I’m sure that many of you have heard that after having kids, marriage usually takes a hit. You grow distant and don't seem to have enough time for your spouse anymore. You put each other on the back burner to keep the kids in the forefront. But what if I told you that maybe your spouse should come first sometimes? And that prioritizing your spouse could actually benefit the entire family? Would you believe me—or would you question how dare a mother put anything or anyone before her babies?
Well let me tell you this: Yes, I’m a mother—but my marriage is still a top priority. And there are many reasons why.
To begin with, I am a mother—but I am also a wife. And it’s the love between me and my spouse that made us parents in the first place. So I try to maintain a healthy relationship so that our love doesn’t fade. There’s already a lot of pressure on parents when it comes to raising kids—but it doesn’t help to lose each other along the way. Because we aren’t just parents—we’re partners. And partners have to work as a team, which often means being on the same page with each other.
Prioritizing your spouse doesn’t mean that you’re neglecting your kids—it means you're nurturing their foundation.
As parents, you are the force that raises your children. Your kids benefit from a healthy parental unit and frontline. When you both aren’t on one accord, it can have negative effects on everyone.
After the birth of our son, I didn’t prioritize my husband. I put him on the back burner—waaaaay back. And it began to take a toll on our marriage. Because we were often not on the same page. We had many disagreements and misunderstandings. We weren’t communicating—and therefore we weren’t working as a team.
I often left my husband feeling alone, unseen and unheard. I amped on having “me-time” and scheduling time out with friends but didn’t really give thought to quality time with him. I used to think that sharing the same living space was enough. We saw each other every day—but that wasn’t enough to see each other and build an ongoing emotional connection.
Related: 6 myths about marriage after kids
Because that emotional connection between parents plays a huge factor in the upbringing of their children. Prioritizing your spouse doesn’t mean that you’re neglecting your kids—it means you're nurturing their foundation.
My husband and I recently started prioritizing each other and spending more quality time together—without our son. And our entire family is better because of it. Don't get me wrong, we still have tons of family time, but we capitalize on making alone time for each other as well. And we know that our child will benefit from us maintaining our love.
You don’t have to wait until you’re empty nesters to find your spark again. Your spouse should come first sometimes—and you can start prioritizing your marriage now.
You may wonder why your spouse should come first at times, and I completely understand. As parents, we have a natural instinct to put our children before anything else. But prioritizing your partner can not only make a huge difference for your marriage but for your entire family as well. Although your children may be a central part of your world and your identity, they are not the entirety of it.
When you hear something like "your spouse should come first" it sounds hard to actually do—and sometimes it is. Between getting babysitters and being exhausted, you don’t even feel like you have time for each other. But if you believe that sometimes your spouse should come first, then here are some ways that you can begin to prioritize each other:
1. Be intentional
Prioritizing your spouse means that you need to be intentional about making time for each other. This means finding time, even when there seems like there isn't any. My husband works long hours during the week and often by the time he gets home, we're both exhausted. But one thing that we've begun to implement is reading one page from Gary Chapman's "Love Language Minute for Couples: 100 Days to a Closer Relationship" before we go to sleep each night and answering a question about our marriage. This small habit may seem minute, but it allows us to reconnect after a long day and create consistent harmony.
2. Plan monthly dates
Another thing that my husband and I have started doing is going out on a planned date once a month. We schedule a babysitter ahead of time, make a reservation and block off any other plans for that day. It also helps if you and your spouse alternate who chooses the date activity each month. This allows you both to be more intentional and mindful about the ways that you spend time together.
3. Accept every version of each other
Because you both will go through changes. And parenthood is only one of them. Learning how to grow with each other and love every version that comes about will make your marriage stronger.
Related: 8 steps to the best date night in
I spoke with maternal wellness expert and licensed therapist Marcella Kelson, LMSW, MSc about why prioritizing your spouse is important and how it can benefit the entire family. Here’s what she shared.
“A healthy relationship doesn’t just impact your partner—it impacts your children too. For children, a healthy relationship increases the likelihood of a positive relationship with both parents. This doesn’t mean that conflict is nonexistent—in fact, a healthy marriage consists of disagreements, upsets and disappointment. What is crucial, however, is modeling repair.
Children benefit from understanding that their parents can experience difficult feelings and work through them. That is why working on communication in our relationship is so crucial—our children utilize our relationships as models for their own. When we work on our relationship, we are giving them access to more authentic dynamics and coping strategies.
In fact, I would offer a reframe for the idea of putting your spouse "before" your child—because prioritizing your spouse is one of many ways of taking care of your family and children. Your child benefits directly from a positive co-parenting relationship. When your relationship is strong, the whole family benefits from the health of the parental relationship—especially your children.
So I would actually argue that no one is getting put last or second when we take care of our marriage, it's just that we are nourishing our ecosystem from a different angle. Attention is fluid—sometimes our kids get more and sometimes our kids get less, but investing in the health of your marriage is a way of loving and nourishing your children.”
So if there's one key point to take away from this, it's that you should always make an effort to nurture your marriage and not allow it to fall to the wayside—especially after having kids. Because you and your spouse are the foundation for your family—and maintaining your connection will benefit everyone in the end.
Marcella Kelson, MSc, LMSW, is a maternal wellness expert with a background in mental health and developmental psychology.