Is your family out of order? Does your spouse come first, or do your kids take the number one spot? Do you even know which should be the top priority in your family? We’re here to tell you—whether your family is traditional or blended, your marriage has to take priority over your kids.
We know that’s not an easy sell for most people. But you have to realize that children need to know that their parents love not only them, but each other. Their sense of security grows as they see parents loving each other. To put your marriage on hold for 18 years—or even one year—while you raise children is not only detrimental to your marriage, it is devastating to your children. When the parental team breaks down, children become the biggest losers. They lose their family, which is where they build their sense of security. When children don’t feel secure, their whole world seems to unravel. No amount of baseball, dance, piano lessons, or toys can make up for that kind of loss.
Research shows that marriage takes a hit when you have kids. According to an analysis of 90 studies involving 31,000 married people, the drop in marital satisfaction after the first baby’s birth is a staggering 42% larger among the current generation of parents than their predecessors. Satisfaction dips even lower—though only slightly—with each successive child. Studies also suggest that one-third to one-half of new-parent couples experience as much marital distress as couples already in therapy for marital difficulties.[i]
So if you can’t seem to prioritize your marriage or spend money on dates for yourselves…do it for your kids! And if you’re not sure how to start, we’re going to coach you with practical ways to be couple-focused rather than child-focused!
Expectations today are high on parents. It’s not enough to raise a nice kid; she’s got to be ahead of the developmental curve and involved in arts and athletic activities, too. Moms exhaust themselves trying to keep up with the kids and dads feel the pressure to be more involved in their kids’ lives. Well-meaning couples think, “After the kids are gone, we’ll get to be a couple again.” But by the time the kids are off to college, so much distance has crept in that couples hardly know each other…and divorce becomes more and more appealing.
Recent research has shown that when the family unit falls apart, so do the kids. Children from broken homes have a higher rate of academic problems, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, emotional and behavior problems, violence, suicide, and poverty as an adult.[ii] If you are thinking that you are doing the best for your child when you put your spouse on the back burner and your kids as number one, you are sorely mistaken. The best way to protect your children from these things is to keep your marriage together. If you want to be the best parents you can be, work to become the best couple you can be.
One of the major components of strengthening your marriage team is to make sure you spend enough time together. Now we know that many of you already are coming up with a list of excuses as to why you cannot find the time to spend with each other. We’re here to tell you—you can. Healthy couples don’t “find” the time to be together, they “make” time to be together. You may have convinced yourself that you simply don’t have enough time to schedule each other into your day, but that’s not accurate. You have the time to do whatever you want to do. And if you don’t spend the time with your spouse, you’ll fill the time with something less important.
Parents need private time to continue to feel as though they are not only parents but also partners. If you are always pushing your spouse aside for time with the kids, you may want to consider what you’re teaching your children. By the way you treat your spouse, are you modeling for your children how you hope they will treat their future spouses? Probably not. Spending time with your spouse not only draws the two of you closer together, but it also teaches your children that marriage has to be our number one human relationship.
So we want to challenge you to take some time out to talk with your spouse about how you two can make your marriage a priority. Pull out your calendars and see when you can set aside time for just the two of you. Try setting a regular date night. Even if it’s just once a month, that can be so refreshing for your relationship! Get your babysitter ready ahead of time, and figure out what you’d like to do. You can take turns choosing the “date” each month. If you need some ideas, check out our book, 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate. It includes some great ideas for planning a date specifically for your spouse and to meet your spouse’s love needs! So, start today and make your marriage a priority by setting aside time alone for you and your mate!
[i] Lauren Picker, “And Now, The Hard Part,” Newsweek (25 April 2005): 46-48
[ii] Dr. Debbie Cherry, Child-Proofing Your Marriage (Colorado Springs, CO: Life Journey/Cook Communications, 2004)