Putting Your Spouse First: Best Practices for a Successful Marriage
Let’s preface this topic with some quick facts – yes babies need a LOT of attention, and yes normally young children will need your attention and your focus and your energy much more than your spouse because you are teaching them how to be fully functioning human beings. And yes your time and energy will be spent on your children because they need you to survive while they are young. But once you have children the best way to keep your family close and your marriage strong is by striving to put your spouse first. This does not mean you are putting your spouse first because you are selfish or a terrible parent, you put your spouse first FOR your children, your family, and your marriage.
Why should you put your spouse first? Here are some reasons your marriage will benefit by putting each other first:
A Lasting Marriage
According to success.com, “If you want your marriage to last your lifetime, give it the attention and effort it deserves. Your kids will live with you for just two short decades. Putting your marriage on cruise control for 20 years, while you focus on your kids is like falling asleep at the wheel – deadly.” Your children are only with you for a few short years, if you want a lasting marriage then take time to appreciate and love the person who will be with you the longest. You do not get to choose your extended family – mothers, sisters, aunts, nephews, etc. You do not get to choose who your children will turn out to be, the only person you truly choose to love is your spouse. Create a lasting marriage by putting your spouse first.
Happy and Healthy Children
You are your children’s first and most effective teacher – they will base many of their ideas of love and marriage on the example that you give. Your children will feel safe, happy when they have two parents who work together as a team and act like their spouse is their favorite person. Showing a healthy marriage where two people care about each other above all else is one of the best things you can do for your children. According to huffingtonpost.com, “I view my investment in my relationship with my spouse as one that is beneficial to our family as a whole.”
Putting your spouse first, caring for their needs, loving them, and being aware of their thoughts and feelings is a fantastic way to care for a lasting romance. Your children will eventually leave, but your spouse will be with you if you take the time to create that lasting relationship.
Here are some reasons – centered on children – for why you should put your spouse first:
Putting your children first, instead of your spouse, gives your children an unrealistic view of the world in which they are the center of attention. In an article by physician Danielle Teller, titled “How American parenting is killing the American marriage,” she said, “Children who are raised to believe that they are the center of the universe have a tough time when their special status erodes as they approach adulthood. Most troubling of all, couples who live entirely child-centric lives can lose touch with one another to the point where they have nothing left to say to one another when the kids leave home.”
Children Who Blame Themselves
If you put your children first and your marriage suffers because of it, your children may start to blame themselves for your unhappiness. According to psychologytoday.com, “Unhappy and unfulfilled parents can lead their kids to conclude that marriage makes people unhappy, or if the focus of their discord centers on child-rearing differences, that they are the source of their parents’ unhappiness.”
It benefits you, your spouse, your marriage, your children, and your whole family when you put your spouse first.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years, whether it’s listening to myself or listening to others is that we all take ourselves just a little too seriously a little too often. Try this experiment the next time you’re out in a crowd. Try not to be too obvious and not to be rude, but listen in on the conversations of others. Really listen. People love telling other people how they have been slighted, what he said, what she said, how dare they, how could they, THEY THEY THEY.
Funny how it’s rarely WE. We don’t say, “I contributed to and was part of a huge traffic jam”. We say, with a huff, “I got stuck in traffic” as if we had nothing to do with it. As if there is traffic and there is us and the two are completely unrelated. What is that? Where did we first learn that? That internal putting on our dukes when we feel misunderstood, slighted, disregarded. The separation of us and the other person.
Couples come into my office and immediately go into defence/attack mode. He did this, she didn’t do that. They don’t want a therapist, they want a referee. I’m tempted at times to keep a whistle around my neck. Huge disagreements are spent over minute details of times long gone. “No, it was 3 months ago.” “No, it was 4 months ago”. “No, you said blah, blah, blah.” “No you said blah, blah, blah”. On and on.
If you want to demonstrate to your partner that you respect and care about them, try substituting “I” messages instead. When you start your statement with “I”, you are taking responsibility for the statement. It is less blaming and negative than the “you” message.
Try this formula: Your feelings + Describe the behavior + Effect on You
Here’s how it would sound.. “When I heard that you had to work this weekend, I was angry that you hadn’t asked me first if I wanted to spend time with you”.
It takes some practice at first, but with a little patience and time you will be communicating in a more positive way with your partner!