Parenting: Putting Your Marriage First
4 Unexpected Ways to Put Your Children First (By Putting Your Marriage First)
The second highest demographic for divorce is people who are married 25–30 years! Does this shock you?
We have couples regularly telling us stories about how disconnected they are, how they don’t date anymore and in some cases describing finding their needs met in others, whether physical or emotional.
The most common reason for this disconnect is, you guessed it, children! We know kids change our marriages, but they shouldn’t destroy our marriage.
Often when we have kids it’s because we “want them” and maybe we believe they will make our lives and relationship complete somehow. This is ironic because too often one spouse will pour into the kids while the other pours into their career, and instead of completing our lives and relationship, the new normal “depletes” it. Leaving little left for each other.
Let me be fair, putting our kids first makes sense, especially in those early years when they are completely helpless? Even as they grow there is only so much they can do to care for themselves or financially support themselves for they are dependant on us on many different levels, and we have a responsibility to provide for their needs. Unfortunately, if we don’t take the time to balance our family life with our marriage, we will struggle to maintain an adequate connection and when the time comes for them to move out of the house, we are strangers living together.
We MUST give our kids what they really need, and it turns out what they need most is for us to have an incredible marriage and relationship with our spouse. Without it they will lack the foundation of security they need today AND in their future. Cracks they find in their foundation can rock even your adult children and potentially have a devastating effect on their lives and families. We want to give our children something worth modeling.
One way to keep our relationships strong is by learning how to identify and express our needs to our partners. Proceed with caution, however, because saying “This is what I need from you…”, can potentially lead to personal entitlement, defensiveness or misunderstanding. I like to phrase it in a softer way, perhaps something like, “I love you and I miss us. I want a deeper and more incredible relationship with you, I think __________ would help us get there. What do you think we can do differently?”
Rephrasing your language not only helps your partner better receive your message, but it also shifts your thinking from blaming, moving from “me” to “us”.
Remember that putting your spouse first IS putting your children first—and they will appreciate the model of family that you leave them with more than you can imagine.
Here are a few ideas for how to keep your marriage first:
- Date your spouse! Schedule regular date nights as often as possible.
- Know your own needs well enough to express them.
- Soften your language as you communicate your needs with each other, remembering you are on the same team.
- Choose to listen to and meet your spouse’s needs when they express them to you, this keeps your heart in a state of giving rather than taking.
My kids occasionally ask their mother, “Why are you and Dad going out on a date? You’re already married!” And her response is, “Do you like how Mom and Dad love each other and are married? Then we need to keep dating.” And they quickly send us off to stabilize their foundation. May you enjoy building a firm foundation for your children as much as we do.
© David McVety – FEB 2017