Parenting teaches partnership

Parenthood can make you a better partner.

Romantic love and parental love are very different. Yet, if we add to our marriage the elements of unconditional love and caring that we naturally practice with our children we can have an even more intensely connected relationship with our mate.

Most people remember how exhilarating and intoxicating it was to fall in love. Giving and receiving unconditional attention, admiration and appreciation and being deeply loved healed our insecurities, doubts and apprehensions and elevated us to the primary position of the “one and only”. This euphoric state also provided us with the illusion of a forthcoming long-term marital nirvana.

The shared adoration of each other led to our mutual commitment. In The “Seat of the Soul” Gary Zukav writes, “Without commitment you cannot learn to care for another person more than yourself. You cannot learn to value the growth of strength and clarity in another soul, even if it threatens the wants of your personality.”

Since this reciprocal state of mind is so intense, it lasts wholeheartedly only for a short while. When life’s demands divert our focus, it breeds disappointments, fears, and causes the inevitable disillusionment. The sense of our unequalled preciousness diminishes and a fissure is created in the previously cemented “oneness”.

Parents’ love for their children is instantaneous, unconditional, devoted, protective and lifelong. In this “other-centered” relationship the child naturally receives our focused, devoted attention for his/her survival and wellbeing.

In a recent LifeWay survey participants rated parental traits required for healthy childrearing in this order: “Loving, Protecting, Providing, Involved, Consistent and Tender.” These emotions are equally applicable to our love relationship.  One difference in marriage is that Providing encompasses more than financial help to include emotional support, encouragement and devotion.

Once you have been in love and have also become a parent you have accessed all the kind and nurturing skills necessary to enhance your loved ones’ lives as you mastered compromise and sacrifice for their wellbeing. This does NOT mean that you are expected to be of service at the expense of self-abandonment.

To use your love, nurturing and passion to preserve the welfare of your spouse and children you must honor your own needs and expect reciprocal loving and considerate treatment from them, as well.

Gary Zukav states, “If you cannot love yourself, you cannot love others. Martyrs’ love is contaminated because it is filled with their sorrow for themselves. Guilt and powerlessness clouds their giving.”

To authentically love your partner you must remember your mate’s admirable and lovable unique traits during the good and the bad times and add romance to spice your bonded love.

To love your partner fully:

  •  Practice your appreciation and admiration of your mate and add the romantic feelings you felt during courtship to help your spouse feel precious and adored.
  • Keep your self-love and respect intact.
  • Add your parenting skills of unconditional, “other-focused” devoted love to intensify your tenderness with each other.



September 8, 2013


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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