Step #3 – Set Priorities
We saw in the first two steps that (1.) if you do nothing, your marriage will deteriorate and (2.) you need to be intentional in terms of focusing on your relationship to keep it strong. In this step we talk about the need to make your marriage a top priority.
For most couples, marriage starts out as a top priority. Look at any newlywed couple and you’ll see them spending as much time together as physically possible and extending every effort to meet the needs of their partner. This is beautiful and natural, but it doesn’t last forever. In time, couples begin to take their eyes off of each other and put their attentions toward other people and other life issues. It could be a career that begins to take prominence or it could be the addition of children to the family.
Situations like these need attention and it’s natural for them to consume much of our time. The problem is when the pendulum swings too far and we go from being spouse-obsessed to barely acknowledging them. Putting our spouse second in our life (first after God) should not be a passing phase, but rather a way of life. Genesis 2:24 says That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. This one flesh concept is unlike any other relationship mentioned in scripture, therefore it is unique.
I have seen many devout Christians who spend daily time in the word and in prayer. They also spend considerable time each day with their kids, helping them with homework, school projects and transporting to and from a variety of events. But when it comes to their spouse, it seems like they get only the passing moments between other commitments.
Of course our children are critical to us and we have to provide them with loving care. But let’s be honest. If we allowed them to, they would take up our every waking moment. That’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s natural. But we’re called to make our spouse our second priority, then our kids… not the other way around. I’ve seen couples where the wife gets so consumed with “mommy mode” that she has little time or energy for her husband. The implied message to the man becomes “You needed me to give you children, now I’m expendable”. That’s certainly not God’s plan.
I’ve heard it said that the greatest gift we can give our children is a great marriage. Is this a paradox? No! In fact, we model great marriage when we demonstrate this “pecking” order in our relationships. It provides a tremendous sense of security to our kids when they know that mom & dad are in love. This doesn’t mean that we remove focus on our kids and place it completely on our spouse. It’s a balancing act. But a child that occasionally doesn’t get to do something because of spousal plans will survive.
There are always exceptions to this rule. Newborns, sickness, failing parents are all examples where priorities will shift for awhile. the key is to make sure that when possible, your attention shifts back to where it should be. Your relationship with God should come first. When that is in good standing, your next focus should be on your spouse. Keeping things in order will not only build your marriage, but your entire family.