Should you love your kids more than your spouse?

My uncle and his wife love each other to the exclusion of all else, to the point of neglecting the needs of their children. While it’s great to see two people so in love with each other, it’s terrible to see their children suffer for it. There needs to be a balance there.

On a side note, now that my cousins are adults with children of their own, one of them seems to be going the same way as his parents. He is so committed to his girlfriend that he turned on his daughter from a prior relationship because the girlfriend didn’t like her (thankfully that eased after the birth of their own child). It’s a problem with that whole family - they make terrific life partners but terrible parents.

Male, Married, One MonkeyBoy.

You chose your spouse. You can’t choose your children.

Your kids my very well grow up to be people you don’t particularly like and/or who don’t particularly like you, either. It seems foolish to maintain a pretense of familial love at that point. At what age can that point be reached? Further, why do you give them the benefit of the doubt before that point?

“I don’t love my children more than my spouse” doesn’t automatically make someone a bad parent. Nor does “I don’t love my children”, IMO. You can be a good parent without the motivation having to be love. A simple acceptance of responsibility due to dependents brought into the world through no will of their own, for example.

Of course, “I don’t love my children” usually isn’t meant to convey the absence of an emotion. It’s code for “I resent my children” or “My children ruined my life” or any other number of mantras grown out of selfishness. And these people probably will be bad parents as they will try to hold the children responsible for their own (the parents’) mistakes.

Just because you decided you didn’t really want kids, tough shit. You have one, and they’ve done nothing to you to deserve anything less than the type of treatment you’d want for yourself at that age. And the behaviour shaped by projected self-interest will probably look suspiciously like “good parenting”, whether you love the kid or not.

Divorced male, 3 kids (teens and lower)

As previously stated, it’s 2 different relationships.

I generally don’t like questions where you have to pick one thing over another (which is better, an apple or an orange), because I don’t think it makes sense.

There is no “top” priority, there is only some form of appropriate balance.

You can’t live for your kids or you don’t mature and have a fulfilling life. And if your kids are always second priority behind your spouse, then your message to them will certainly be received, and that is that they are not as important (which doesn’t help them properly mature).

Of course, I’m divorced, so you may want to take everything I wrote with a grain of salt!

It’s not so much as choosing one over the other. The whole point of the article was to get women to see that they cannot forsake their relationship with their man for the “good of the children”. It’s a great balancing act.

It’s no wonder that divorce rates are the highest they’ve ever been. When a mother pours all of her energy into her children, then there’s nothing left at the end of the day to nurture the relationship with her partner that (theortically) will be hers for the rest of her life.

Many people get to their 40’s or 50’s, the kids are grown and away at school, and they don’t have a clue who their husband/wife is. They’re strangers living under the same roof as roommates rather than a couple in love.

Many men (and women) turn to affairs because of neglect at home, too. If they aren’t getting the emotional and physical support at home, then they’ll get it elsewhere.

On Oprah today, the author of this article was getting a lot of flack from Super Moms but I know that she’s right.

Married with one kid already and another due in July.

I don’t know that I say I qualitatively love my child more than my wife or vice versa. I would die for either one of them. But I have thought about which loss would be harder to deal with and I know without a doubt that I could survive the loss of a child with the support of my wife better than I could survive the loss of my wife. Losing that companionship, that partner would be psychologically devastating and disorienting in a way that I’m not sure I could recover from.

The loss of my child would be almost as bad – I don’t even want to think about it, I’d be emotionally ruined – but at least I would have my wife to lean on. I love my daughter dearly but I think I need my wife more.

Married, one child.

It’snot really an issue; my wife and I both agree that the child’s happiness comes first. And even thoughwe are indeed trying to raise him as an strong, independant individual, this does not affect the fact that I am responsible for him until the day I die. He may be 60 years old with grandchildren of his own - it doesn’t matter. I still have to be there for him when he needs me.

Of course, for him to be happy, we have to be appy, and our relationship has to be happy. Destroying your relationship for the sake of your child is throwing out the you-know-what with the bathwater. So it’s really a non-issue.

Incidentally, my son is 11 weeks old and we already love more than anything else in the world. Not that we love each other less of course; quite the opposite. Love is not zero-sum.

If it were a life or death situation where I was forced to choose, my son has 50% of my DNA, so saving him would guarantee that my genes would be passed on. So I’d have to opt for him. On greater consideration, though, my wife has none of my genes, but has a proven ability to bear me more children in the future - a child to replace the one lost, say, and an extra to spread those genes further. So I might be wiser saving her. A bird in the hand, or two in the bush? No, wait, they’ve both just drowned while I was deliberating. Curse you, Richard Dawkins!

Married w/ kids.

If it’s a healthy marriage, w/ healthy people, I really don’t think this question comes up.

A strong marriage is good for your kids. Certainly part of keeping a marriage healthy is finding time for romance, and certainly doing that doesn’t have to take anything away from the kids.

I do think there’s an excess of people out there in the parenting realm waiting to tell you that however you’re doing it, you’re doing it wrong. There’s always some article to tell you…you should be spanking if you’re not, or you shouldn’t be if you are, and so on for any subject you like.

AND it is possible to bake a lot of cookies, cut out a lot of construction paper hearts and then put the kids to bed, get a babysitter, go out to dinner, and come home for hot Valentine sex.

I’ve been giving ** Qadgop’s** succinct “rule” regarding how the love for a spouse and a child can be expressed differently. But one can get into grey areas, where the rule is not so clearly defined.

For example, your spouse needs an operation to save her life and your child needs a post secondary education, but you only have enough money for one option. Clearly the need of the spouse would trump the need of the child.

But what if your spouse only needs hip and knee replacement instead ? That’s a tough one. I would defer that decision to the spouse.

Male, divorced, one child.

Any relationship can be transient. Spouses choose to be with each other and can just as easily choose to part. Children get no such choice.

If I were in one of those hypothetical situations where I had the choice of saving either my daughter or some other person, I’d save my daughter every time. I don’t care who the other person is. For the matter of that, I can’t think of too many situations where I would save any adult over any child.

Well, I think it’s an issue because many couples seem to be doing that unknowingly. You say love is not a zero-sum, but time is. There’s only 24 hours in a day, and if you are spending a disproportionate amount of it doing things for your kids, you are spending less time with your spouse. In many cases, quality time is quantity time. You typically can’t experience intimacy with another person if you only spend a few minutes/day with them… Nobody is suggesting that you should neglect your kids, just that parents whose whole life revolves around taking their kids to activities, parties, and sporting events are misguided. Their kids will benefit more from having two parents that love each other rather than having baked goods on a weekly basis.

The question isn’t if there is a balance (there is), it’s whether people are dedicating too much time and energy to their kids at their spouse’s expense.

Not to hijack but do you know the baby’s sex?

I’ve always felt that saying you love one person more than another is ridiculous. Every relationship is different. There are lots of people I would say that I “love”, but I really mean something different when it comes to every one of them, and it has nothing to do with their general relation to me (wife, mother, father, friend, etc.). I don’t have kids and I’m not planning to, but I don’t think this would be different if I did.

As to the OP, a very wise pediatrician who I worked with in med school told parents that two things had to be absolutely non-negotiable with the kids–1.) everyone will wear seat belts in the car, and 2.) Mom and Dad have to have time alone together every single day. (In fact, he decried most pediatricians for their habit of referring to the parents as “Mom” and “Dad”, as if that is their only role.)

While I love my wife dearly, I’m certain that I would be choosing to save the child (just arrived, 2 weeks ago).

Tuesday night we were watching House MD, and in the painful moment (for the fictional father/husband) where he has to give consent for an emergency c-section of the baby inside his soon to be dead via cancer wife, we began to discuss this very issue.

It was determined (proclaimed) by Mrs. Butler that “I’d throw you under the bus in favor of the butlerette.” I had no problems with this. Without me, she’d have the insurance payout, and be able to support the new Butlerette, perhaps not as well as if I was alive, but she’s a resourceful woman with great work skills. Except for my assistance in the child rearing, and the companionship that I provide, my part is pretty much redundant. She (and I) expect that I’d do the same in a similar situation.

It’s not a more/less love situation, it’s a “best for the most people” situation in our case. Our life is now dedicated (for the next 20+ years) to the raising of the Butlerette.

Hopefully I’ll never have to make such a choice.


Funny you should ask. We just did the ultrasound on monday. It’s another girl.

I don’t think the love/s are the same.

Two completely different paradox.

If you are indeed in love with your spouse, good for you. You love your children because they are :

  1. A small or large piece of you yourself.
  2. They bring immense amounts of joy into your life.
  3. Because they are your kids

Oh hell, who am I to qualify this statement.

I do think that you can “not love” your spouse. You can’t ever stop loving your kids.

Big big difference. Look at the marital/divorce rate?

Male, married, two kids, youngest 18.

I think it is a false dichotomy. The issue isn’t who to save in made up situations, but how to live your life. A spouse who demanded total attention to the exclusion of kids has problems. A spouse giving total attention to kids has problems too. While kids do need attention, spending time at the grandparents or with a babysitter is healthy. Part of parenting is encouraging independence, and it doesn’t show any less love.

There are going to be times when one or the other has to take precedence. When I was 10 and living in Africa, my father got very sick and my brother dumped by brother and me with friends for a couple of weeks while she stayed with him. Didn’t do us a bit of harm.

I would say the responsiblity to raise a happy, well-adjusted child is more important than having a good relationship with your spouse. That’s not to say you can’t have both, but I think the parent’s responsibility needs to be focused on making sure the child is raised well rather than on their own or their spouse’s happiness.

The reason I say this is that a child is incapable of meeting all their own needs and is not emotionally ready to face life’s problems. You can’t expect a child to know how to handle tough situations or know what it would take to make them happy. An adult should be capable of handling tough situations on their own if need be. Sure, it’s much better if the spouse is there too, but an adults can fall back on themselves to get through life’s problems. A child cannot.

That doesn’t mean that all energy should be focused on making the child happy and meeting the child’s needs all the time. That would raise a spoiled child instead of a well-adjusted one; some adversity is necessary in life.

Let’s say I had to pick between these two scenarios when my child is 20-years-old:

1. She is a happy, well-adjusted adult and me and my spouse are divorced and hate each other.
2. She is a messed-up druggie but me and my spouse are blissfully in love and will be so forever. 

If those are my only choices, I would pick number 1. If I could not find happiness on my own, that’s my own fault. But if I pick scenario 2, my child may never find happiness. I would absolutely give up the love I have with my spouse to make sure that my child is happy.

Married, two kids.

It’s two different kinds of love, so it’s hard to compare.

But in a life or death situation I’d choose my kids over my wife every time. And I’d expect her to do the same.

IMO, that would entirely jeopardise your relationship. Impulse purchases are one thing, but when one spouse downgrades a relationship - and deprioritises fun, and romance, and relaxation - that is when cracks start to appear.

I think Qadgop put it perfectly: