Starting a family with the person you love is a momentous occasion. Maybe you feel like expanding your household solidifies you and your spouse's relationship ... but the reality might be quite different. Even though you have kids together doesn't guarantee you are all a family. Here are five ways to tell if your family has a rift:
1. Quality time troubles
Spending quality time together as a family is a vital yet often overlooked part of developing bonds. Work and school schedules can sometimes severely cut into family time, but a few minutes of undivided attention daily communicates that you care and want to be present for your children and spouse.
But choosing to spend time away from the household, or isolated within the home, communicates just the opposite.
Beware of a partner who makes no effort to make or keep plans, catch up, or become involved in your or your children's lives. Spending little to no quality time, poor quality time, or forced quality time together doesn't create a family. Decide now to make quality time a priority.
Because you don't spend any real time together, the members of your "family" don't really know each other. You may know your kids and the kids may know each other, but no one really knows your spouse. You and your kids are also seen at only a surface level because there's been no effort made to get to know any of you better.
3. No safe spaces
It is hard to have a true family if you live in an environment where there's little emotional safety or trust. Living in a house full of fears or tears means there's no real support, comfort or empathy on a united front. Your spouse may be the culprit in this chaos, or may just fail to act when it arises from the outside. Either way, you feel alone when dealing with the emotional health of your household.
Parents need to work together to create a home where children feel happy and safe.
4. Serial separations
Constant breakups between you and your partner represent a fractured life - You may be able to hide the internal isolation you feel, but your kids are watching someone step in and out of their lives, over and over again. A cycle like this can become routine and displace your children's (and family's) sense of stability.
If you don't hear or say the word "love" often, your sense of what a family is could be skewed. It's not the word that is so important, but the meaning it carries. Saying and showing love in different ways shows you care about each other.
And yes, some people may have a hard time actually saying the word "love." But this is something every adult needs to be able to express once they become a parent. You've taken on a responsibility that pushes your comfort level and forces you to grow. Your partner and children need to hear and see love for themselves. And your kids need to be shown what a loving partnership and family looks like.
You can have kids together under one roof in a household. But it takes work to turn those people into a family, and that house into a home. Sharing space won't automatically make this connection, and you need to have willingness (on all sides) to put in the effort. If you find your family lacks connection, you'll have to do some soul searching and decide how to proceed. Your current partner may need a push in the right direction, or you may need to find a more suitable mate to meet all of your family's needs. The effort you put into making a family will bring joy to you, your spouse and your children.