Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage, and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records.
When I have a couple in my office whose marriage is not doing well, I always ask them when things started to go south. More often than not, the answer relates to when they became parents.
WHEN YOU HAVE KIDS, THINGS CHANGE
You have a lot more resources prior to having kids. You have more…
- Free Time.
- Personal Time.
- Social Time.
But after you have kids, these things become more scarce, and it puts more stress on spouses.
But there’s another dynamic that happens after we have kids, and that has to do with our changing roles.
Before children, we were just husband and wife. We were playmates; focused on one another. But when kids come along, we’re no longer just husband and wife. We’re also mom and dad. And this changes the dynamic of the relationship.
Wives shift into the mom role, and everything about them is centered on the child. If they carried the child in pregnancy, the child has already effected everything about them…including their body. Moms become very focused on the care and nurturing of children.
Husbands are different. Husbands tend to be a little slower to make the shift to dad role. Maybe it’s because dads don’t carrying the child for nine months. Or maybe it’s because husbands are just wired differently. Whatever the reason, husbands are not as centered on the child at first. All they know is they see their wife changing into a mom and they feel like they’re losing their playmate.
So husbands will try to get their playmate back. This can be a bit annoying for wives, who often see their husband’s attempts as either a sign of selfishness or immaturity. So a wife will communicate to her husband that he’s an adult who can take care of himself, but this child needs her.
Eventually, a husband will quit trying to get his playmate back and succumb to the fact that he now has a mom in her place. Then, he will shift into a dad roll by working hard at his job to provide well for his family.
And thus begins the marital drift. Though there can be some flips in gender and wage-earner roles, by and large wives focus on kids and husbands focus on work. When kids become older and more self-sufficient, a wife feels a little more freedom to turn back toward her husband and reconnect. The problem is, the husband is now accustomed to his role as a hard-working provider and doesn’t easily make the shift back. And so distance and dissatisfaction begin to set in like concrete.
GETTING THINGS BACK IN ORDER.
So, if putting your kids ahead of your spouse is one way to lose your marriage, then the remedy for this is to put your partnering back in front of your parenting. To be husband and wife first and dad and mom second.
So here are some things that will help you put your partnering in front of your parenting. You won’t be perfect at these things, but you don’t have to be. You just have to be better at them.
Make Time Together a Priority.
Caring for children carries big demands that often leave spouses with little time or energy at the end of a long day.
I’m not saying you should neglect you children. I’m just saying you should make sure you and your spouse get a cut of the time you have.
Spend daily time together.
- Maybe you can spend a few minutes together after you get home from work.
- Maybe you can start putting your kids to bed 30 minutes earlier in order to get 30 minutes together before you go to bed.
- Maybe you can find a few minutes together at the dinner table, after the kids have left the table.
Whatever works for you, find some time each day to connect. Then, you need to move on to…
Spend weekly time together.
Have a weekly date night. If you can’t go weekly, then go out every other week. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It just needs to be intentional. You were in love when you used to date, so continuing to date will help to rekindle some of that.
Some things won’t get done if you do these things. But, maybe spending a few minutes together is more important. Think of it not as a loss, but as a trade.
Make Financing Your Relationship Together a Priority.
Even if you have to eat Ramen Noodles one night a week or skip a trip or two to Sartbucks, make sure you budget money for date nights, baby sitters, movies, or whatever you want to do together. Spending time together is worth the sacrifice somewhere else. And you will eventually get to the place where you can afford it without the sacrifice.
Make Sex Together a Priority.
Studies show that there is a correlation between marriage satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. When sexual satisfaction increase, so does marriage satisfaction. Even 1 Corinthians 7:5 says we are to not forsake the sexual relationship in marriage, but rather to regularly come together for sex.
I know spouses often disagree on how often they should be having sex, but sit down, reach an agreement, and then stick to it. On those nights you’re going to have sex, help one another out with kids and chores around the house, in order to make time and energy for sex. You may also need to let some things go on those evenings, for the sake of having time for sex.
But you’ll be surprised how regularly enjoying sex together will strengthen the bond between the two of you and keep your marriage a priority.
Make Laughing Together a Priority.
If you’re not having fun with someone, why would you want to spend time them?
So find things that will make each other laugh. Watch funny movies together. Tell each other jokes. Flirt. Recall funny moments. Do whatever you need to do to laugh together. Because when you don’t laugh together, it makes it harder to live together.
Make Goals and Dreams Together a Priority.
It’s easy to talk about your goals and dreams for your kids. But…don’t take this the wrong way…your kids are sort of temporary. They’re going to grow up, move away, and start marriages and families of their own.
So make goals and dreams for just the two of you. It’s a good way of reminding you that ultimately, the two of you are the priority. Even if you don’t reach every goal or dream you set, you’ve still had the fun and bonding of doing it together.
These are just a few of the things you can do to keep from putting your kids ahead of your spouse and losing your marriage. And now…
A FINAL WORD…
To some, putting your spouse ahead of your kids may seem wrong…or at least more idealistic than realistic. They may think, “I could never do this. You just don’t know how it is at my house! You don’t know how hard it is! If we do all of this, there won’t be enough time to get everything done!” And those that think that would be right!
I know it’s demanding at your house, and I know it’s hard. I’ve had to raise kids and maintain a marriage and family while going to grad school and working two jobs. And you’re right…there won’t be enough time for everything. But if you’re so busy that you have to put your marriage on the back burner to get it all done, then you have too many “priorities.” Not everything can be a priority, and how can you expect to have a rich marriage “later” if you’re not making the proper investments now?
So, keep your partnering ahead of your parenting, because putting your kids ahead of your spouse is one of the ways to lose your marriage. It’s on the List!