My husband, Clayton, and I had the opportunity to go through premarital counseling with two wise couples while we were engaged. It was a great experience that has shaped our marriage in many ways. One of my biggest “takeaways” is a simple statement that goes something like this,
“You become a family when you say ‘I do.’ Any children that come along afterwards are welcomed additions to your family…”
Your status as “a family” is not dependent upon having children. In fact, the very core of your family is your relationship with your husband; it should be tended and prioritized accordingly.
This concept may seem obvious, but in the “craziness” of life, it can be incredibly easy to lose sight of it. As any parent knows, parenting is a pretty all-consuming part of life to say the least! You are entirely responsible for another human being as well as the daily “to do” list as you stretch and rearrange your schedules to fit everything into a day or week that’s needed to raise your family and maintain your home.
All of a sudden you are “mom” and “dad” a lot more than “husband” and “wife.”
You busy yourselves with all of your kids’ activities and needs so much so that the reasons you fell in love and got married are long forgotten.
And this isn’t good! Your life shouldn’t be centered around your kids.
I believe a healthy family is built on the foundation of a healthy marriage.
Please do not think I’m saying we are perfect at this. We have struggled and failed many times, but of this Clayton and I are deeply convicted: we [the two of us] were a family first and then our daughter, Zoe, joined us. We want Zoe and our future children to experience us being in love with each other… to see mom and dad pursuing each other within the framework of a thriving marriage.
For us this means:
- We have regular dates… whether we get a babysitter and go out or do an at-home date after Zoe’s in bed.
- We write each other little love notes regularly and seek out ways to bless each other in everyday life using what we know about one another’s needs and preferences.
- We strive to build each other up and to take time to have a deep conversation about life and each other in the midst of the everyday “chaos” that may surround us.
- We plan marriage getaways for just the two of us. Recently we had the amazing opportunity to celebrate our fourth anniversary with a trip to Maine [where we also honeymooned]. It was an incredibly refreshing time for us to laugh and have fun together, to dream together, and to share our hearts with one another.
- And yes, we also let Zoe see us display affection… cuddling during a movie, holding hands while out on a walk, hugs and kisses for no reason but to say “I love you,” etc.
It’s been suggested [directly or indirectly] by some that this is somehow selfish. I couldn’t disagree more! In fact I believe not only are we keeping the covenant of our marriage as our top priority [behind our own relationships with God], but we’re also giving Zoe a rich gift: the stability and confidence that her parents not only love her but also love each other.
Of course, we want her to grow up feeling secure in who she is and in knowing how deeply she is loved. My husband and I are intentional in the way we invest time in our daughter, build her up with our words, and plan special celebrations for her various accomplishments.
But we also want to model for Zoe how beautiful, fun, and passionate marriage is suppose to be. If she doesn’t learn this from us, who will teach her?
A popular thought in our culture is that dating is more exciting than marriage so therefore it’s better to keep your options open rather than settle down and commit to one person.
Actually being and acting in love is only for when you’re dating right? What a lie this is! BUT why would we be surprised that our kids think this if they haven’t experienced the truth by watching our marriages.
If a child grows up seeing a dull, distant, lifeless marriage played out by their parents, then that will be their perception, and they may resent the concept of being married.
The truth is that by God’s good design marriage is the greatest adventure of any earthly relationship we can experience. Let’s show our kids this!
I hope that you find yourself encouraged or challenged in some way.
My prayer for my marriage and yours is that we don’t get distracted by the things of this life, including the really great stuff like having children.
May we remember God’s vision and purpose for marriage: that we would love one another in such a way that it reflects His love for His church and therefore He is gloried.
And then building off this foundation, we will be ready to fully embrace and warmly welcome additions when and if they join our family offering our sweet little ones a truly healthy family in which to grow up…
Is this something you’re already intentional about in your marriage? If so, what tips would you add that have helped to keep your marriage strong and fresh? If not, what’s the first step you could take to begin renewing your love for one another?