Have you ever heard a pastor or another Christian leader say that you’re supposed to put your marriage before your kids? I used to flip-flop on the issue, but I now understand why this is a must in family life. Stay with me for this one!
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Marriage Before Kids, In Theory
When I was younger and attending ministry school I was privileged to be able to hear really good marriage advice. One of the things that was often drilled into my classmates and me was, “You should put your marriage before your kids.” That didn’t just mean literally “get married before you have kids” that meant continue to prioritize your marriage when kids come into the picture. I was young and had a fairytale view of marriage and family life so I naively thought, “Yes! I agree and I will do that some day.”
Marriage Before Kids IRL (In Real Life)
When I got married and had my daughter it became really hard to live this out. I’m going to be completely honest with you. Literally within the first few weeks of becoming parents, I could feel myself loving my daughter more than I loved my husband. She was my flesh and blood, she could do no wrong, she needed me, she obeyed me, and she loved me unconditionally. My husband is amazing, but back then I didn’t cherish him the way I do now. I think moms tend to have an easier time adjusting to parenting because we’re wired to nurture, socially expected to have that role figured out during the third trimester, and I think we generally are able to more intuitively perceive the needs our family has and meet them as best we can. I think dads tend to struggle a little bit with knowing what to do when the baby comes. So in fitting with my stereotypes, my husband didn’t know how to help me. I felt like I was doing a lot of things by myself and he didn’t appreciate me as much. It was hard for him to keep his spot as number 2 (to God as my #1) when my daughter was as close to perfection as I had ever met.
That being said, I think it’s natural for us to reject this idea of putting our spouse before our kids, either consciously or subconsciously. The truth is, I think it is more unnatural to unconditionally love our spouses than it is to unconditionally love our kids. In marriage we are called to become one flesh and though the Scripture obviously includes the sexual benefits of that, it also means we have to kill our ego in order to become one with our spouse. That’s freaking difficult! Thanks God for the Holy Spirit who helps us.
I think it is imperative that we put our marriages before our kids because it’s important to God. I also think their are a lot of very practical reasons why doing so may work in our favor. If you put your marriage first, you’ll be able to support each other as you raise children and have a companion after becoming empty nesters. But to me, the real reason we are called to put marriage before our kids is that through a healthy marriage we model for our kids God’s relationship with the Church.
A Healthy Marriage Models God’s Unconditional Love
I’ve shared before about my parent’s divorce when I was a teenager and I recently realized that a big part of my easily shaken faith foundation was shaped by my parents struggling to show us unconditional love through their choice to love each other. I have an a amazing relationship with both of my parents now. However, one of the most painful things my dad said to me, which I believe was intended to comfort me and backfired, was that he loved my mom more than he loved me. I will probably never make any comparative statements about my love for my family members for that reason. I’m more of a blanket “lie and tell them you’re all my favorite” kind of person. (I know it’s awkward, but you can laugh, you have my permission).
When the going got tough, my parents did not “love” each other enough to stay together. Which meant that my dad didn’t love me enough to stay with me. You can imagine, I had serious abandonment issues and it was easy to doubt God’s love for me and walk away from Him because my security was shaken. By God’s grace I’m working through it and no one’s mistakes can separate us from God’s love. (Side note: If you’re already separated or divorced from your child’s father, read this post and be encouraged that you can still have an amazing impact on your child.)
What If We Put Our Marriages Before Our Kids?
Maybe you’re not getting ready to break up with your spouse, but what if the way you love them is demonstrating for your children what love is? What if their idea of love is warped by your passive and flawed depiction of it? What if loving your kids is not enough to convince them that love is real? What if the security of you fighting to make your marriage a priority is what helps your child accept God’s love and share it with others unconditionally?
In our marriages, if we put God first and then prioritize marriage and then our kids, we model for them love, forgiveness, grace and many other aspects of God’s character. And don’t think for a second that we will do this perfectly and that our kids will never stumble. However, when we strive to love in the order that God requires — God, spouse, kids — even the imperfection is used to show our kids God’s glory. They get to see how to apologize when they mess up. They get to see how God treats us when we sin. They get to see how to love someone even when they don’t always deserve it. They get to see how to serve when they don’t feel like it. They get to see how we can choose to love beyond our feelings because that’s real love. And when we tell them and show them that we love them, and more than that — God loves them — they believe us.
Next week, I’ll share 7 practical ways that you can prioritize your marriage. Be sure to check back here so that you can implement the “how” behind today’s “why.”
Your turn: Is it easy or difficult for you to put your spouse before your kids? Why or why not? ⭐
Hey sis! I’m Imani, the Young Moms’ Advocate and Legacy Activator, who is here to help your family prosper. Also, I’m probably dancing to Michael Jackson right now.