The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

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When Did You Divorce Your Husband and Marry the Kids?

In our Internet world of picture-perfect mommy bloggers, Facebook updates about how cute our toddler’s latest saying was, and family-fun photos on Instagram, there’s a lot of pressure to be the perfect mom. But: what if all the mommy-glamour could become the ruin of your marriage? Today’s episode is about prioritizing marriage over parenting. Should I Focus on My Marriage Or My Kids? The title  comes from Salvador Minuchin (possibly! Caleb wasn't sure if his memory was working right here), the father of Family Systems Therapy who, when dealing with a dysfunctional family turned and asked the mother when she divorced her husband and married her kids. That is, why did she abandon her marriage relationship and focus completely on her children? We've had some great advice over the years and this issue was a part of that. Advice was given to Verlynda at a baby shower before she had her first child, You were a wife before you were a mother – don’t forget that. And a piece of advice Caleb was given: The best gift you can give your children is to love their mother. This is a common issue. William Farley, in Gospel-Powered Parenting, points out the risk of child idolatry in our culture and says the Puritans actually warned against loving our children too much. Farley says we need to love God more than our children, which ultimately is better for the kids as well and so we unpacked this idea further in the show. The research also supports the idea that prioritizing the marriage over parenting was better for both the couple and the children. Even at the start of child rearing, a study by O’Brien and Payton in the Journal of Family Psychology, 2002: found that a higher perceived difficulty with parenting was related to lower levels of initial marital intimacy. So you can see how they observed that marital intimacy makes parenting even feel easier. The Baby-will-save-our-marriage Trick is Probably a Bad Idea You want your baby to land right in the middle of a secure emotional bond between dad and mom, not into a war zone! Our proposition is that you give more to your kids through good ‘husbanding’ or good ‘wifing’ than through good parenting because the second flows most effectively from a solid marital foundation. This was reinforced by Erel and Burman (1995) who did a meta-analysis (a study of other researcher's work) of 68 studies examining relationships between marital quality and parenting. They found two conclusions: Positive marital relationship=positive parenting relationship Parents invest more deeply in their children when there are problems in the marriage. Compensating for problems in the marriage by turning to the kids is the wrong approach! In the Scriptures, the relationship that God chose to be the one institution that would symbolize his love for the church is that of marriage, not parenting. So loving our spouse well preaches the Gospel of God's love to our kids and to others. Our children should be attracted to God and his love, seen in the gospel, by virtue of what they see in a husband's love for his wife. The same values are evident in what the Journal of Family and Psychology, 2004 stated, that kids (5-6 yr olds) adjust to school better when Dad and Mom are in love with each other. Again, parental love fortifies the children, makes them feel more secure and gives them more confidence to face new life experiences. The Handbook of Parenting, Volume 4 “Social Conditions and Applied Parenting” reviews a lot of studies. They conclude “happily married parents are more sensitive, responsive, warm and affectionate toward their children…the marital relationship appears to serve as a primary source of support for parenting.” It also stated, “having skills and knowledge is not sufficient for competent parenting if marital tensions and conflict undermine the co-parenting alliance.” To sum up: you will be more successful with creating happier children by focusing on your spouse....