I agree that the relationships are fundamentally different however.

I am a big proponent of sociobiology so the idea that your children are the key to your genes’ future carriers a lot of weight with me.

Married with a kid. I think Qadgop nailed it.

Now if it were between Mr. Carmichael and Abbie Jr., my husband is going to be hitting the pearly gates – as would I, if he could only save one of us. That’s just what parents DO.

Part of being a good parent, I think, is teaching your kids (via example) how to be a good spouse. Your spouse is the only person in the world (theoretically) who has vowed to stick with you no matter what – and they didn’t have to vow that, they chose to. That kind of relationship deserves a special elevation, IMHO.

It’s not really a competition.

But look at it this way; if by some horrible circumstance I had to choose between the life of my wife and the life of my child, my wife dies. That’s a no brainer. As Abbie points out, that’s what parents do. Once you’re a parent the welfare of your kid is your purpose. And Mrs. RickJay will tell you precisely the same thing.

Similarly, my wife could, in theory, cause me to want to divorce her, and vice versa. But I’ll always me my kid’s Dad, no matter what they do.

But, moderation in all things. Balance is key. There’s a whole thread we could have about the weird tendency of some parents to deify their children and try to become their best friends rather than be their parents (the Gilmore Effect, so to speak.)

Married, no kids.

I believe that if I had a child, I should dedicate myself utterly to it, which means that everything is secondary to that child’s well-being. Romance with my husband, fun, relaxation, impulse purchases, all take a backseat role at that point.

I’ve seen way too many families who treat their children like accessories. They had kids because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do, and they try to fit the kids into their lives the best that they can. They still want to go out and have fun, drinking at bars, running around like teenagers.

In my opinion, the decision to procreate supercedes everything-- the kids become your life. I believe that if I had a baby, I would have to completely change my lifestyle. I’d have to accept that my relationship with my husband would change. I’d have to accept that our desires would come a distant second to the child, and I’d have to accept a responsibility that is incredibly huge.

This is why I don’t have kids-- because I don’t feel willing to dedicate the responsibility and effort that the endeavor requires. Plus, I’m selfish. :smiley: