How many times have you done something at the spur of the moment and then regretted it? Perhaps you got upset because of something a family member said to you, perhaps you snapped at a co-worker because you thought they had slighted you in some way... this is what happens when we react to things without having a chance to think about them and make a choice to how we want to respond. Much like a doctor hitting your knee and causing your leg to move forward, we often react to things that are said in a "knee-jerk" way. Yet, once we've had a chance to consider our actions, we might choose to approach them differently.
It is important to recognize the difference between reacting and choosing. When we make a choice to do something, it's usually a thought-out, reasoned decision. When we emotionally react, it tends to often be a quick emotional response to something that happens. A good way to judge the difference is by recognizing whether you are rationally choosing what you are saying or doing, or if you are compelled to do it, with your emotions guiding your actions.
Anyone who has ever responded quickly when emotionally upset can see the difference between a reactive response and a reasoned, thought out one. The key to making choices that work more effectively in our favor as opposed to our detriment, is waiting for the emotional upset to subside before choosing what we want to do about a situation (especially an emotionally charged one). By giving ourselves a "pause" to consider what we want to do, we give ourselves time to let our reasoning have a say in our response as opposed to relying wholly on our emotions.
We love spending time with our kids. We nurture them, we take them to school activities and they truly light up our lives. However, they can also help destroy our intimacy with our partner... and worse! As the kids grow, they can get in the way of your connection with your spouse. To get their way, they may play one parent against the other and try and challenge your authority. Let's face it, kids are wonderful, but they can also be a real difficulty in your life when it comes to maintaining intimacy and connection with your significant other.
Many parents subscribe to the idea that "the kids come first." This is fine in a loving, parental way of caring for your children. However, when it comes to the connection between two partners, it can be devastating to the relationship. Before the kids came along, you were each the primary person in each other's lives. Now that the kids are present, they compete to be "first." And this is natural. However, while the temptation may be to side with the kids and put them first, it may not be the best thing you can do for your family. Not only for your spouse, but for the kids as well.
Kids thrive when they have limits and feel safe. When you give them the power over a situation they are not ready for, they may no longer feel within their limits of safety and as a result, can feel out of control. This in turn can create a situation where they act out and behave badly. And the more you cater to them, the worse it can get. On the other hand, when you and your spouse work together, putting your connection first, and then jointly deciding the best ways to parent the children, the kids tend to feel more safe and secure. They know you've got their backs. This often means they act out less, and understand the boundaries they live within. Plus, the more you and your spouse create household rules together for the children, the closer the two of you will become. So, in reality, while "the kids come first" sounds great, keeping you and your spouse primary in the relationship actually works better for all concerned.
David Schwartz, M.S., LMFT
David brings a wealth of life experience to his therapy practice. In addition to his therapy training, David has been a self-motivated entrepreneur for over 20 years, as well as working as a producer in the television industry.
David Schwartz, MS., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist # 87261 -
30961 Agoura Rd., Suite 215, Westlake Village, CA 91361