The transition from “married” to “married with children” challenges our goal to build a God-centered marriage instead of a me-centered or child-centered marriage. It is difficult to avoid the dangers of spouse-neglect or self-neglect. We should explore ways to parent together as a team, and find balance in the middle of the busyness.
The transition from marriage to family creates a set of complexities and threats to the marriage relationship that can make it difficult to keep our marriage vows. As children come into our lives the marital relationship is no longer solely about pleasing each other. Now it includes the responsibility of caring for other needy (and sinful) members of the family! The work of keeping the husband-wife relationship a priority requires a lot of extra effort.
Though the desire to be great parents is valuable and necessary, this desire can be an added challenge couples face in upholding their vows when life stress surfaces. The problem arises when our desire to be great parents overshadows our desire to have a great marriage. Out of our desire to raise kids the right way, our love for each other can get kicked to the curb. Not intentionally, of course, but it happens frequently.
The effects are seldom seen or noticed immediately, but they can eventually grow into significant problems such as:
– A couple’s needs are neglected.
– Intimacy dwindles.
– Romance cools.
– Conflicts go unresolved.
– Meaningful communication between partners becomes infrequent or nonexistent.
– Attention and affection shift from spouse to child.
– Financial decisions are dominated by the child’s needs and wants.
– Spousal emotions are glossed over.
All of these indicate that a couple is moving into the arena of being too child-centered. The child’s needs and concerns are being met at the expense of a once healthy and God-honoring marriage. This happens, especially during times of transition, but it is not to become a way of life.
My spouse and I have experienced all of the challenges of moving from married, to married with kids. We love being parents. We did Family Game Nights because it brought out our daughter Danielle’s competitive side. We did Movie Nights because Madeline and Danielle love a great story, and the stove-top popcorn didn’t hurt. We loved to go camping and hiking for quality family time together: Geocaching, singing, campfires including s’mores, were always included. In all of the fun of being parents, we needed the reminder that it was important to continue being great lovers. It was never easy but we managed to press through.
Although our daughters are young women today and these events as a family are less frequent since we live in different states, they still unite us in love and shared memories. It is possible to have a great family and a great marriage, but it doesn’t happen by accident.
The traditional wedding vows couples make have been around for many years. They date back to the Church of England during the sixteenth century. These vows are a commitment about the couple’s future together. These vows are important to uphold. They encompass God’s purpose and plan for marriage. They are selfless, costly, sacrificial, committed, and one-another-centered vows. They express the heart of God for a man and a woman as they enter into the sacred covenant of marriage. However, upholding one’s vows while raising children challenges even well-intended couples.
We need all of these components of intimacy for a mutually satisfying marriage but we often forget, or life itself makes nurturing marital intimacy a challenge. When we take our marriage vows we assume “it,” or intimacy will result automatically. However, these vows are just a promise, a pledge of intent, to behave certain ways towards each other. Without intentional effort, we often do not uphold these pledges for the long haul.
“I take you to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold. From this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part.”
At the outset, we have no real understanding of these vows, or what the future will hold. Children will join us on the journey, but we have to be careful that they don’t come between us on this journey. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a healthy, loving, and God-honoring marriage.
Remembering and intentionally implementing your vows and your commitment to continually love your spouse even after children arrive is imperative!