Stop Putting Your Kids Above Your Spouse

I bet that got your attention didn’t it? I know it felt weird to write it.

We love our kids, we want what is best for them and work to no end to fill their needs. All good and loving ways to act.

Sometimes though, I am almost afraid to open this can of worms, we put our kids above our spouse. Way above. Almost exalting our kids to a dangerously high pedestal and relegating our mates to the dungeon of deep second place.

I have. I do. And I need to stop.

stop putting

Hear me out… When our kids are little they require nearly every last drop of our efforts to keep them safe, healthy, loved. We get tired, and have little left for our spouse. It is for a season and to be expected.

What about when that balance stays shifted, with our efforts still going to the kids year after year? Our spouse balancing precariously in need of our support, calling out, yet we barely hear?

It sucks to write this, it really does.

My husband would be the first to tell you I am an awesome wife. He believes it and I work hard to be that for him. But in one particular area, I could do a lot more. I could put my husband’s needs above my kids. Gasp.

Now, my kids are teens…nearly grown. Yet, I still think about how to make their worlds happy and right and fun and nothing short of amazing. But they don’t need that from me, although they really, really like it. But this post isn’t about parenting, it is about marriage.

My sweet man has waited patiently to be my number one again for a very long time. In many ways he is, but honestly? There are some ways I still lack desperately. Today God revealed to me an area that my husband needs support from me. Deeply. And, it might require, no- it will require a little less “mom” mode and a readjustment into “wife”.

I was with my husband a long time before I became a mother. He is my partner and I am his. Together we build a foundation that provides for our family.

God, spouse, kids. Too often it is Kids, Commitments, ________, Spouse/God.

We are shifting. Growing. Learning. Readjusting continually.

If there is a choice to be made of something that makes the kids “happy” vs. supporting the man who works hard to support us for example, the choice needs to be made. I choose my husband. And a small disclaimer, our kids don’t “expect” these things from me. They are leftovers of ingrained parenting ideas. My issue, not theirs, and a strong example needs to be made for their own future marriages.

There won’t be a lessoning of parenting, but instead a strengthening of alliance with my partner. As it should be. For the kids will always grow up and leave, and what is left of marriage if we don’t nurture it now?

What is your take on this topic? (Please, respond kindly and share the conversation with the SM buttons)

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Comments

  1. You are absolutely right, and more. I wish both I and my husband had understood this years ago.
    Kathleen recently posted…actually, some of those who wander are lostMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Me too sister, me too. I see so many marriages falling apart and this is one issue that seems common

  2. Yes ma’am! I’m with you all the way. I will be sharing your post. God bless you.

  3. When I was growing up, my parents were always very clear about this. I never wondered. They did this well. And now, as and adult, I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have that gift of always knowing my parents loved each other before they loved me. Thanks for this reminder, my friend.

  4. I would live to hear some concrete ideas on how to do this. I struggle :)

    • christa sterken says:

      Jenna, thanks for being honest about the struggle. I think we ALL struggle along the way, that is most of the reason I am so transparent on this blog. I needed encouragement in huge doses and hope to pass that on.
      What age group are you dealing with for kids?
      Here is what comes to mind:
      *Ask your husband if he feels valued, respected. Listen with an open heart, and try to prepare in advance NOT to have answers ready on the tip of your tongue (we like to do that sometimes ;) )
      *There isn’t an easy how to do “this” manual. For me, and the women I know, it was trial and error. Does a particular area come to mind? For example, one area that was hard for me was finances. We have always been pretty tight. My husband might say “We can’t afford for them to do ______”, but I’d feel all sorry for those poor (not)deprived kids and convince him otherwise. That wasn’t respectful on my part, I made things harder perhaps on us than they had to be by my unwillingness to accept “no” and see where he was coming from. I put the kids needs above my husbands. Does that make sense?
      *Choose one thing. Work on that. Too often we jump in and try to overhaul everything at once and feel defeated when it doesn’t work. Start small if needed.
      *Don’t listen, please, to a one size fits all approach of answers. Even here, on my own blog, I am just one woman sharing what works/worked for her. I don’t expect, and hope no one thinks so, that my solution is the only way. My goal is to make us think critically about what we see, think, do. To consider how our actions affect others. Some people make their money saying “Do THIS, and everything will be perfect”. Trial and error, sister. The only marriage/parenting authority I go by is the Bible.

      Did that help at all?

  5. I needed to read this today, but for different reasons than you might expect.
    I have a toddler. I needed to be reassured that it’s okay for him to consume so much of my devotion right now. It is only for a season. I’ve been feeling bad for not having enough time/energy for others/spouse. But God knows my kiddo needs me and I am so blessed to be able to stay home and care for him. And as I care for him, I am caring for my spouse.
    Thanks.
    tcavey recently posted…It Matters To God…So It Should Matter To YouMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Whatever the reason, I am happy that you received an ounce of encouragement. It is tough work (and a lot of fun) to have a toddler. You are right, God knows your needs and that of your child AND your husband. May you be blessed!

  6. This is an excellent post, Christa! One way I put my husband before my children is by being on his team. I’m his backup on all decisions he makes. I only speak positive words about him around my children even when he is not home. He wants me to take care of the kids’ needs but he also knows he has my total support. He calls me his faithful sidekick. Thanks for sharing your heart! :-)
    Anastacia Maness recently posted…Five Minute Friday: FightMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Me too! This really sunk in for me several years ago when I witnessed so many woman trash talking their husbands in front of their kids. Also I see a LOT of “Don’t tell your Dad about this…” I had to work very hard to respect my husband when he was around, and especially when he wasn’t. God bless you and your efforts, The kids surely feel a more peaceful atmosphere with that philosophy you share

  7. This is a great post, Christa! This is a conversation I’ve had many times with girlfriends. If we live only for our kids for too long, what will be left of our marriage when the kids grow up and leave? And they will leave (we think ;) ). I’ve seen so many older couples divorce or fall into unhappiness after the kids leave. I think part of the reason is too much focus on the kids. And it’s not a great idea to make kids think they are number 1 at all times – they will enter the world and be sadly disappointed. BUT, it’s a trap we fall into. Especially with little ones. I’ve had toddlers for 13 years now. I few years ago – and of course it was all related to my faith journey – I started trying to focus more on my hubby. It’s give and take and there are no perfect days, but, like Anastacia said, I’m on “his team” – he has always been on mine. Thanks for sharing this. Not weird ;) – just truth.
    Karin Madden recently posted…When We Don’t Know Much About The Proof Of LoveMy Profile

  8. PS – today is our 15th anniversary – so, I love your timing :)
    Karin Madden recently posted…When We Don’t Know Much About The Proof Of LoveMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Happy Anniversary Karin ♥ Thanks for encouraging me. I didn’t grow up in a family environment that naturally thought this way. It was a completely foreign way of thinking to me that started probably a decade after already being married. I understand people who might think it sounds “odd” at first, but oh, the joy it brings when a married couple is living in tandem. Worth every lesson and second of effort

  9. Great post, Christa, on a much needed subject! I have seen marriages under intense strain due to this very thing. I honestly think that if the marriage relationship is front and center, then the parenting is much easier. When our men feel valued and respected they are more likely to be hands-on dads.

    The kids have always known that our marriage comes first, and not one of my children feels unloved or inferior–rather they feel secure in the knowledge that Mommy and Daddy are always a team.

    I also see my two teenagers looking at the fun and romantic relationship that my husband and I share, and they are waiting for that in their own lives rather than hooking up with whoever is available. What a great benefit, yes?

    Nicely done, my friend. And I am glad to see that the comments so far have been positive. Blessings to you!
    Rebeca Jones recently posted…The Nice Church Lady Said What?My Profile

  10. christa sterken says:

    Love hearing about your teens being impressed with the example you are setting! Thank you for weighing in :)

  11. Christa, refreshing to read an open and honest account of life. You seem to nail the obvious directly and bring into focus the challenge of relationship. Well done.

  12. Love this!
    Laura Martin recently posted…A food allergy lessonMy Profile

  13. I have a little one and you got it right,-I give him so much energy, attention and patience that sometimes I feel drained. When my spouse comes home, I tend to be short on all of those things and I have to remind myself to make the effort. This is why date nights are SO very important!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • christa sterken says:

      You are so right! What a difference a date makes, even if it’s a free evening trading off kids with someone and sitting home in PJS. When they are little just vegging can even be awesome. Keep up the important work :)

  14. This is a really great piece. I think that, in marriage, we often forget that marriage is not about us. It’s about our spouse. Putting your spouse above your needs isn’t always easy, but that’s kind of what it’s all about.
    Christina recently posted…Baby Items I Never UsedMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Thanks Christina, you broke it down here for sure. It isn’t easy often, but really makes a huge difference!

  15. I totally agree with this! I don’t have kids yet, but my boyfriend and I were just talking about this the other day. I said I always put him first, because he came first. I think it’s important because once your kids are grown and leave the house it’s just you two again so you want to have a good relationship. We do date nights and will always continue that cause I think it’s important to have alone time and keeps the love alive! Visiting from SITS btw. :)

    • christa sterken says:

      What a great way to put it! I love it (and might even say it if I get the chance to someone :) ) Thanks for visiting Lauren, welcome

  16. I just had a conversation with a friend on this very subject and when I got home this post was waiting for me to read. I have realized that I have spent a long time raising kids to be on their own and take responsibility for their well-being. They have and then I whined about not being so involved in their lives. Why I should be grateful for their learning so well and now have the time to put into my husband and his needs and rejuvenate that feeling we had when first married and before children arrived. My family is now myself and my husband and I should rejoice! LOL We did well as parents and should be happy because they could all be back home living with their families in my basement with no jobs! See–I’m blessed beyond measure! LOL

    • christa sterken says:

      Mary, thank YOU for sharing. I feel like you spied on me and heard me doing the “whining” thing. It was hard when they hit their teens, that personal space you missed suddenly feels a bit overwhelming. My husband had to remind me too, “Uh, that is what we trained them for, isn’t it?”

  17. This is definitely a thought provoking piece. I think we’ve all struggled with this one time or another. My kids are teenagers, but I’m thinking I should have read this years ago. Certainly they don’t need me as much now and we make a lot more “adult” time, but we really didn’t when they were little. Better late than never, I suppose. I will be happy to share this!
    Michelle recently posted…#AskAwayFriday with Nellie from Brooklyn Active MamaMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Appreciate it Michelle, it seems like we learn all the good stuff a little later than we need it. All the more reason to share, eh? Now I am trying to find stuff to read about preparing for your kids to be grown. Not enough out there about that

  18. Stopping over from SITS. You get an AMEN from me on this one. I am not religious but I am spiritual and believe in faith. My order is my relationship with God, myself, my husband and my kids in that order. My kids are obviously of huge importance to me and by coming forth proves that. If I didn’t have faith, take care of myself, and have a great relationship with my husband…where would my kids be? With an unfocused crazy, single mother. I just wrote a series on how to be a more supportive spouse from the lessons I have learned this last year. Makes a huge difference! Thanks for sharing.
    Tara Newman recently posted…Winter Fitness FindsMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Hi Tara! I am glad you brought the religious aspect up, (my faith is a huge part of my life, but even going to church “religion” can be a sticking point) It really is about the points you bring up, those are enough! I hope many people read your series, I will share them!

  19. I agree with you. I believe we give 100 percent to our kids. I have two kids and my husband and I spend all the time we have after work with them and sometimes, when he takes me out for dinner, I tell him that I miss my daughter, wouldn’t she have loved this and that…you know…!!! And he would say, we should spend time together as a couple too! It’s hard, especially when children are young but we should keep the flame burning.
    Aishaz recently posted…The Helpful Shop AssistantMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      I hear you on that. Even with older teens I still struggle to zip it about the kids, it is hard but we need to remember they want their “wives” on dates for a bit, not just “mommy”, though my husband was pretty gracious about it.

  20. I totally agree with you! In 2012, my marriage was seconds away from destruction and if there is anything I learned in the dark journey is that my husband was there before the kids and after the kids are gone, he’s the one who will still be there, so I can’t afford to neglect him. Also, parenting is a temporary job, but my marriage isn’t. Thanks for being brave and speaking something that some may not agree with you.
    Charity Craig recently posted…Be FashionableMy Profile

  21. This is a topic that we don’t talk about enough. Every now and then I feel like my husband and I need to hit the reset button. It’s easy to get too involved with the kids and work and everything else going on but each other. The thing is that the kids will eventually get older and start their own lives (eek!). Our spouses are our life mates. We can’t forget that!
    another jennifer recently posted…Sponsored Video: Dreaming Through ArtMy Profile

  22. As a graduate student of Marriage and Family Therapy I agree with the concept of putting your husband “above” your kids. Granted, when they are wee little ones, well, they naturally have needs that have to be met by us. However, day in and day out, a healthy relationship with your spouse is critical. Your spouse can become resentful over time if they feel left out or taken for granted. Also, your kids will have an exaggerated sense of importance and maybe even power. I think this is how a lot of issues begin in families, when one parent (or both) becomes over-involved in their kids’ lives. I think it is great to show your kids what a healthy relationship with your partner looks like–because they’ll be modeling that to their own kids when they grow older.
    Nicole Nenninger recently posted…New Year’s Resolutions for Your SpiritMy Profile

  23. Oh yes oh yes…. I often say Derek gets the “leftovers”… and it’s not just the kids- it’s my ministries, my writing, my friends AND my kids!! I am constantly convicted of this truth- and I am so grateful I have such a beautiful loving and supportive husband who has a heart filled with grace.
    Chris Carter recently posted…Devotional Diary: The Chosen People- JudaismMy Profile

    • christa sterken says:

      Chris, surely we can relate. Who wants leftovers of affection right? But sometimes we feel like that is all we have. I am glad you have a wonderful husband, makes such a difference

  24. LOVE LOVE LOVE this. I have two little ones (as you know), but we have been trying harder to keep our marriage our top priority. It seemed easier with just one, and easier to lose focus on after the second little one came….Anyway, we have been surprised that our four year old loves us having date nights and encourages it:) My husband is learning that when he does extra to take something off of my plate then I have more energy to focus on him as well.

    • christa sterken says:

      Morgan I hadn’t considered the one vs. two child change up. (It’s been SO long :) ) How wise to train up a future man to know the value of marriage. Kudos to L. for the extras

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