[Editor's note: This story is a an essay about a women and her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]
A few days ago a young, newly married Facebook friend of mine posted an article entitled “Why My Husband Will Always Come Before My Kids" by Amber Doty. In this article, Doty discusses her policy of always prioritizing the needs of her husband over those of her children. She explains that making him number one is the best way to divorce-proof their marriage and to model a good marriage for her children.
While I admire her efforts to keep her marriage intact and to provide her children with the basis for their own future happy marriages, I think she is colossally wrong.
Her article reminded me of a story I heard not long ago about a man who would tell his children that if the family boat were sinking and they were all drowning, he would swim past the children to save their mother. He told them this to stress the importance of the marital bond and to emphasize how much he loved their mother. I imagine, though, that to young children, who should see their parents as a united front determined to protect them, such a story would be confusing at best and terrifying at worst.
Don't get me wrong. Keeping my marriage healthy is a priority for me. I have seen and heard of too many couples who drifted apart because they had no shared interests. I certainly don't advocate couples putting their marriages on hold while they are raising their children. I believe that couples need to make creating strong marriages is important. I just don't believe the way to do this is to make one person in the family more important than all the others.
I admit that I don't always put my husband first. Why not? Well, if I am being honest, there are a lot of reasons – reasons I'm not proud of, but I am a flawed human being and an imperfect wife.
Sometimes I don't put my husband's needs first because I'm tired, or I'm hungry, or I'm grumpy. My favorite show is on. I'm into my book. He annoyed me. I want to sleep. I'm selfish. I'm angry. I'm feeling sorry for myself. I'm comfortable where I am. I want to go out. I want to stay in. I want my way…
You get the idea.
But beyond these reasons, I also don't always put my husband first because I don't think it's realistic or wise or the best thing we can do for our family. Here are the best reasons for not always putting my husband first.
I don't even know what that means
How does one always prioritize the needs of one person over those of other family members? What would that look like? Because let's be honest, putting my husband before our kids and always putting our marriage first would mean a lot more date nights and sipping wine by the fire and a lot less helping with math homework and driving kids to ball practice.
The reality is that being married and having kids means sometimes having to do things that don't necessarily bring us closer. In fact, sometimes all the going and doing makes us tired and grumpy and sometimes not so nice to each other. We do it for the kids because the kids are our priority—not always, but often. After all, if they aren't our priority, whose priority will they be? Do they have to wait until if/when they get married to be first on someone's list?
We put the person first who is the neediest in the moment
That makes sense. Right? Sometimes that's the kids. When they were small, it was often the kids. Sometimes it's my husband. Sometimes it's me.
The point is that we want to model sensitivity for our children. Who is really having a bad day? Who needs some extra attention? A pat on the back? A little one-on-one time? Trust me. When it's one of us, we don't hesitate to make that a priority. Date night is a very important part of our marriage, but when it's one of the kids who is the neediest, we aren't afraid our marriage will suffer because we put the kids first sometimes.
Love does not divide. It multiplies.
Doty points out that as much as she loves her children, she loves her husband more. Why? Why does someone have to be loved more? Why is anyone loved less? My husband and I are crazy about each other, and we are crazy about our kids. We have never thought of it as an either/or scenario. Our love created our children. There's no reason for us to see them as a threat to that love.
He doesn't expect me to put him first all the time.
If I always put my husband's needs before our kids', then our kids will see a man who thinks his needs are more important than theirs. They will see a great marriage built, at least in part, at their expense. We would rather they see a great marriage built on an extravagant, all-encompassing love.
And that guy with the boat? I can't speak for his wife, but if my husband swam past our drowning children to save me, he would be wasting his effort, because when he finally did get to me, I would kill him—by drowning him. I don't want to always be first, and I wouldn't want to be married to a man who always wants to be first either.
My marriage is a gift, one I intend to nurture, but one of the gifts of marriage should be that it helps both husband and wife be less selfish. It fills us more love to give—not less. To me, a marriage built on the idea that someone is more loved or is more important than the other members of the family misses the point of marriage.