I wrote a quote about marriage as my Facebook status a few weeks ago that created a bit of a buzz. I’m not going to be so conceited to think that I cornered the market on talking about how kiddos affect your marriage, but I do think it’s worth a deeper discussion than just a comment thread.
Tim Keller suggests that the idea of placing children ahead of your spouse did NOT originate in our culture of failed marriages, but that it IS perpetuated by it. I don’t have to spew figures for you to know the percentages. Marriages fail more often than they thrive. “Christian” marriages, fail more often than most (According to some studies. This is not said to open an argument about determining what the word Christian actually means). Due to the grievous nature of divorce, parents elevate their children’s status (as the one they were “one” with, no longer is with them). This is infiltrated in our speech, jargon, advertisements, etc. How many of you have heard someone say the phrase, “Put the children first!”
Before I get a barrage of comments about how cruel/wrong/misguided I am, please understand the root of what I am saying. Children are wonderful. Children are a blessing. Children should NEVER be neglected, abused, ignored, made to feel unimportant because of a parent’s selfishness. Not ever. That being said, if you and the father/mother of your children are still united, the greatest gift you could give to them is elevating your spouse to where they belong- first.
I am guilty of putting Ellie first. Way more often than I would like to admit. She is the first thing I talk to Rich about when he wakes up. She is the first thing I talk about when he walks through the door after work. I send him pictures and texts of funny things she says all day long. None of this is wrong at its core. The problem comes in when I neglect his needs as my partner- his needs to be heard, validated, loved, encouraged, uplifted.
If I put Rich first, as I should, every day, my daughter would learn what it means to love and be loved by a man who follows after God’s heart. She will learn security and safety- the freedom to grow and explore on her own, knowing that her parents stand together, forming a bridge beneath her. When Rich comes home, he always kisses me hello. If he forgets or is rushed, our daughter grabs his hand, pulls him over to where I am sitting and pushes our faces together with a smile. She has learned that we are more than important to one another- that we are of one heart, body and mind- and that we need to take the time out each day to acknowledge that. I pray the same for her future husband.
I do my child a disservice when I don’t invest in my marriage before caring for her. If I put her first, I am caring for her alone. Marriage first, she gets both of us loving, lifting and raising her together.
This means asking Rich how HE is, before I tell him the events of our daughter’s day. This means, making time to spend just the two of us, without her, so that we can recharge as a couple, uniting us in spirit, thus enabling us to partner together in parenting her well. This means not obsessing over everything little thing about Ellie- her runny nose, her watery eye, her nails needing to be cut- so that it doesn’t cut in to my listening time with my spouse.
I’ve been married eight years in October, and I know less every year than what I thought I knew. I’m so thankful to be in this journey with my best friend who is always forgiving, gracious and learning with me.