We have a three-year-old son. Until now our world revolved around him and his needs. However, we find that our time together as a couple has been severely compromised, and this is taking its toll on our marriage. We have tried to go out on a few dates without him after arranging to have his favourite aunt and uncle spend those hours with him, but he created quite a fuss, and we too did not enjoy ourselves as we felt guilty. Are we perhaps making a big point about this far too early for him?
It’s not easy to have a child make that transition, from being the centre of the universe, to being a part of the universe! However, it is very important that he makes that transition. You don’t need to feel guilty at all. His distress is temporary, but the long-term benefits of a child seeing his parents happy together are quite immeasurable.
In fact, to slowly help a child see that his parents love each other and need their time together, is one of the best gifts/lessons that you can impart. I don’t think you’re making a big point too early. It’s bound to be a bit troublesome for both, but it’s a good thing, and you need to keep working on it. It doesn’t have to involve the two of you going out together leaving him, each time.
On a daily basis, you can insert some kind of quiet ritual that you and your husband do together, exclusively—it could be something as simple as a quiet cup of tea together, or sitting on the sofa together, close, chatting with each other. During this time, he can continue being in the room, but you can find a way to put across the message that at that moment you are both not fully available to him, but are fully available to each other. If he tries to yell, or sit between the two of you, you can gently tell him that you’re talking, and will attend to him a little later.
Some things that you decide to do together could be stuff that he is clearly not interested in right now—which could be something like the two of you cooking together, or even one of you keeping the other company during the making of a meal, etc. Constantly sacrificing your own and your couple-needs for your children only signals to your kids that they are entitled to be entertained and loved even at the cost of their parents’ own personal happiness and fulfilment. This only encourages them to a) be inconsiderate of you as parents with their own needs, and b) be unable to spend time on their own and entertain themselves even for a short while.
Indicating in different ways to your child that you are a couple is a very important part of a family’s growing and maturing into a well-adjusted unit that is happy and secure, together as well as apart.
Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting.
Send in your queries to Gouri at firstname.lastname@example.org