Did You Marry Spouse or Your Children?

Marry spouse - AdobeStock_55376380 copyA hot topic that we hear a lot about here at Marriage Missions (and elsewhere) is, How a Husband Feels When the Wife Puts the Children Ahead of Him. We even have an article written and posted on our web site with that title. The question we pose is, did you marry spouse or your children?

If you read the above mentioned article, you’ll see that many of the comments are quite heated. For some reason, many wives seem to think it’s okay to neglect their husband and marriage so they can give more to their children. But I can’t help but think of and agree with something Teresa Parr (Parent Coaching Consultant) wrote as a warning:

“Babies are loud about what they need. Marriages are not. It’s easy to neglect each other because other things are more urgent, but you have to save some time and energy for your spouse.”

Marry Spouse or Children?

Yes, children have needs. And sometimes, we have to neglect each other a bit here and there when certain emergencies and health needs demand it. But we need to keep the bigger picture in constant view of growing a healthy marriage for each other AND our children. We didn’t marry our children; we married our spouse and for that reason, he or she should continually be a priority to us.

It’s important to NOT allow our homes to make our children the centerpieces of our lives together… a priority, yes, but not the center. Here are a couple of marriage/parenting tips to keep in mind:

• Let nothing come between you and your husband —not your house, not your pride, not your friends, not your work, not your kids. You and your husband are one. The children will be there, of course. They are part of you, and you are responsible for them. But there is no relationship on earth like the marriage relationship. God uses it to model the church (see Ephesians 5:22-33). Nurture your relationship with your husband so that it lasts the longest and means the most. (Donna Otto, The Stay at Home Mom)

Additionally:

• If you are aways pushing your spouse aside for time with the children, you may want to consider just 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 the marital relationship has to be our number one human relationship. (Dr. Debbie L. Cherry, Child-Proofing Your Marriage)

With that said, here’s a shortened version of something “D” wrote to us in response to the article, How a Husband Feels When the Wife Puts the Children Ahead of Him and my response afterward:

D says:

(USA) I’m finding this a little bit absurd here. Shouldn’t a man be happy that his wife puts her children’s needs first? …Grow up and be a man.

Cindy Wright responds:

Did you marry your kids or your husband? Is your husband only a sperm donor so you can have children and once they’ve made their deposit(s) —it’s good-bye relationship, hello roommate. Or is there at least SOME part of a relationship that you and he are to have? And what happens when the children are grown and leave home and you and your husband are just the two of you again? I’ve seen where they just look at each other. They don’t even know who this person is. It’s really sad, and unnecessary. All those years they could have been building and growing together. But instead, they’re stunted in their growth and later just exist as roommates instead of lovers.

My husband and I raised 2 sons and enjoyed (and still enjoy) being parents. But we didn’t wave good-bye to our love relationship because of the demands of the kids. We each pitched in to raise them. But we made sure that we kept growing in our marriage relationship so that now that our sons are grown and out of the house, Steve and I have a blast together. We loved our marriage while growing kids and love our marriage now. We didn’t have to reintroduce ourselves to each other after our sons started living apart from us.

Busy But Connected

Yes, we were busy. Yes, we were VERY busy at times… MANY, MANY times. But I married Steve, not our sons. And I’m still married to Steve, not my sons. There were times when we would carve out time and tell them that we were having grown-up, husband and wife time together and they would have to wait sometimes. That was ok. It’s ok for kids to realize that their every want is not our command. They would protest here and there, but in the long run, they eventually seemed to like it that mom and dad enjoyed being together and apparently loved each other.

They never had to question if mom and dad were getting a divorce. That’s because they could see for themselves that we had a loving relationship. It’s not a perfect one, but it’s one that was growing healthier by the year. And now they have loving relationships with their spouses. Their kids can see it and that is healthy.

I made my marriage vow to Steve and to God. I didn’t vow, “until kids do we part… to have and to hold until we have kids. This marriage is for better or for worse, in sickness and in health of the kids. But you’re on your own because my time is for them, not for you. I’m being faithful to the kids and too bad for you. You come behind the laundry and dishes and anything else that demands my attention, as far as my priorities.”

We’re told in the Bible that God said, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” I believe that also includes children and ourselves as far as allowing EVERYONE and everything else to separate us from “being one.” How are you “cleaved together as one” if the person you marry is barely on your radar screen as far as being close to you?

Did You Marry Spouse or Children?

From what I see that you’re saying, he is to think of her, but she is to think of the kids and he is to be okay with this? That’s quite the arrangement! Yes, these are his kids too, and he needs to pitch in too —as equally as it’s possible. But that is not to be exclusive where the kids get all of the attention and too bad for the marriage. It’s better to do a little less for the kids, when it’s possible and put some relationship time in there for the husband and wife.

I have known of people who have 8 kids or more that have managed to grow good marriages too. It’s possible; it just takes some rearranging of the mind and heart and figuring out with God how to grow the marriage AND kids. It CAN be done. But you have to want to. It’s a matter of putting the heart of Christ into your marriage. It’s not always easy (anything good, rarely is) but it’s important. I believe this with all my heart.

Tips on This Issue

The following are a few more tips (that we have posted in the Quotes on Children’s Effect on Marriage topic), along with others you can read):

• Never allow your children’s wants to take precedence over your husband’s needs. (Dr. Todd Linaman)

• When I say, “Don’t make your children the centerpiece of your home,” some couples react pretty strongly. They immediately ask, “Well, why not?” Here’s my answer: You don’t do it because it gives them the idea that they’re the center-piece of the universe. And if that’s true, then where is Almighty God? And where are other people? Doesn’t this breed the kind of permissiveness and selfishness that we see in so many homes? (Dr Kevin Leman, Becoming a Couple of Promise)

• When you learn to “hang in there” with each other, you’re giving a priceless gift of loving security to your children. A familiar bit of advice on parenting is directed to both mom and dad: “The best thing you can do for your children is to love each other.” Children are watching us all the time, and when we model a relationship that hangs in there through life’s normal conflict and challenges, we’re demonstrating to them that they too, will have a place to hang securely in life, despite everyday difficulties. Marriage teaches us how to love, and children learn that lesson from watching. (Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall, When Husband and Wife Become Mom and Dad)

Don’t Neglect Each Other

I hope these thoughts help in some way. Just as husbands and wives can neglect one another with other priorities (such as job and social issues, etc.), and we need to find ways to cut a little here and there to save a part of ourselves so we can invest more to grow our marriage relationship, the same is true of parenting. Please don’t lose sight of the vows you made to each other on your wedding day. They are not to be erased because of the birth of children. You will have to learn how to balance things and children, but with God’s help, I know you can do it.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again that if we ask God to help us to find more time to spend it on that which is important to us (and our marriage relationship going strong definitely is important), God nudges us here and there and shows us how to do just that. But we must pay attention and listen to His counsel. And it’s not a once for all matter. It will be a continual shuffling goal that you will need to work through for the rest of your lives together. It’s a tough thing to do, but the rewards are so, so worth it!

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.

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Filed under: Childrens Effect on Marriage

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One response to “Did You Marry Spouse or Your Children?

  1. Every time my ‘stepdaughter’s vehicle tears up she comes to her Mother and gets her Mom’s car which is in my name and puts thousands of miles on it before bringing it back, (on empty)! This makes me feel disrespected, angry, and seems to separate me a little more from my wife each time this happens.