Today is mine and Kevin’s 14th wedding anniversary. We would never claim to have a perfect marriage (um, there’s no such thing, so stop daydreaming), but if you asked us if we have a good marriage, we would emphatically say yes. And then if you proceeded to ask us how we’ve built a good marriage throughout having five children, cross country moves, running a business, different leadership roles at a few different churches, hospital stays and sicknesses, etc etc…we would say it’s because we prioritize our marriage. When I was just driving on the road today, a mini van passed by me that had rust on it so badly that it actually had eaten through the car and had holes in it! I said out loud to myself, “wow! I’ve never seen that before”. But that’s what happens to a car that is driven in the Midwest and isn’t taken care of properly throughout those harsh winter months. Kevin is constantly taking care of our cars by running them through the car wash in the winter because he says “if you don’t get the salt off, the car will rust”. Just like that car, if we don’t take care of our marriage, it’s going to begin to show holes. It is going to begin to slowly dissolve away and not be the beautiful marriage it could be.
The most common time to get divorced is when the couple becomes empty nesters.
They held the marriage together for the sake of the children, and when the children are all out of the house, there is no audience anymore to be “playing house” for, so they raise the white flag of surrender and decide to go their separate ways. The truth is though, they went their separate ways years before. Maybe it was a quick shift like a tsunami that swept in and destroyed the trust they had for each other, or maybe it was a slow changing of the tide that over the years exposed just how far their hearts drifted from each other.
Either way, it is a sad thing to see. No one sits by and smiles as they see their friends go through a divorce, even if the party involved claims it is all “civil”, and will “remain the best of friends”.
We know deep within our souls that what is brought together with sacred vows, and “I will love you forever’s” should never be separated. Yet, we see it happen everyday.
So, how do we not become a statistic? How do we keep our marriage together even after there is no more eyes watching us each day? Even more than that, how do we stay in a place of love, adoration, and affection with one another?
Well, I have other posts brewing on this, but for today I want to give you…
10 reasons WHY your marriage must absolutely, positively take FIRST place.
Ready?! Here we go…
- Your spouse came before the children. Period. It started the two of you, and at some point it will go back to the two of you.
- Your kids need to see a positive marriage modeled for them. They are going to copy what they see. How do you speak to your spouse? They will speak to theirs in the same way. How do you prioritize the marriage? That is how your children will prioritize their marriage. They are absorbing more than you think, so be a good -no, great role model of what a fun, loving marriage can look like.
- Kids get their security from seeing Mom and Dad happy together. One question we ask our kids regularly is “do you think Mom and Dad love each other”? They usually giggle and nod. We ask, “how do you know we do?”, and they say, “because you guys always want to be together”, or “Dad is always grabbing your butt”(hee hee! It’s really true), or “you guys are always kissing each other”. Don’t shy away from showing each other affection in front of your kids. Now, don’t go overboard! But, snuggles, pats, and kisses are totally appropriate and heathy for your kids to see! It will give them security that they are in a strong family that will not crumble.
- You want to be happy, don’t you?! I mean, c’mon, if you are going to be LIVING with someone, you have to put the effort into them. And when you put effort into someone, you usually like them more. Liking the person you live with equals you being a happier person!
- Your spouse deserves to be living happily too. I know there are days when you want to sentence your spouse to a lifelong silent treatment from you, but really, they are a person too (the person you absolutely fell head over heals for at one point). They deserve to be happy too! If you aren’t prioritizing this relationship, it’s easy to forget that they are a person with feelings just like you are. Don’t be hard-hearted! Give them a break and try to make their day a little brighter.
- The Bible says you are one flesh together. Genesis 2:24 says “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. Matthew 19:5 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. Ephesians 5:31 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. And in Mark 10:8 it says, “and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh”. Phew! That’s a lot of redundancy. But that means it must really mean something to God. It’s a spiritual law that we don’t see in a physical way, but somehow God sees us as one. That means if Kevin is bummed about something, I feel bummed. If he is stressed about something, typically I feel stressed too. How he feels affects me, and how I feel affects him. It’s supposed to be that way. We are intertwined in a deep way that goes beyond our understanding. So, this tells me that God wants us to be sensitive to each other’s needs because, in a way, we are also tending to our own needs. What we do to them will eventually effect us if we are still in a place of having a tender heart. Years of bitterness will harden this, of course, so don’t allow bitterness to come between the two of you. It’s not worth it, as eventually you will drink the bitter poison of that bitterness yourself.
- The world needs more love. Like the song, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”, we need to see more loving, committed, thriving marriages! You can do this!! Put your marriage first so that it can be built to last, and others can be inspired by yours. The world needs to see love that is real and stands the test of time through sickness, financial struggles, child rearing, job changes, moves, and weight fluctuations. How endearing it is to onlookers to see an elderly couple walking hand in hand while smiling at each other. Gosh-it melts my heart every time!
- Starting another marriage is a lot of hard work as well. Don’t be deceived into thinking that all your troubles will go away if your spouse goes away. Far better to roll up your sleeves and work on the marriage you are in than work on starting a whole new one.
- If you don’t put your marriage first, you’ll lose sight of how great you’ve got it. Being married is fun! At least it can be if you put effort into it and make it first in your life. Don’t wait until your spouse puts their best effort into you, you put on your big kid panties and take the first step. Plan date nights. Go bowling or golfing together, start taking walks around the block after dinner, pick up a cup of coffee for them and drop it by work unexpectedly, buy them a little gift just because, snuggle up to them while you watch TV in the evening. Doing these little things will remind you that living with someone and sharing your unique relationship is actually a lot of fun!
- And last, put your marriage first because your marriage must stand strong if you are going to get through the child rearing years! These are tough years! Raising kids is no joke, and if you are not a team doing it together, those little sweeties will pull you apart under the pressure of all they demand. Keeping your marriage first will help you tremendously to get through this season without feeling like you are driven over by a truck day after day. You and your spouse need to be able to connect regularly to communicate about the kids schedules, how to handle the pressures you see your kids going through, and to come up with a game plan when little Johnny wakes up in the night. Remember, you are a team! Don’t let the littles pull you apart. Stay connected so that you can tackle the week ahead of you, instead of feeling like the kids are tackling you. Kevin and I set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to go through the week ahead, to make sure we are on the same page with our schedule. We also will send e-mails or make phone calls during this time to schedule things like dentist appointments, signing the kids up for sports camp or swim lessons, and dinners with other families. That way, we are a team in setting the family schedule and neither of us feel like the other one is running the calendar and all the decisions for the family. There is also no room for miscommunication. So, when Thursday evening rolls around and we all need to be somewhere, there is no “who signed us up for this anyway?!” because we did it together, and decided together.
Obviously I must state that if one spouse is verbally or physically abusive, you must get help beyond this post. I am not writing to that. I simply want to help the marriages that feels as if they have fallen out of “like” with each other because they are barely keeping their heads above the waters of life. Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a simple solution to the woes of marriage.
Prioritize your marriage. Make it first. Wash that salt off with love, tenderness, and fun so you don’t rust out.
You really can do this! You can take the first step. Be the spouse that your children need. And my prayer is that when you do that day after day, you will find yourself not just “in love” again, but “in like” too!