When you put your marriage first the whole family wins
I’m a christian mental health therapist. Many of my marriage counseling sessions has dealt with the issue of needing to prioritize their marriage. And I understand why. I’ve also been married for ten years and have two kids.
Kids need your help and support. And you have to run them from activity to activity. Plus, work is stressful. Or, you have to work extra hours. Add in spending time with your friends, extended family gatherings, and church events. Don’t forget the often dreaded conversation of finances.
Life gets in the way. But only if you let it!
Divorce rates and reasons
Statistics can often be skewed based upon the desired effect of the situation so I’m not a huge fan. That being said, the divorce rate currently is somewhere between 40-50%. That number goes up and down depending upon how marriage is being rated. First time marriages have a lower divorce rate than subsequent marriages. Heterosexual marriages have a lower divorce rate than homosexual marriages.
However, irregardless of the actually percentage, there appears to be a pattern to when divorces tend to take place. There appears to be a spike in divorce between the 7-12 year range and then again in the 20-25 year range. Couples are typically growing their family during the first spike and then becoming empty-nesters during the second. Coincidence? My experience as a therapist says “No”.
God’s intended family hierarchy
God has an intended order to life. And it works well when it is followed. When we stop following the order, we usually find ourselves in trouble. Following God as each of our priority, the marriage is supposed to be next. How do I know that? Think of the order of creation.
Genesis 2:20b But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 2:22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
God could have created people and family in any order he wanted! He chose male and female to get together. Sex was God’s idea to populate the Earth! Cain and Able didn’t happen until after Adam and Eve came together as one.
Marriage as a priority
Children are a beautiful gift from God and they require more time and energy than childless couples realize. That time has to come from somewhere and often it gets taken away from time with your spouse. If a couple is not careful, the early years of raising children can be very tough on marriages.
It is essential for a couple to prioritize time together, especially during the infant and toddler years. I have worked with many couples who realized this need to take time for each other and believe me they got creative with carving out time. Do the dishes together. Read to each other while the other one is feeding the baby. Write each other quick notes and leave in random places. Set aside 10-15 minutes before bed to talk about good and bad parts of the day. Pray together.
Then add in an actual date once a week or every other week. Dates don’t have to be expensive. The point is spending one-on-one time with your spouse. That can even mean having the grandparents, relatives, or a close family friend take the kids to their house for the evening so you and your spouse can have the house to yourself.
Your best friend
My husband is my best friend. I have other friends, great friends, who I enjoy talking to and spending time with but my husband is my best friend. And he should be. When you give your spouse the distinction of “best friend” you are placing priority over other people. But when you call one of your other friends your “best friend” you are then placing them above your spouse and calling them more important. I know it’s just a label. But labels have power and can eventually alter how we view the person with the label.
It is also important for your children to know and understand that your spouse is your best friend. Making this distinction to your kids helps them to learn the importance of your relationship. My husband and I have told our children that we are each other’s best friend ever since they were very little. It also helps them to know we are connected and a unit and truthfully, come before them.
Unified marriage = unified parenting
My husband and I don’t always agree on how to parent our son and daughter. No couple does. However, since my husband is my priority, my focus is always to make sure we’re okay. That means we work to disagree well. It helps us to discuss, compromise, and negotiate. We play nice even if we strongly disagree with each other.
But, if your children are your priority and you and your spouse disagree, then you will fight for them. Often at the expense of your spouse. Because then it turns into winning the argument for your child. And that means your spouse loses. It also means your child just got elevated in importance over your spouse. Believe me, as a therapist, that is a bad place for the child to be. If that happens too often, your child will develop a sense of entitlement and your spouse will eventually become resentful of the child and you. This is not a healthy dynamic for the marriage or the family as a whole.
Remember the second spike in divorce rate? Divorce after the children leave the house tends to be for one of two reasons. The couple had been toughing out the marriage “for the sake of the kids” and now they believe there is no longer a reason to stay together. Or, the couple had been so preoccupied with the kids and the rest of life as their priority that once they are alone together they realize they aren’t even connected anymore. Sometimes they don’t even recognize the person they married because they didn’t take the time to make sure they got old together.
A marriage to look up to
My growing old partner. That’s what my husband and I call each other. We want our kids to feel secure in the fact that we are going to be together for the rest of our lives. We want them to know that we love each other, care for each other, and have made each other a priority. We’re not always going to get it right. How can we? But, my kids know we are good because we have a foundation built with God and on love. That is the lesson and the memories I want my kids to take away when they move out. I want our marriage to be something they strive for in their own life.