Is your marriage your primary relationship in life? I mean, besides God. I know, that sounds a bit glib, as if I’m tacking God on as an after thought, but I’m not. I just want to focus on human relationships (and yes, I believe Jesus is fully human and fully God, let’s not get drawn into that). Rather, I hear from spouses, fairly regularly, that their husband or wife puts the kids first in their family. Their relationship with their children becomes more important than the relationship with their spouse. I’ve even had husbands and wives tell me themselves that their relationship with their children is the primary one in their life. This needs to stop.
And it’s not always with children. Sometimes your primary relationships can be your friends, a parent or sibling, a co-worker. Whoever it is, it’s not right.
Now, I know, in some cases, you don’t get to choose. Your spouse is pulling away from you, or has a long time ago. Or perhaps they were never really close, and you can’t have a one sided relationship. I’m not talking about those situations in this post.
Instead I just want to make sure that people are putting their relationship with their spouse first. Your spouse should be your best friend. They should be your oasis in the world. They should be who you look forward to seeing every day. They should be who you unburden yourself to, share your hopes and dreams with, and work together for the future.
Unfortunately, some don’t see it that way. They pour their entire lives into their children, placing their spouse on the back burner, thinking “we’ll have time when the kids leave the house”. But, that rarely happens. More likely you end up getting divorced before the kids leave, and if not, then right after the kids leave. Divorces after couples achieve empty-nest are becoming more and more common.
Even if you don’t get divorced, the kids grow up knowing that their parents weren’t close. In my family, for example, as far as I can tell, my mother was completely invested in raising children, and not so invested in their marriage. My father was invested in providing, and not so invested in relating to anyone (that’s another post). To this day, I don’t even know if they like each other. They never divorced, and I don’t think they ever will, but the legacy they left of how to be married damaged us for a long time. And you know what? I think they learned it from their parents. My mother’s parents, I’m fairly sure, loved to hate each other, if you know what I mean. I don’t think I ever heard them say a kind word to each other, but they couldn’t stand to be alone for long.
If you focus on your children, or other relationships, more than on your spouse, then you teach your children to do the same. This becomes a generational effect that can potentially be damaging your descendants for decades, even centuries, to come. Because, children need to know that their parents love each other. Moreover, they need to know that their parents love each other more than anyone else. That stability is what a family is founded on. Without it, families become dysfunctional.
This is why I cringe when I hear people say “we’re staying together for the kids”. If you’re going to put that much effort into staying married…why not put a little bit more in an actually make it a marriage you can enjoy? Plus, you know what? If you want to stay together for the kids, you have to do it for the rest of your life. Because statistically, a divorce later in life still damages your children’s future. Even if your kids are grown up and moved out, started a family of their own, a parental divorce damages them immensely. Many deal with depression, they start to question their own marriages, job performance suffers, and wages decrease.
This occurs even if you stay together in an unhappy marriage. If you’re going to “stay together for the kids”, then you should be trying to “have a happy marriage, for the kids”, and I don’t mean faking it. I mean show your kids what it means to dig in, do the work, and create a thriving marriage. Learn the skills you need, change your heart and characteristics. Become better husbands and wives. That’s what your kids need to see. That’s what the world needs to see.