Why Your Spouse Should Come First: Putting Your Spouse First In A Marriage - Who's More Important Spouse Or Child

The marriage ought to come first. That doesn't mean that you ignore the children. But it does mean that if you want what is best for your children, you will keep the marriage strong.

As a pastor of a Church, I counsel many marriages and many problem children. What I have discovered is that many or rather most of a child's problems are directly related to the problems within the marriage of his or her parents. Give me a troubled marriage and I will invariably find troubled children.

That is a fact that is indisputable from my experience of over a decade of counseling and trying to patch relationships back together. It has never failed that when a child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder that I can find a chaotic, or angry, or dysfunctional marriage or home life where that child lives. Yes, I do think there is a direct correlation.

That being said, a strong marriage, a strong relationship between the husband and the wife provides the stability and security so that a child develops well mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take away that stability or that security, and the child develops all sorts of chronic problems that range from the emotional to the physical.

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If you give more attention to your children than you do to your spouse, the tension and anxiety that is created bleeds over into the emotional range of your children. They not only pick up on it, but they react to it in adverse ways.

So if you really love your children, work on having a strong and flourishing marriage.

All growing up, I never heard my parents argue one time. They always found time to do things together. They would often put each other first over my brother and me. It absolutely did neither of us a bit of harm. I never worried about mom and dad. I never faced the anxiety and insecurity of mom and dad fighting or yelling. I went on to be a pastor, my brother a missionary in China and both of us are well married with happy children at home. We both learned from mom and dad.

The moment that children take precedent in your lives over the marriage, is the moment that you bring insecurity into the lives of your children. They may enjoy your attention, but they absorb the anxiety and anger from the problems you are creating in your marriage. It's just not worth it. Children need their parents to have a strong relationship.

Without a doubt, the happiest children I've dealt with also have parents who have a good marriage

99 times out of a 100, I can trace a child's issues to their parent's marriage issues too.

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Numerous questions were sent to me after I published the first part of this article, Lasting Marriage: How to Overcome the Past, Part I, and I'd like to briefly answer a few of the most frequent ones before we move on to Part II.

The most common one involved stories that would break anyone's heart, and involved things like sexual abuse, rape, affairs or humiliation.

How Can I Possibly Overcome These Hurts?

And the question was "how can I possibly overcome this part of my past in order to have a happy marriage?"

If this describes your past (with your spouse or with others before him or her) I have all the compassion in the world for you.

The Answer Is, Yes, It is Possible

It may seem to you that you could never overcome the past and be happy in your marriage. I understand that, but I can tell you something else.

Many people - millions in fact - have indeed overcome the past and gone on to have happy marriages and happy lives, no matter how bad their suffering has been.

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You Must Find a Way to "Move Forward"

In Part I, I wrote that the test of long-term success in marriage is how you make your way to the other side of disappointments. Because disappointments, disagreements and even betrayals there will be. It's an unavoidable fact of life that when you live with someone in close quarters for an extended period of time, you'll run into differences.

If you don't find a way to move forward after these unavoidable conflicts or disagreements, you'll surely sink down into a state of grudges, bad feelings, holding on to the past and gradually become so disillusioned and full of pain about the marriage that you'll have no choice but to get sick, go away or get divorced.

It's Not Your Fault - At First

In Part I of this article I pointed out that no one teaches you how to deal with the "rocky" parts of marriage. Most people I've interviewed have very poor models of what you can do in the face of disagreements or conflict.

Most people feel you either need to compromise (they mean "give up" your views and yourself), dramatically lower your expectations of marriage (most people feel it's a losing proposition over the long term), or do the opposite, which is to fight your way through the conflicts.

So... The Question is, How to Overcome the Past

If you are to survive and thrive as a couple you must figure out this challenge. Past experiences can haunt you to the extent that you feel you cannot go on with your spouse another moment.

Let me give you some very specific tips. I'll repeat the first part and then go on.

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First, you have to make a list with three columns. The first column needs to be things that you are sure you can let go of. Then you simply let go of them. You just say "NO MORE, GO AWAY!"

In the second column, you list things that "maybe" you would be willing to let go of. Then you simply let go of them. You just say "NO MORE, GO AWAY!" That's right, it's the same as the first column.

Now we get to the third column, things that up to this point you've not been willing to let go of. This one is more tricky, because they are deep hurts.

Do NOT start by trying to talk these through with your partner. That will fail, I guarantee it.

Now, these are things that in order to let go of, you're going to have to ask for some really deep help. I suggest you ask God to help you let go of them. Otherwise, you need to find a therapist or other very skilled person.

Take that list to God or a therapist and state specifically "I need to let go of these things, and I need for you to show me how to do that, very specifically and step by step."

Once you begin on that path, you'll find that things begin to change inside of you and you'll begin to see those things in the third column differently. Once you've really worked this out inside of yourself, then you can begin to tell your partner in a kind and loving way what you've been doing.

And the best part of your marriage may begin right after that.

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Mutual or reciprocated respect is foundational to any good relationship. If only one of you respects the other than the one respected tends to puff-up with pride and to look down somewhat on the partner that they do not respect. So each partner must respect the other so that love and admiration can flow continually on a two-way channel between the two of you. If it flows in only one direction then the one giving is not receiving the nourishment of love and admiration that they crave for. Respecting your husband is tantamount to admiring him or having a high opinion of him or placing a high value on him. So how do you show your husband that you respect him?

1. Ask yourself whether you really do respect him! You cannot give what you do not have and if you do not genuinely respect your husband then you will be unable to fake it for long. You do not have to admire every little crook and cranny in him but there should be things about him that you admire. Think about what it is that you like about your husband; what does he do really well? What traits does he have that you admire? If nothing comes to mind take a sit and think. Why did you marry him? What about him used to excite you and keep you awake in awe and admiration? Think girl, there must be something about him that is good and noble otherwise you wouldn't have married him. Don't let the nastiness of today cloud all the good that you once saw and enjoyed in your husband.

2. Focus on what is good in your hubby! Yes, he has some issues and there are times when he lights a fire under your very last nerve but for you to show your husband your respect you must see more of his good qualities than his bad. Is he faithful and true to you even though he can irritate you by some of his habits? Then focus on this fact and realize what strength of character and fortitude faithfulness and devotion takes in this day and age. Does he go to work and earn an income to support you and the children or does he help out in the home as an equal partner even though he may have one or two unsavory habits? Then be thankful for this as there are many lazy bums sitting on couches all over the world with no intention of doing anything productive. See the good in your husband, focus on it and be thankful for the specific good thing (or things). Once your heart is in gratitude mode then your whole demeanor and reaction to your husband changes. You are softer to be around and less judgmental (and more respectful) towards him even before your speech and deeds change.

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3. Speak it! To show your husband respect you must now speak out the gratitude that is in your heart. When he does something or makes an effort to do it well then let him know in specific words, and right away, that you appreciate whatever it is that he has done or is trying to do. It may be a little difficult to start off, so start small with a grateful word here and there until you can do whole sentences. Don't over-think this and make it an insurmountable mountain. Be thankful next time he does something you appreciate. If you had previously just said thank you, now say thank you with a smile and let him know you appreciate when he is kind toward you as it makes you feel loved. Let it be a step-by-step progression from wherever you are at right now so that the change is gradual and you can do it without feeling overwhelmed or fake; and he is turn can absorb it without being suspicious.

4. Live it! Your deeds must now follow your mouth in showing your husband respect. Listen to him and ask for his opinion on matters that are important to you. And when he talks keep quiet and listen without finishing his sentences for him or telling him what he meant to say. Respecting your husband means acknowledging that he is all grown up and that he has valid opinions about things. So resist the urge to demean his opinions when you don't agree with them or to dismiss them outright. Listen and give non-judgmental feedback and you will be surprised at how wise he really is once you can 'hear him' above your own judgements and prejudices.

Showing your husband you respect him requires first of all a change of heart that is then followed by a change in behavior. If you cannot have a right heart attitude towards your husband then you will not be able to respect him for the long haul.

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Belittling behaviours have their way in many relationships; and in many marriages. It's always fear that underlies the critical spirit. Let us attempt to define it.

The Critical Spirit: that approach to relational life that speaks a perception of truth without the covering of love. Such a criticism, therefore, is not constructive.

Given that there is generally a hint of truth in any criticism - that hint exemplified in the criticiser's rationale of attack - we cannot hold that the critical spirit is not without cause. We all tend to act in ways that demonstrates unflinching commitment to what we think God has shown us; only later is it sometimes revealed that we were deceived. There are so many dimensions of truth that we are to be forgiven for acting in what we think at the time is good faith, that only ends up being action in bad faith.

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But what is the cause of the critical spirit, and what, specifically, is it in marriage?

When a husband or wife berates their partner in an emotional way there clearly isn't the presence of the adult sensibility within them at the time. They have become the child again, as we all have the propensity to regress into the child from time to time; the scary thing is it can happen in a heartbeat. No adult is too far from such a regression - a minute or two sometimes.

What underlies the child (the child that is wounded) in the fully-formed adult is fear.

Somehow fear is operating cogently, and such fear can be entirely unconscious, to the point we are not aware of it. This is why, in that mode of the critical spirit, where our anger is raging, we don't feel fearful at all. But fear is at the root of it.

Correcting such a state of the critical spirit in full fly is, hence, just a matter of embracing a humbling reality: "What, in this moment, is inciting fear in me... what may I not be aware of... what fear(s) could this be?"

We want to name our fears in order to be corrected of them. Awareness is the miracle of God - divine revelation and inspiration.

Saying or doing the wrong thing can actually cause your spouse to feel even more distant from you. You can make your spouse fall back in love with you, all over again.

You don't have to worry about whether your spouse is on the brink of asking you for a divorce. You can control the situation and use specific techniques to naturally make them fall hopelessly in love with you.

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