How To Balance Parenting & Marriage

Updated April 20, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Many married couples experience a dramatic lifestyle change once they have children. The transition can make it difficult to navigate priorities, and some partners describe feeling as though they don’t have enough energy at the end of the day to focus on each other. However, it is possible to be good parents and still maintain a strong connection in your marriage. Scheduling one-on-one time, making time for intimacy, and expressing gratitude can help you balance your family and your marriage. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by parenthood, a licensed therapist can be a good resource.

Finding Time For Your Spouse Can Be Hard

The Temptation To Value Children Over Marriage

Many parents find it challenging to meet the needs of both their partner and their children, which can be further complicated by other demands like work, school, and other responsibilities. As a result, many couples find themselves prioritizing their children over their marriage. 

However, the largest factor impacting a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development is the quality of their parent’s emotional relationship. Good parenting includes prioritizing your relationship.

According to many psychologists, including Donna Novak, Psy.D., it’s beneficial for your marriage, your family, and your mental health to prioritize your partner over your children. When you prioritize your marriage, you can be a better parent because you have the full emotional support of your partner, your children will feel more secure, and you can achieve more personal growth and life satisfaction.

Strengthening Your Marriage And Your Family

The following tips can help you make space for your marriage, which can benefit your whole family: 

  • Learn Your Spouse’s Love Language

People naturally want to give and receive love in different ways. According to New York Times best-selling author, Gary Chapman, Ph.D., who coined the term “love languages,” there are five different love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service, and receiving gifts. If you don’t know your love language or your partners, you can take the free, official quiz

By focusing on the type of love your spouse wants to receive, you may be able to better support them, empathize with them, and build physical and emotional intimacy. According to a 2022 study, expressing affection through your partners love language enables greater relationship and sexual satisfaction. 

  • Set Bedtimes

Consistent bedtime routines can improve sleep quality, language development, bonding, family functioning, and emotional development. Additionally, setting regular bedtimes can provide you and your spouse with nightly one-on-one time. 

  • Have A Regular Date Night

Scheduling a low-stress, engaging date night can provide opportunities for increased bonding and higher marital satisfaction. Your date doesn’t need to be expensive; it could include grabbing takeout to eat at a local park, going for a bike ride, or taking an art class together. Utilizing a shared calendar to set aside weekly or monthly dates may be helpful.  

  • Maintain Intimacy

Some couples with children feel resigned to wait for their kids to grow up before they can rekindle intimacy. However, Christina Caron, writer for New York Times, recommends avoiding this kind of complacency. The longer you hold off on building intimacy, the harder it will likely be to rekindle. 

If it’s been a while, you might want to start with smaller acts of intimacy, such as holding hands, massaging each other’s shoulders, or kissing more passionately. Openly discussing your sexual needs and desires with your spouse can help build attraction, arousal, and satisfaction. 

Dr. Emily Nagoski recommends establishing your bedroom as a space for just you and your spouse to be together. That may mean establishing stricter boundaries with your children (particularly if they’ve been co-sleeping), but it can make your space feel low-stress and safe for sensuality. 

  • Lean Into Teamwork

You and your spouse are a team, and respectful collaboration can help children learn healthy communication skills. You can do this by

    • Solving problems collectively with your spouse
    • Managing conflict in a productive way
    • Making space for open communication
    • Providing consistency in parenting strategies
    • Respecting each other’s differences

Sometimes, spouses have different parenting styles, which can make teamwork challenging. If you and your partner feel as though you can never agree on anything, it might be a good idea to contact a licensed couple’s therapist or work through some communications worksheets together. 

  • Maintain A Manageable Schedule

Afterschool activities can provide children with structure, social opportunities, exercise, and improved self-esteem. However, children can become stressed, sleep deprived, or less confident in themselves if their schedule becomes too busy, and afterschool activities can be demanding on finances and parent’s time. Prioritizing a few activities that your children enjoy, while still allowing for family time, homework time, and time with your spouse can reduce stress, financial strain, and help make schedules more manageable. 

  • Strengthen Your Communication Skills

Effective communication is a key component of most healthy marriages. According to Shelley Sommerfeldt, Psy.D., healthy communication builds trust, connection, honesty, and vulnerability, which becomes increasingly valuable if you have a family. 

Even couples with strong communication skills can benefit from working on communication; however, the following signs may indicate that you and your spouse have an unhealthy communication style that requires some re-working: 

    • Passive Aggression: When you have a disagreement with your partner, one (or both) of you may be prone to saying hurtful jokes, ignoring, or making sarcastic comments.  
    • Avoidance: When disagreements or arguments arise, avoidant people may walk away, change the subject, or shut down. 
    • Aggressive Communication: Raising voices, criticizing, name calling, blaming, controlling, or making it difficult for someone else to talk are all signs of an aggressive communication style. 

If you’ve identified passive aggression, avoidance, or aggression in your relationship, it’s a good idea to work toward healthier communication strategies

    • Many people enter a flight/fight/freeze reaction when confronted with an emotional conversation, which can make it difficult to process your feelings and avoid saying hurtful things. To address this, you can work to recognize when your emotions are running high, and let your spouse know that you need a few minutes on your own before re-engaging in a difficult conversation. 
    • Let your partner know in advance when you want to have a conversation, so they have time to emotionally prepare. This may help reduce the risk of escalation during your discussion. 
    • Utilize I-language to emphasize your feelings, rather than blaming or criticizing them. For example, you could say, “I feel unsupported when you’re focused on your project instead of helping me parent the kids,” instead of saying, “You never help me with the kids.”
    • When your partner voices their frustrations, listen. Try to express empathy for their perspective. Difficult discussions don’t need to be about defending your position, they’re about understanding each other. 
    • Find a solution together, which may involve compromise.
    • After your discussion, it can feel comforting to express affection for one another. 
    • Emphasize healthy boundaries. For example, if your spouse routinely spends more than your monthly budget, it can be helpful to establish (and stick with) a budget for unessential spending. 
  • Sweat The Small Stuff

There will be disagreements, mistakes, and hurt feelings at some point in your marriage. Oftentimes, these come from seemingly minor annoyances or differences in opinion. But, by emphasizing healthy communication strategies, you and your partner can interrupt the build-up of frustration by addressing problems when they occur. 

  • Appreciate Their Efforts

When your spouse does something kind, try to notice, express gratitude, and reciprocate their kindness. Noticing small acts of generosity can help both partners feel seen, appreciated, and valued. For example, when your spouse is about to head out the door to drop the kids off at school, you could slip a thank-you note into their bag.

  • Understand The Value Of Therapy

If you and your spouse find it challenging to balance family and marriage, or if you’re finding it difficult to communicate effectively, you may want to consider couple’s therapy. For parents with busy schedules, online therapy can be more convenient, with online therapy platforms like ReGain offering therapy sessions outside of normal business hours. A 2022 study found that online couple’s therapy can effectively improve relationship satisfaction and mental health, and these improvements are often sustained over time.

  • Remember That Prioritizing Your Marriage Is Good For Your Kids

By prioritizing and valuing your relationship, you can help teach your child to seek healthier relationships in the future. According to Utah State University, children view their parents’ interactions as a baseline for acceptable behavior, and they tend to model these behaviors in their future relationships.

Finding Time For Your Spouse Can Be Hard


It can be challenging for many parents to make time for each other. However, by prioritizing your marriage, you can model healthy relationships for your child, maintain a strong support system, and improve your mental health and relationship satisfaction. 

You can start focusing on your relationship by setting aside time for dates, emphasizing teamwork, communicating proactively, showing affection, and establishing healthy boundaries. If you’d like support in this process, you may want to consider talking with a licensed therapist. Online couple’s therapy can effectively improve marital satisfaction and mental health outcomes for many couples, and you may find that it’s more convenient than in-person therapy.

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