I often grab an early morning coffee with a friend so we can listen to each other’s lives. The other day, it was a “life is hard” heart-to-heart with one of the younger guys from church. Mostly, we talked about school-aged children, stress at home, and failed relationships. “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve heard a man say about his marriage?” he asked. My answer came without a second thought: “Two things,” I said. “’Right now, it’s all about the kids,’ and, ‘The children are our priority—we’ll take care of us later.’” It always surprises me that people don’t know why your spouse should come first.
Seriously, if I hear “we put the children first” one more time, I just might go all Mike Tyson. Because if the children are prioritized ahead of the marriage, you’re likely going to lose her and the kids both. The marriage is the priority, or there will be no “us” and no “later!” Here are 6 reasons to put your marriage before your kids.
1. You made your marriage vows to your wife, not your children.
This is about the marriage! The vows make it clear that the relationship comes first. It’s one of the biggest reasons why your spouse should come first. Putting the children first diminishes the commitment and dishonors your wife. Putting each other first creates the kind of confidence that causes love to thrive and children to feel secure.Loving your wife is an investment in your children.
2. The best thing you can do for your kids is love their mother.
Loving your wife is an investment in your children. One day years ago, my wife, Rebekah, and I shared a tender moment at dinner. Our 5-year-old ran from the table and came back with my camera. “Smooch Daddy again,” he said. “I want to keep it right here in this picture box!” He wanted the picture because the moment illustrated the kind of love that made him feel secure.
3. The marriage relationship is the foundation of a family.
This love between us is the rock our family home is built on, no matter the street address. Think of investing in fancy interior design for the children’s treehouse while ignoring the rot in the limb it sits on. Families collapse when the foundation fails.
4. Children replicate what they see.
Children emulate their parents. It’s the number one way they learn. When our kids observe self-giving love, they are more likely to practice it themselves. Through them, our love becomes a gift to the world. Pouring ourselves into each other fills up the children too. They feed off our strength, or—likewise—they feed off our weakness.
5. Stress works its way out from the center—and calm does the same thing.
When our 10-year-old had behavioral issues in school, it turned out he wasn’t the one who needed counseling; it was us! He sensed our distance from one another and he lost his footing. We were in danger of losing each other, and the children were fast becoming collateral damage.
6. Marriage is a lifelong investment.
Some men and women find they are strangers when the children move out. But we are going to live with our spouses a lot longer than with our kids. Who we are to each other while raising children is life-shaping and love-affirming, and if we set the primary relationship to the side during those years, our entire experience is impoverished.
Sound off: Are there other reasons why your spouse should come first?
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “In what areas do you think we could strengthen our marriage?”