Kory has said it in a recent sermon. I mentioned it in response to a question while serving on the women’s panel during worship. We’ve talked about it in the Bible study we led together the past seven weeks. We’ve referenced it over the years countless times as we’ve mentored other young families through parenting curriculum. And we spent time with a More Than Moms group just this week talking about it again.
Because we’re wrapping up a seven week sermon series on marriage at church, it’s been on my heart incessantly. And I’m passionate about it. So I’m going to share it again here for my own benefit and the hope that it might bless you too.
Are you ready?
If we want to be the very best parent we can be, we must first be the very best spouse we can be.
We will never be a better parent to our children than we are a spouse to our husband or wife.
As a result, our marriage must be the priority relationship within our family. After our personal relationship with Christ, our marriage must take precedence over all other relationships, including the relationship between parent and child.
I believe this with all my heart, and my heart breaks when I see entire households struggling because the marriage component of the family unit is breaking down.
I won’t pretend that Kory and I have this down perfectly. We don’t. And we are constantly working on improving the quality of our marriage by trying to get better in areas where we are weak.
I also won’t pretend to understand the hurts that men and women in broken marriages are experiencing, nor can I begin to grasp the unique challenges that single parents face while raising their children. But I believe this principle applies to all of us with children, whether we’re married or single. It’s just that the application is different.
Make no mistake about it. Our kids need to see us engaged in healthy adult relationships. Period.
Whether we’re single or married, this begins with our relationship with God.
If we’re single, this continues by modeling healthy relationships with other adults, whether it’s a person we’re dating, or our family and friends.
If we’re married, it can and should involve these other adult relationships, but our marriage should be the priority relationship in our family.
This isn’t easy. And it requires work. Everyday. And no doubt that we’ll all go through seasons where the quality of our relationship with our spouse ebbs and flows.
But so often, the couples we’ve counseled who are struggling, admittedly struggle because they’ve let their children become the center of the family.
This usually happens over time, not overnight. And it most always occurs in the name of good parenting. No doubt it’s well-intentioned. But it’s also subtle. It sneaks up on us. And before we know it, we realize we’re in a marriage with little to no spiritual, emotional, or physical intimacy.
The unfortunate reality is that while we may spend tons of effort catering to the needs of our children, what they really need is to know with assurance that mom and dad love each other and that we’re committed to one another.
Indeed, we are the head and the heart of our families, and we need to act like it. We need to function in such a way that, through our relationship, our children see tangible expressions of the fruits of the spirit.
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. And self-control.
It’s a tall order. But there are some things we can do as “preventive medicine,” to increase the quality of our physical, spiritual, and emotional oneness as married people. These practices will allow us to enjoy the fulness of God’s design for our marriages and bless our children all at the same time, even in the throws of the most challenging parenting years. And they will help us keep our marriage the priority in our families.
There are countless ideas we could include on this list, but Kory and I put our heads together, and this is our Top Eleven:
1. Pray together and for one another.
2. Schedule standing date nights every week if possible.
3. Practice “couch time.” (This is a concept we learned during a parenting class years ago. It involves 15 minutes of conversation between husband and wife at the beginning or end of the day in front of, but not including, the children. This serves as a tangible reminder that mom and dad’s relationship is the priority relationship in the home.)
4. Get out of town together, even if just for one or two nights, and even if just for an inexpensive road trip.
5. Worship together.
6. Join a couples Sunday School class or Bible study.
7. Go to a marriage enrichment seminar or retreat once every 3 to 5 years.
8. See a counselor 1 to 2 times a year whether you “need” to or not.
9. Read marriage books together.
10. Find a hobby to share.
11. Spend time with other couples who share similar values.
There is no doubt that if we truly love our children, we will commit to make our marriage relationship a priority.
Our children need to see us enjoy each other’s company, show affection to each other, laugh together, and do things together. And when we do have disagreements, our children should observe us resolve those conflicts in a healthy way that demonstrates the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
If we do this, our children will be richly blessed.
Do you want to be the parent of your kids’ dreams? Then love your spouse well.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”
Genesis 1:27-31 (emphasis added).