Where Does Parental Love Fit In A Healthy Marriage?

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Maintaining a strong and healthy marriage while being a loving and supportive parent can be challenging. It may be natural for your love and attention to be divided between your spouse and your children, but it can be ideal to ensure that both relationships are given the time and care they need. In most cases, it can be best to prioritize your love for your spouse, as having a healthy marriage can empower the two of you to parent as a team and set a positive example for your children. Setting healthy boundaries and ensuring you still spend quality time together while also loving and caring for your children can be beneficial. Online therapy can help you strike the right balance between spousal love and parental love.

Therapy can help you balance parental and spousal love

The challenges of balancing love in a marriage and family

As a parent, it may be natural to want to devote all your time and energy to your children. After all, they tend to rely on you for their basic needs and well-being. 

However, it can be crucial to remember that your marriage may also be a vital part of your family dynamic. When parenting responsibilities take up a lot of your time and energy, it may be easy to neglect your spouse and prioritize your children's needs above your spouse's. This can lead to feelings of resentment and disconnection within the marriage. Try to be mindful of this potential challenge and make an effort to prioritize and show love to your spouse, even when you're stretched thin with parenting duties.

Setting boundaries with children can be an area that many parents struggle with. It is also a topic that many can get worked up about. That may make it easy to get offended if you feel someone is telling you that you should be doing something different with your child. In some cases, however, if you put your children before your spouse, you may struggle to have a healthy marriage.

Your marriage likely started because you put your spouse before all other people. However, when your first child comes along, it may no longer be that simple. In general, there is now a tiny person depending on you both for their survival, which can add a lot of pressure. Many parents also experience an overwhelming flood of love when they meet their child for the first time. It can be easy to move your child into the number-one spot in your life, especially because you likely spend so much of your time doing things for them and with them.

Parental love is often quite strong. It can be easy to get caught up in parental love and set your marriage aside, perhaps thinking you can focus on it again when the kids have left the house. However, if you take this approach, you may not have a marriage to focus on by the time the children are grown.


Your spouse may need to come first

Your spouse may need to come first, even before your children. This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love your children or take care of them or provide for them. It usually just means that your spouse should not be an afterthought while you run around taking care of the children day in and day out.

While you may now be a parent, try not to forget that you were a spouse before that. You might make sure to make time for your spouse and continue to go out on dates. Many new parents struggle with the idea of leaving their child at home with a sitter, but carefully vetting babysitters and providing them with the information and resources they may need can be beneficial. 

In fact, there is a piece of advice that many new parents find helpful: Try to leave your baby with a sitter for at least 30 minutes at least once during the first two weeks after they are born. This may give you the reassurance you need early on that your child will likely be just fine with a babysitter.

Your healthy marriage can be important to your kids

It can be important to set a good example for your children. To do this, you may need to show them what a healthy marriage looks like. Not only can this show them how to develop healthy relationships as an adult, but when they know that your marriage is good, it often helps them feel safe in their family life.

Setting boundaries and finding balance

Setting the right boundaries with your child can be difficult, but it can be vital. Here are a few strategies you might try. 

  • Continue to date each other. Parental love can make you want to devote all your time to your child, but your spouse may also need to know that they matter to you. You might continue showing them that you enjoy their company by having a regular date night. Many experts recommend once a week, but even if all you can do is once a month, try to make sure it happens.
  • Teach your children to respect your spouse. Try to avoid complaining about your spouse to your child. Teaching them respect can include things like making sure your child doesn’t interrupt your conversation when you are talking with your spouse.
  • Do not undermine your spouse in front of your child. It can be important to back up your spouse in front of your children. This can show your spouse respect and teach your child to do the same. It’s often helpful to portray yourself and your partner as a parenting team to your children.

Setting boundaries with your children can be good for your marriage and your family. There may be times when it feels uncomfortable, but you might remind yourself that setting boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t love your children. In fact, it can mean you love them enough to do what is best for them in the future and not just in the moment.

Therapy can help you balance parental and spousal love

Getting professional help

The balancing act of nurturing your marriage and raising your children in a loving home can be a difficult one! There’s no shame in needing help, and one source of help may be online therapy. As a busy parent, it may be challenging to arrange childcare and find the time to attend therapy sessions in person, which is often why many parents opt for online sessions with a licensed therapist.

As a growing body of research has shown, there’s generally no difference in efficacy between online and in-person therapy. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for the help and guidance you deserve.


It can often be difficult to find the right balance between spousal love and parental love within your family system. In general, prioritizing spousal love can help the two of you be better parents and set a good example for your children so that they know what a healthy, loving relationship looks like. Working with a therapist online can help you learn various strategies for setting boundaries and parenting your children effectively.
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