Portland Marriage Counselor: Parental Rivalry

October 2, 2012 by

I see lots of parents struggling with their relationship as a Portland marriage counselor. Most of my clients are trying to figure out how to make time for their relationship now that they have kids. Or they’re navigating the sometimes tricky waters of bringing up children when they don’t see eye-to-eye on how to raise them.

There’s one problem, though, that always seems to start innocently enough, but can ultimately cause lots of relationship issues between mom and dad if it goes too far. I’m talking about competing parents, or parental rivalry.

 Portland Marriage Counselor: Effects of Parental Rivalry

Don’t worry if that’s not a term you’re familiar with, because it’s not something that’s been given a lot of attention in the wider media. It’s interesting, actually, because parental rivalry is something almost all of us have experienced in one way or another.

The general idea is that mom and dad each want to be the “favorite” parent and strive to earn points by acting more “fun,” being more accommodating, and actively competing to make better food or attend more of their children’s activities. In some ways, you can see how something like this can start innocently enough, and possibly even do some good in benefitting the children receiving all of this attention.

However, there are some parents who take it too far, scheduling plans with their little ones in direct conflict with time their spouse wants to spend with them. This puts the children in the position of having to choose between you, and creates a “winner” and a “loser.”

You can imagine the relationship issues that develop. “Losing” parents feel abandoned and angry, while “winning” parents start to feel entitled. This competition can intensify, setting an unhealthy example for your children and leading to fighting between the two of you.

 Portland Marriage Counselor: Coping With Parental Rivalry

Like most things in relationships, the answer is fairly simple, even if following through with it might not be: you have to find ways to cooperate, not compete. Instead of demanding that your children choose which of you they want to make meals, drive, or play with them, set up schedules and agree to follow through with them. Creating defined responsibilities and sticking to them can stop you from fighting over them. The goal should be harmony and togetherness – not only for you and your spouse, but for your children as well.

I know sometimes wanting to change is easier than doing it, though, so if you and your partner can’t seem to stop competing for your kids’ affection, contact a Portland marriage counselor for more help.