Keeping a Healthy Marriage With Kids
By Harold Graham, Chaplain
Marriage is the most unique relationship on God’s green earth. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 24) You have two minds, two bodies, two sets of perspectives, two sets of likes and dislikes and yet the two will become one flesh. Many things try to come between a married couple and it takes hard work to make it a priority to be “one.” Keeping a healthy marriage with kids is tough and children often become the masters of “divide and conquer!”
First, recognize that an event or a series of events will result in different reactions from two different people, especially one male and the other female. Secondly remember that in each of your families there were two separate child raising methods, one for you another for your spouse. When you think about it your spouse’s upbringing whether you agree with it or not, it developed the person you fell in love with! There is no method of child rearing that is flawless, and we approach parenting in much the same manner as we were raised. We bring both, what was good, and what was flawed to our own parenting. The result is conflicting ideas on how to be a parent, and two different reactions to any problem children bring.
Respect as an attitude and an approach to your spouse is the key in facing child-rearing problems as a unit or going it alone. Without respect, facing the problems will fall to the parent with the most dominant personality. In Proverbs 11: 14 it says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisors make victory sure.” Bottom line, the wisdom in two heads always surpasses the wisdom in one. Many couples make the mistake of relying on the wisdom of one head when confronting the problems that come. The mistake comes from a diminished respect or a total lack of respect for the wisdom of the other spouse.
Planning ahead is vitally important to surviving intact as a married couple
Come up with a set of rules to fall back to when things get tough. On minor problems one parent’s solution is going to be acceptable, so back that parent’s method unless it is obviously abusive. But for those major issues here are some suggested rules:
- Back up your spouse when they are in the position of making a unilateral decision about any problem.
- Never display a divided response in front of the children.
- Always talk about the “major” problems before dealing with the child.
- Put all ideas out as equal, no such thing as a bad idea! Write all ideas on a sheet of paper. (never shoot down the idea of the other person if it disagrees with yours)
- Examine all of the ideas together and eliminate the ones that will not help.
- Utilize the wisdom in both spouses in formulating any response to a major problem.
- Make it a priority to do it together and be willing to compromise what you think is best.
- Make your priority to remain a connected couple first, handling the child problem second!
- Always remember that the goal of facing the child problem in the best manner is the goal of each parent
- Remember that facing crisis together actually strengthens any relationship; it does not have to be destructive.
- On problems that defy the wisdom of both, or on the ones where a united response is impossible, seek outside help with a trained counselor or pastor. (Some pastors have no training in family issues)
Remember that the greatest resource you have in facing the issues that raising children bring is their father and their mother, you! Love says that you want what is best for someone else, without anything in it for you! Softening the harder of the two responses to a problem is most often the best counsel.
If there have been mistakes in the past that come from not being united in facing the problem and damage has been done to the marriage or to the children, then some clean up is in order. You may need some outside help with this, again from a trained counselor or from another trusted resource. Talk it through with the goal of coming to a place of oneness. Compromise to a middle stand on any issue is often the problem solver. Remember, surviving a crisis together often bonds you closer. Going through it is not comfortable, but the end result is more than worth it!