by Gary and Joy Lundberg
There is a natural order in marriage. It begins with two people falling in love, believing that they are the most important person in the world to each other. As children come along they need to be cherished and loved but never more than your spouse. Then when they’re grown and gone, it’s back to just two people again. When these two remain in love, it provides a stability and a legacy for the children, no matter their age.
Your children need to see how marriage works
If you push your spouse down on your list of priorities, your children will believe that marriage isn’t all that important. On the other hand, if they see you honoring your spouse with that number one spot, they will feel a love and security that can come in no other way.
A young adult shared the following experience. She said, “When I was little I used to ask my mom who she loved the most, me or Dad. She always said, “Dad.” I asked him the same question, and he answered “Mom.” Of course, I knew they loved me, but I was always a little disappointed that they didn’t say they loved me the most. A few years later I asked them again and the answer they gave showed me on top, at last. They said they loved me the most. The funny thing is, it didn’t feel so good after all. It wasn’t the feeling I was expecting. I liked it better when they said they loved each other the most.” A few years later they were divorced. She said, “They needed to keep loving each other the most, then I might still have a mom and dad together. It’s sad.”
Twin college coeds were counseling their younger sisters about what to look for in their future husband. They wrote: “Tonight when Dad comes home from work or meetings, listen to the first words he’ll say when he walks in the door: ‘Where’s my beautiful wife?’ Then watch as he searches the house to find her, just so he can kiss her to let her know he loves her. Notice how he’ll start helping with whatever he can right away, and how he makes every one of you feel so important as he asks about your day.” Putting your spouse first does not diminish the love your children feel from you. It enhances it as long as you show love to them as well.
It creates a feeling of romance in your marriage
You know right off the top that you matter to your spouse, and that’s romantic. How open are you to respond with love and affection when you feel that you are the most important person in the world to your spouse? Keeping romance alive in marriage is crucial. And this is not just about “making love,” it’s about giving love in everyday little acts of caring that show your spouse how much he or she means to you. An unhappy husband told us that her wife meets the needs of everyone else first and rarely even notices his. Are there times when a child’s needs come first? Of course, but not continually and not at the expense of your spouse. A father of three young children, when asked if he still had the top spot on his wife’s list of priorities, said, “I’m not even on the list.” He wasn’t laughing. Busy spouses must always find time to show their mates how important they are to them.
Children who are continually number one become self-centered
When they are practically worshiped at home by a parent, children go out into the world with an unrealistic view; one that says they are owed. In an article by physician Danielle Teller, titled “How American parenting is killing the American marriage,” she said, “Children who are raised to believe that they are the center of the universe have a tough time when their special status erodes as they approach adulthood. Most troubling of all, couples who live entirely child-centric lives can lose touch with one another to the point where they have nothing left to say to one another when the kids leave home… Is it surprising that divorce rates are rising fastest for new empty nesters?”
It helps everything else in your life go better
When your marriage is going well, it improves every other part of your life. If you have to spend time worrying about your marriage, it will take away from your productivity at work. Even more important, if you spend time fretting over marital problems, you have less time to devote to your children. There is only so much time and space in your life so keeping the marriage strong opens up more avenues for your relationship with your children to flourish. Keeping your spouse in that number one spot is what helps make that happen.
When divorce and remarriage enter the scene, it can be complicated. Where do the children of the first marriage fit? The new spouse deserves that number one spot, but that does not mean the children of a previous marriage are excluded. Children of divorce can feel left out and unloved if proper attention is not given to them. They may not be number one, but they need to be a very close number two, even if they are unlovable at times. They’re hurting. They need both of their natural parents’ love for them to thrive.
If you are a step-parent (some call it more lovingly — a bonus parent), then you need to be willing to welcome your current mate’s children into your lives and allow him or her to have time to enjoy their children. Bring them into a loving family where they can see that your current marriage is one of happiness and strength. It will give them a feeling of security they were missing before.