Caring for Children Means
Caring for Each Other

Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D.

Children desperately need parents who stay married to each other, and love each other. Their future depends on it. Yet, their parents are very likely to lose their love for each other after they arrive, because they forget why they married.
They didn't marry to raise children -- they married to meet each other's intimate emotional needs. And the presence of children tends to make them think that they don't have time and energy to meet those needs anymore. When that happens, they lose their primary motive to be married -- their love for each other.

A man and woman usually decide to marry because they have formed a very successful romantic relationship -- they are in love with each other and are meeting each other's intimate emotional needs. They want to make that romantic relationship last a lifetime, so they marry. At the time, they are optimistic about keeping their love for each other alive, and they don't expect anything to threaten that love -- least of all, children. But if they were to understand how their love was created, and how it is sustained, they would immediately see why children are such a risk.

The two essential ingredients of a romantic relationship -- being in love and meeting intimate emotional needs -- are inseparable. A man and woman love each other because they meet each other's intimate emotional needs, and they meet each other's intimate emotional needs because they love each other. If either one of those factors suffers, the other suffers as well. That's why it's relatively difficult to keep a romantic relationship on track -- it's very fragile.

If living conditions make the meeting of intimate emotional needs more difficult or even impossible to provide, the love a couple has for each other is at risk. They usually don't see their loss of love coming, because they think their love is based on chemistry (they are made for each other) or their willingness to be in love (their love for each other is a decision) -- factors they think guarantee a lifetime of love. But what really sustains love in marriage is neither of those. It is their effectiveness in meeting each other's intimate emotional needs.

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"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

Exposure 101