Spouse vs. Children: Who Comes First?


A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small ~Dr. Seuss

I read yet another parenting article today focused on the importance of love for one’s spouse. I think it need not be stated that loving your spouse/partner is an important factor in raising children and something I can definitely agree with. Where I fall directly off the map and right onto the floor is when someone says I love my spouse/partner more than my children.

Just, why?

Romantic Love is Different, Period. The love I have for my husband doesn’t look one thing like the love I have for my son. I couldn’t compare them if I tried and they aren’t in any real competition with each other. Yes, husband is staying around after college. I get it. Son is leaving me for another woman/man some day, I know that. But I don’t love him less because he’s a child that’s going to grow up. In fact, I love him more every single day and it has nothing to do with my husband. I admit that my son has brought my husband and I closer, that’s true. And watching my husband parent my son with so much grace is attractive, it is. But I’m lost as to how the two relate to each other or need to be prioritized or quantified. Romantic love evolves as does unconditional love for children. They are the same that way, yet so different in just about every other way. One need not have a higher place in our hearts. Part of unconditional love that makes it the best thing on Earth is that it’s permanent. When we start putting stipulations in there, like who you love more, it starts to feel less unconditional, and more conditional. That’s a game changer right there. So even if the romantic love you have for your partner is stronger than the unconditional love you have for your child, this might be something to keep to yourself. Blogging about it makes you look like a jerk face. Someday, your kids will be able to read and that one’s gonna hurt.

015Appointing a Love King/Queen is Condescending. It makes the others feel small or beneath you. I’ve heard oodles of people tell me that marriage is first, husband and wife must form a perfect bond, and that children must know their place. Okay, fine. I can get on board with putting your marriage first (although this isn’t at all practical in the early years of parenting and I think it’s puts undue stress on the mom to make everything okay for everyone at all times), but I think this translates to ‘Love your spouse more’ for some parents and that’s where I have to disagree. Can you really tell your young child that you love them less than their other parent without crushing their little heart? I’m guessing it would be a little ouchy. No one is saying you don’t love your children, but the odd need to appoint a Love King/Queen is a tad bit obsessive. I’m all for marriages/partnerships lasting, especially in the presence of children, but they don’t need to know that there are people living in the same house with them that we love more than them. Bottom of the triangle isn’t all that cool. Children don’t actually need to “know their place” and please don’t tell me that it comforts them to know Mommy and Daddy love each other more than them–that Mommy and Daddy love each other is surely enough. Making a person’s place in the odd love hierarchy known is condescending, on a good day, and it looks a little more like jealousy than something positive.

Not Every Emotion You Have Needs to be Verbalized. Okay parents. There are tons of things we don’t share with our children, for various reasons. Too mature, too scary, too sexual, too pointless. I would like to emphasize that last bit there on pointlessness: telling your children that you don’t love them as much as their other parent is pointless and rude. There are really hard things we have to communicate with our kids–genuine struggles and exposures that bring us closer and sometimes tear us apart. Ask yourself if this is a necessary share or what we call an overshare. The rest of the world doesn’t actually need to hear your declaration of love favorites either, because it’s a tad confusing and it just seems ugh, did I mention, pointless? There are a vast array of human thoughts and emotions that are worth sharing, but I have to tell you, this ain’t one of them. Sometimes, your insides are on your outsides and I am here to save you from that embarrassment. You might even be shocked to find that MOST parents will tell you that they secretly love their children more (see, I said secretly). They don’t feel the need to scream this from a rooftop, so neither should you.


  1. I’ve pondered this too. I’ve heard it said before and it always jolts me – “I love my spouse more than my children.” Love is a big place! You open your heart to someone and there is no need to start the bean counting. It actually makes me wonder about the adult relationship. How needy is your spouse to win this war? I’ve been married to the same man for over 41 years. We have 4 adult children. When we started out, we were in it together. We had fun comparing notes on the kids at the end of the day. They brought joy – and aggravation to us both. I didn’t need to excuse myself from the kids to go get relaxed and have fun with my husband. That was happening all along. I really wonder if there’s not a lot more going on in a quantified love relationship that is not being shared.

  2. My children come first. It has nothing to do with who loves whom the most. The love I have for my husband is different than the love I have for my girls. But, my children come first. They are 7 and 2 and they need to come first. For both my husband and myself. We are adults, we can cook, clean and take care of ourselves. They cannot. We know right from wrong. They are learning. We are secure in ourselves. They need security. There will come a time when they will walk out of our front door and into their own lives and as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure they are prepared for that. For the women that say they love their husbands more and that they put their husbands needs before their children, there is something psychologically wrong with them.

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