I’ve often heard the advice, “The best gift you can give your children is a strong marriage.” While I strongly agree, I don’t often live it out as I should. In fact, I think we often unconsciously reverse the statement and feel that we are giving our spouse the greatest gift by loving their children. This is the hard part, because I think it’s true that loving one’s children is also a gift to our spouses. There’s nothing wrong in loving our children—except when we have nothing left for our spouses. I’ve heard too many marriages fail because the mother refocused all of her attention and energies from the husband she adored to the children to whom she now devotes every waking moment.
It is so easy to get caught up with everything kids need and want that you have little or nothing left at the end of the day for your spouse. (This can be true of childless or empty nesting couples who fill their lives with positive pursuits of work, volunteerism or time with friends.) On an average day, most of us have our jobs, laundry, cooking, shopping, bill paying, and cleaning. If you have school-aged kids like me, you are also shuttling them to and from school and various activities. With the few minutes you have in between these, you will frequently hear requests from the children for more of your time and attention. Mine often ask to read together, sit together, cook together, build something together or play pretend together. Then, of course, there’s the morning routine, the bedtime routine, the mealtime routine. At the end of the day there are lunches to make and laundry to finish.
Meanwhile, your spouse is probably not asking you for your time and attention. Either he is working or trying to help out with the various household activities and is also busy, or he has learned that asking for your attention when you are focused on the kids is a losing proposition, particularly when the children are very young. Perhaps this is why for parents who do not regularly nurture their relationship, there can be a large dip in marital satisfaction after kids arrive.
Don’t get me wrong, I think children are a great blessing—but I also think they will take all the time you give them and still ask for more. Yet, they can still thrive on maybe 90 percent of the energy you give them, allowing you to carve out some time and energy to replenish your own needs and to feed your marriage. We must better manage our time and energy so there is something left for the person we married. This is something I have to regularly remind myself to do.
Todd Sellick wrote a great post at the blog Simple Marriage recently about giving 1 percent of your week to your spouse. Just 1 percent! (That’s about an hour and a half of together time.) Yet that one percent can make a huge difference. During that 1 percent, you are not using your smart phone or computer. You are not watching television. You are not talking about work or the kids. You are focused on each other—having a cup of tea, taking a walk or cuddling on the couch. Read about true connectivity. That connection time will help your relationship flourish and will help fill your own love tank. You may even have more to give those around you.
Start thinking about ways you might provide a bit more attention and love toward your spouse this week. Next post, I’ll share some quick and easy ways to do just that.
How much time do you think you spend truly connecting with your spouse in a week? How much time do you spend on childcare activities? What ideas do you have for regularly feeding your marriage’s love tank?