Last month, my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. 15 years. That’s more than double the national average these days.
I don’t say that all braggy because we’re somehow rockstars at marriage. No, I think of that number and marvel at God’s grace that we’re still together.
Our marriage has come under attack at various points over the last decade and a half. That’s why we have to stay on guard, especially in the midst of the very busy years of parenting where the interests and activities of our children threaten to trump our time together. We need to be intentional at working on maintaining the relationship with our spouse.
The most troubling years of our marriage came right after the births of both of our children. Sleep deprivation, diapers, the stress of being new parents, and then toddler tantrums and more sleep deprivation with the arrival of another baby takes its toll.
But there is actually something that threatens our marriage even more. It’s subtle, but the familiar routine of the hustle and bustle of family life becomes a gentle lull that rocks you both to sleep. And before you know it, you’ve drifted apart.
So here are 5 important ways to keep your marriage strong and healthy after the pitter patter of those adorable children:
I’ve been guilty of putting the needs of my kids over those of my husband’s. It’s easy to see him after a while as just the person who can “lighten the load”, instead of the love of your life. Since he is, after all, a grown man who can fix his own dinner and do his own laundry, you start putting off these things to serve the real helpless members of your family.
But this is not serving. I serve my kids and offer them unconditional love without question. Why not him? Our husbands come second, after our relationship with God. Our children come third.
And it does a huge disservice to them if they know they can manipulate their way between the two of you. If you’re always making them a priority over him, you’ll have a child-centered marriage where the kids call the shots.
… Even if you feel he doesn’t deserve it. Use your words to encourage and affirm, instead of tear down. Thank him for all the hard work he does for your family, and the great example he sets for your children as a husband and father. And do these things in front of your kids.
When he makes a decision, offer your opinion, but don’t continually question his judgment because “you would do it better”. Nothing cuts a man down more than knowing his wife doesn’t trust him to do what’s best for their family. Telling him you believe in and admire him, however, goes a long way to forging trust and intimacy in your relationship.
Don’t nag him to get stuff done around the house or constantly saddle him with honey-do lists, either. Chances are, he works hard during the week just like you, and he’d probably enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Hang out with him
Our husbands need companionship in a way that sometimes we women don’t. But with all the time we spend pouring into our children, that doesn’t leave much left over for hanging out just the two of us. We need to get a little creative.
You can have just as much fun staying home as you can going out. Clean up the kitchen together after putting the kiddos to bed and catch up on your day. Agree to turn off phones and other devices at a certain time of night so you’ll have minimal distractions.
You can try a movie night while your kids asleep, complete with popcorn, fun snacks, and special drinks. A night down memory lane could be sentimental and special; just grab old photos, letters/cards, your wedding video, and reminisce.
My hubby and I often grab a bite to eat while our kids are at AWANA on Wednesday nights. Knowing we’ll have an uninterrupted meal out then gives us something to look forward to during the week, and recreates those butterfly feelings for each other! We usually end up talking mostly about the kids, but the point is, we have that special, carved-out time to connect.
The small stings of unintended slights and the wounds of harsh words spoken in the heat of the moment have a way of putting space in a marriage. After a while, that space can seem like an insurmountable chasm.
There’s a reason 1 Corinthians 13 says love “keeps no record of wrongs”. That mental catalog of faults and wounds you’re holding onto stops you from fully loving. God demonstrated His love for us when He offered forgiveness and mercy where none should be found. It doesn’t mean you condone what he’s done or said, but releasing it to Christ does release bitterness and any perceived right to withhold affection or intimacy.
Pray for him
Prayer has power like nothing else to change the trajectory of your marriage. It can move hearts and change perspectives. It can give you a renewed love and empathy for your husband. And the closer you are to God, the better able you’ll be to love your spouse!
Praying for the Holy Spirit to move in your husband’s life removes a nagging, controlling spirit. You’ll see him as he really is: not the one who was created to fulfill all your needs, but a sinner on this journey with you, in need of just as much grace.
And you can stand in the gap for him as he faces temptations and attacks on his faith come, which will help him to stand strong, and in turn make you both stronger. Jesus alone can pull marriages back from the brink, when we fight for them on our knees.