Marriage, by itself, has enough of its own joys and trials to last a lifetime – but when we add kids into the mix the dynamics change and become infinitely more difficult.
How do you love your spouse and your kids at the same time? Who comes first? How are you supposed to make sure everybody feels loved and like they’ve had enough attention all the while making sure not to neglect yourself? It can feel like this impossible, weighty task at times. So, if you feel as desperate as I do to be good at it all, there is one thing you have to nail down. Are you ready? Here it is:
Your spouse has to come first; always.
I know, this sounds a bit harsh. Some of you might be thinking, “my kids didn’t ask to be born, and it’s our job to care for their every need. They have to come first.” Nonetheless, here’s the thing: You only have your kids for 18 years, but you vowed the rest of your life to your spouse, until death do you part. So when your kids move out, you and your spouse will either still have the great marriage you’ve built in spite of your kids, or you’ll have to figure out what your marriage is now without them.
When you put your kids first and neglect your spouse you are modeling for them that they can come in between you and “rock the boat” if they want to. However, when you put your spouse first you are offering your kids security and teaching them that they live in a solid, emotionally safe home and that no matter what comes, you and your spouse are a united front and you have their best interest at heart. So, how does this practically play out? Here are 3 ways that you can put your spouse first in your marriage:
1. Have regular date nights away from your kids
Your kids need to see that you have a regular weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly Date Night that has nothing to do with them. Your spouse needs it, too. For both parties, it shows them that your marriage exists and is sustainable on its own and that your kids are a bi-product of the love you have for one another.
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2. Make parenting decisions together whenever possible
Your kids need to know that they can’t go behind you to your spouse or vise versa when it comes to decisions. It actually gives them security, even if they don’t always like your decision. So, when they ask you for something, try asking “what did your mom/dad say?” and if they haven’t asked yet say, “okay, well let me talk with him/her and we’ll let you know”.
3. If you fight in front of them, make up in front of them
When you fight in front of your kids you give them an open door to “take sides” and decide who is right and who is wrong. Even if you don’t realize it, if you blame your spouse for something in front of them, they will take it to heart and bitterness may take root inside them toward your spouse for hurting you. So, make sure your spouse has a clean slate with them by forgiving your spouse in front of them if you have fought in front of them, too.
Written by Anna Collins
Anna Collins lives in northern California with her husband and four children. She is passionate about her marriage, staying at home with her kids, writing, coffee, good conversation, and game night. Her life dream is to someday write a book and see it published.