One of my pet peeves is hearing someone bad-mouth their spouse in front of other people. I’m not sure why they do it. It may be because they feel bad about the state of their marriage, or maybe it’s because that type of cavalier attitude seems to be the norm in today’s society. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear someone–sadly, it’s usually the wives– say that their priorities are their children, their friends, and then their spouse. It’s become a collective mindset in today’s society to joke about the importance of your marriage.
Don’t fall for what the world has to say. Don’t let those words you hear others repeating take up residence in your mind. Marriage isn’t a joke. Don’t treat it like it is.
It’s useful to think of your marriage as a separate entity from you or your spouse. Think about it like this:
Marriage is like cooking dinner. You know when you are making something that has a lot of moving parts and requires different things cooking at the same time? When one thing is done, you need to move it out of the way to work on something else. If you forget about something that is cooking in the background, it will burn. If you are married and raising a family, you are juggling a lot of activities at one time, just like the complicated dinner. Even though we have a lot of things going on that demand our immediate attention, we can’t just push our marriages onto the back burner and forget about them. The back burner is a place where your marriage can get burnt too.
Couples who have healthy relationships don’t find the time to work on their relationship. They make the time. We tend to look at marriage as an important part of life, but its needs don’t seem as urgent, so we fuss over all the immediate problems and set our marriages aside. This lack of attention leaves our marriages dying and cold.
What it Means to Prioritize
Prioritizing your marriage means that you show a preference for the things that will make the marriage better year after year. It means prioritizing your spouse over everything and everyone, including the kids.
Putting your spouse above everything else does not mean that you put all your time and energy into your spouse and their needs. It does mean that you make sure that all the distractions don’t damage your marriage.
It means thinking about your spouse often and considering their opinion when you are weighing a decision.
Prioritizing your spouse means being unselfish. The selfless act of putting their feelings, needs, and well-being ahead of your own helps you to create a sense of “we,” where everything you do focuses on keeping the marriage healthy.
When your marriage is your top priority, you create a bubble around your marriage. You do everything in your power to keep out that which will tear down your relationship.
What are the Benefits to Putting Your Spouse First?
When the spouses are prioritizing their marriage, each of them feels safe and as if they completely belong. These secure feelings help to build trust between you, and your marriage will be stronger and happier. And when you feel this way in your marriage, the chances you will divorce go down.
Prioritizing your marriage so it lasts means that you each have someone with whom you can face the trials that life throws at you. A secure marriage means you always have a person to share your hopes dreams and joys with.
Showing preference for your spouse is the best thing you can give your kids. When they see you working as a team, being intentional about spending time together and treating one another respectfully, they will expect that from a relationship. They feel safe and secure with less anxiety because their parents are a stabilizing force in their lives.
Your marriage is to last a lifetime. Your kids are only around for a little while, so making an effort to prioritize your marriage makes sense. This is the person you will be with even when the kids are gone.
What Happens When You Don’t Put Your Spouse First?
You become roommates. You end up just coexisting, not spending any quality time with each other, and the level of intimacy goes way down.
After the kids are gone, you realize you have drifted apart, and you have trouble remembering why you married this person in the first place.
Your kids will settle for someone to marry that doesn’t prioritize them. They have seen it for years in your marriage, so they subconsciously look for that dynamic in their relationships. Do you want your child to live in a marriage where they don’t feel appreciated or valued?
You run the risk of a gray divorce. These divorces are those which occur after the age of 50. The underlying cause of these breakups is usually living without kids. Because they spent the years of their marriage focusing so much more on their kids than each other, they end up drifting apart. Soon the lack of emotional support, the loss of respect from their spouse, and feeling distant lead many couples to divorce.
What Gets in the Way?
Children: I believe 100% that your marriage has to come first. It doesn’t mean you ignore your kids when they need you, but it means you are willing to put their wants and desires aside at some time each day so you can remain connected to your spouse. Making our children our absolute priority is an easy trap to fall into because they are so dependent on us those first few months and years.
Work: Don’t get sucked into working more hours if it’s not absolutely financially necessary. Your job is vital to your family, yes, but is it worth losing your family over it?
Friends: It’s fine to have a social life. But, when you spend more of your free time with them than you do with your spouse, you run the risk of making them feel as if they’ve been replaced, and they will go looking for someone else who can fill that empty spot.
Responsibilities: We all have responsibilities, that’s true. But are all these responsibilities truly yours? How did these things become your responsibility? You may just have to start saying no to some more responsibilities outside of your home to give time to your spouse time that will strengthen your marriage.
Don’t make excuses. Don’t say, “I wish I could prioritize my marriage, but…” and list of a book’s worth of reasons why you can’t. You can. It just takes being intentional about it.
Are you making your spouse a priority?
Ask yourself these questions to see if you are really making your spouse a priority.
- Do you make creating an emotional connection with your spouse an essential part of your relationship?
- Are you thinking about your spouse’s thoughts and feelings in all the situations you face?
- Is it important to you that you protect your spouse’s reputation by only speaking well of them in public?
- Is your spouse the first person you go to to talk about things that are bothering you, instead of your friends or relatives?
- Do you respect your spouse, even when you have differences of opinion?
- Are you intentional about never emotionally or physically hurting your spouse on purpose?
- Do you put your marriage’s success above your desire to be right?
Prioritizing your spouse and your marriage over all else improves your marriage not just today, but for the future, too. It’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when you have kids. It just takes practicing a new mindset that declares your spouse as a priority and behaving in that way.
Today, make time for one another. No excuses. Declare that your spouse is your number one priority (after your relationship with God). Take your marriage off autopilot and be intentional about showing your spouse how special they are. You can’t wait for things to calm down, because they won’t. Take it from someone who’s been there. Whatever is keeping you busy now, will be replaced by something else later.
In the future, you will reap the results of what you have sown during the early years of your marriage. What you have created will be difficult to overcome if you have not kept prioritizing your spouse over the years.
When the kids are gone, you don’t want to have to get to know each other all over again, do you? Wouldn’t you rather just be ready to enjoy that time of life?