Who do you love more: your spouse or kids?

This is kind of silly, weird and possibly stupid, and I don’t even remember how something so random came up, but I was having a discussion about this with my boyfriend.

His opinion: the average person should/would love their spouse more than their children. Loving your children any more than your husband/wife is either not normal, or an obvious indication that something is wrong with your marriage.

My opinion: it’s perfectly normal and OK to love your children more than everyone else, period, and I would expect most people to feel this way. Does not indicate problems in your marriage at all.

We both agreed that loving them both equally could be what “most” people feel, but felt our respective extremes were more likely to be the normal thing.

Of course, neither of us have ever been married or had children, so it’s just a random thing we have opinions on even though we don’t genuinely know anything about it.

Now I’m curious about what other people think.
Assuming an otherwise perfect and happy marriage, how do/would YOU personally feel? What do you think is most “normal”?

Love your children more?
Love your spouse more?
Both equally?
Stupid question because you love them in different ways that can’t be compared?
Stupid question because you either love someone or don’t, no such thing as more or less?

The last two things weren’t covered in our discussion, but now that I think about it, they make much more sense and are much more likely to be the case than anything else, but eh.

Love is infinite. The concept of “more” is meaningless.

I think love is impossible to quantify, it does not fit in a measuring cup or on a scale. I also define love not only as a feeling but as actions. (case in point- I acted like I loved my step-son long before those feelings grew becasue he deserved to be surrounded by love- it wasn’t his fault that I hadn’t developed those feelings right away). The love I feel for my children and my spouse can feel very different at different times, yet I have no doubt I love each of them.

The love for my kids comes from a sense of protectiveness and absolute awe and delight that these lovely little people came from me (and biological imperative…). As my little ones didn’t ask to be born and depend on us so very much, cherishing and raising them functional and well is critical.

The love for my spouse comes from attraction, respect and the bond of making a life together. I know that after my kids move on it will be all about my husband and me- and we will have our life separate from my kids. As a result, cherishing and working on our relationship is critically important for our long term happiness.

However, if I am ever in the situation where I need to choose my kids over my husband (abuse etc) in order to protect them I would in a heartbeat. Not even a question. I’m not sure the reverse is true. If one of my children would become violent or verbally abusive I would want to protect everyone’s safety but I have trouble imagining cutting he/she off, even if s/he was removed from direct contact in our lives.

So do I love my kids more than my spouse? I don’t think so, I think I love them different.

Frankly, I can’t imagine my spouse ever even questioning if I love my kids more than him or complaining about it he felt I did.

I don’t think love is infinite or impossible to quantify, but it’s a vague concept that can crystallize into all sorts of more detailed subsets.

I think it’s normal, or at least ought to be, to love your kids more than your spouse, specifically in the version of love that is ready to sacrifice or the version that eschews conditionality. So, people ought to be ready to die for their kids, as an obscure hypothetical kind of bold willingness.

But there’s also closeness and habituality, and your kids ought gradually to slip out of that, so you’re less and less a part of each other’s life, and you’re getting out of their way as they become adults and patriarchs and matriarchs in their own descendant trees, and you grow more and more out of the game. In this sense, you probably share more love with your spouse than with your kids.

Simple answer: I love my kids. My wife doesn’t like spiders, snakes, fishing, hunting, watching cartoons. My kids do :slight_smile:

I love them all, without reservation, but I guess it is a different kind of love, as one is the result of two adults who accept the whole person as is, and the other is an absolute love for the children I bore. But as stated above, if I had to choose between saving the boys and saving hubby, I would grab the kids first.

Hubby would agree with that move, by the way.

I think it’s possible to prefer your kids over your spouse to a degree that is unhealthy for everyone involved–for kids, to be the utter center of a parent’s attention, to be the thing that gives that parent’s life meaning and purpose, can be a terrible burden. How are you supposed to move on and make your own life when the person that has sacrificed and hurt for you will be permanently diminished by your leaving?

If love is ‘would die for’, I think we have a responsibility to die for our children before our spouses just because our spouses are adults and have a better chance of taking care of themselves. But I have known a handful of people who clearly like their children more than their spouses–people that would see a romantic weekend away from the kids as a chore and a hardship. While there may be phases in any marriage where this is true–marriages go through times when you maybe don’t much like each other–if it is the overall condition of the family, I think it’s unhealthy for the parents and the kids.

I love my kids more. That’s not to say I don’t love my wife, I do, Very very much. But I can imagine a number of situations where I would leave her and go on with my life with out her in it. I can’t even think of a possibility where I would do the same with any of my kids.

I go down stairs and find her eating the left half of the mail man? Grab the kids run like hell never look back.

Go down stairs and find the 5 year old just finishing the neighbor kid? Hold her and love her and tell her we’ll get her help.

Life goes on with out the wife. I don’t know what I would do without my kids…

I think they’re quite different kinds of love, as several people have described above. I want to spend the rest of my life with my husband, and I want my kids to grow up and have lives of their own. I’m more responsible for my kids, for now, than I am for my husband.

But won’t that be a problem when they grow up? Don’t you love your wife more than you love your parents, and don’t you want your kids to have that kind of closeness with their own spouse?

I think my parents can imagine life very well without me, because they have lives without me (or any of my five siblings). They visit, they call, they love me, but the child-having years were an interlude in their marriage, not the most important part of it.

Yes, of course. What part of that is incompatible with loving your children “more”? The OP isn’t asking if you want your children to love you more than their spouse, but who you love more. If I had to choose for my kids, I’d hope they, in turn, love their kids “more” (or at least, more actively) than their spouses, too. Good for continuation of the species, you know.

I agree with those who say it’s not quantifiable. I adore my daughter and my son. I’m proud of them for things which don’t impress me much in my husband. (“Woot! You washed your own hands, honey! Yippee! Aren’t you a clever husband?”) I don’t expect anything from them in return - love, attention, anything. That’s what makes toddler hugs so precious - they are totally voluntary. If a kid isn’t feeling the love, you’re not getting a hug!

But I know that these times of active love with my kids are limited by nature. Already it’s started - my almost 15 year old is more likely to want to hang out playing with his friends than his mom, and when he has exciting news, I’m lucky if I’m the fourth one to hear about it, after his three best friends… And that’s good. It means he’s doing exactly what teenagers should be doing - forming strong relationships with their peers.

My love won’t fade, but it will change as my kids change. Of course, as my husband and I change, our love changes too. But like other posters, I don’t know how to measure it.

I also agree that it can do kids a disservice to be the center of the family love at all times. There are times when it’s clear to my kids that Mom and Dad need to focus on one another right now, and that while their needs will still be met, some of their indulgences may not be. Sometimes that means the weekly pizza night will be skipped in favor of Mom and Dad going out on a date, for example. Not every week, and it’s not on a schedule, but sometimes. Sometimes Dad needs extra love because his dissertation is weighing on him, and sometimes the baby needs extra love because she’s not feeling well. We don’t try to make everything “fair” and equal all the time, whether it be money or stuff or love. We give what we can to the person or people who need it at the time, and it all evens out in the end.

I agree that “more” is really hard to define: I’m not talking about being willing to save the kid’s life before the spouse–I think that’s just sense–but of cases where the parent’s love for the child seems a whole order of magnitude stronger than that toward their spouse–not “I’ll wake you up first if their is a fire” but “If mommy’s having an emotional breakdown and junior has one of 17 Little League games, I’m going to watch baseball because he’s my first priority” or “I have no idea what my husband’s up to most of the time but can give you a minute-by-minute account of everything my 4th grader has done in the last week because I talk to him all the time” When a parent prefers a kid that much–and I’ve seen that happen–I think it’s a burden on the kid because they are going to see that their parent will be lose purpose, function, interest in life if they move on, leading to feelings of guilt or obligation on the part of the kids.

I would agree that that scenario is unhealthy for the kids and the adults. I’ve seen it too. However, without going to that extreme, I know in general I take more interest in the minutiae of my kids lives than my spouse, Although, that interest is not the same thing as love, IMHO.

Absolutely! I agree, that sort of identification with your kids isn’t healthy for you or for them. It must make the empty nest years unbearable, and the natural and healthy independence of young adulthood awfully hard to attain.

Wouldn’t it make sense, in a crude evolutionary way, that the husbands’s main job is to love the wife most, and the wife’s main job is to love the kids most?

They’re different kinds of love. One comes from passion, from building a life together, from learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

The other comes from nurturing, from teaching, from kissing boo-boos better to standing back and letting them wobble the bike down the sidewalk while you hold the training wheels.

It’s like asking which child you love best. I love my son best because he’s my son, and I love my daughter best because she’s my daughter. I guarantee if you’re not a parent you don’t understand what I just said, but the mom and dad Dopers are nodding in agreement.

Love is love. If you’re going to ask me who I sacrifice if the house is burning down, the answer is easy. I’m the last out of the house.

I love them all equally, but I bear a responsibility towards my kids that I don’t bear towards my husband. That may change as my kids get older and move out (they are still young) because I would expect to take a back seat to their partner and children then.

Like ivylass I would sacrifice my own comfort and safety for all of them.

I think a good parent should love their minor children “more”? All spouses, every single one of them, are expendable while children are not. You may think that you have a blissful relationship with your spouse that will last the ages but no one has complete control of that on their own. An affair, drug addiction, or revealed criminal behavior could cause all of that to go poof right before your eyes and there are plenty of innocent people that never see that coming. Things are more simple when your spouse is also the parent of your children but it is very common for things to be more complicated with stepparents and even mixed parentage for your own kids.

There is no reason to assume that 2nd or 3rd marriages will last when the first one didn’t and the kids are almost always caught in the middle. Just ask my father who recently finished marriage #3 for some unknown reasons that were probably his fault. He always neglected me and my brothers for the wife or girlfriend du jour and now me and my brothers have no choice but to make him pay for it forever because his relationship with us evaporated over time.

Children are flesh and blood through good times and bad. Spouses are glorified boyfriends and girlfriends with legal papers even though it may last a while. I started a thread here once asking what percentage of marriages people thought would end up happy. Roughly half of marriages end in divorce and some significant percentage of those that remain are not going to be happy either. The most common answers were that between 25% and 35% of marriages are honestly happy. Those aren’t good odds. Your children are.

(I have a happy marriage BTW but that doesn’t mean it always will be).

I wouldn’t even think twice when it came between saving the life of one of my kids vs. My wife. My kids would always win and my wife knows it. And vis versa ( I’ve never had to spell that before. I hope I got close) I would not only expect but hope that my wife would sacrifice me before the kids.

Now when it comes to the dog…


I actually always believed this was the natural order of things. It felt that way in my family when I was a child. I was a daddy’s girl. My dad could do no wrong in my eyes. (and believe me, he did plenty wrong in everyone else’s eyes.)

I always sensed that he loved my mom most, though. I always sensed that she loved us most.

Now, with my own family, I sense the same thing. My husband would never ever state that outright. But he has often said things to make me believe I am right about this.

I can’t believe it, but this is the first time that I actually considered the obvious reality that most people don’t see things my way on this.

And as far as some posters saying “love is love, there is no ‘most’”, I think maybe the OP means who comes first in your mind in terms of holding dearest to your heart. The way you could say that you love your cousins, but you love your sister more.