When Eric and I were dating, I placed him at the absolute top of my priority list. He trumped school, friends, work – nothing mattered more to me than him. We dated, became engaged, planned a wedding, said our vows, went on a honeymoon, came home and immediately began struggling to prioritize each other.
I suppose the dating was fun and relatively free of responsibility. The engagement was filled with decisions, thinking about the future, and being in awe of the fact that we were going to be married.
Once we crossed the threshold into our new life together, the excitement of that whirlwind experience was gone and we had our entire marriage ahead of us. Even though we went through a well-meaning premarital course at church, we still had dozens of hidden expectations which were never exposed. So hidden, in fact, we were not even aware of them until situations forced them to the surface (this is why we dig deep with our client couples).
Eric expected his wife to jump on board the success express and put her heart and soul into learning, growing, expanding, and reaching new heights! Heather expected her husband to lie down, watch TV, relax at night, and not run through life. Call it a conflict of life goals or the plight of the rushed American lifestyle, but right out of the gate we stopped being married first.
In many cases, I was a friend to others first. Sometimes, I was a daughter first. Often, I was a couch potato first. Though I cannot speak for his motives, it seemed (at times) like Eric was a student first, sometimes an employee first, and often an entrepreneur first.
These shifts in priorities did not happen overnight or blatantly. We began making decisions early in our married life which suited us and then we settled into the lifestyle which came as a result of those decisions. But, as the years went by we noticed we were missing something. We were missing a lot. Why were we not better friends? Why did we struggle with unity? Why did we feel angry? It was because…
We were not being married first.
We were not tending to the needs of our relationship before tending to the needs of everything else in our lives. We were making assumptions about what our relationship could handle instead of often checking in to see how well we were actually doing. Ladies and gentlemen, if I could give you one solid piece of advice to take into your future marriage it would be this:
Be. Married. First.
- Be Married First, and Then Students – If you are in school, it is in your best interest to do excellent work, to learn well, and take advantage of the resources available to you. However, if you are married, being a spouse comes before being a student. You need to study him or her first, put your energy into getting an A in your relationship, and pass the husband/wife exam before you turn your focus back to school. Realistically, this may include coming in the door from work, talking to your spouse, having a meal, sitting close together on the couch, making sure hearts are at peace, and then moving into the office to work on papers and study for exams. Some sacrifices have to be made when a couple is in school, but if you do not have patches of time to devote to each other, something in your schedule needs to change. School is temporary, but you want your marriage to be forever. Getting a 4.0 GPA in your scholastic career likely means that your marital career is not performing at the same level.
- Be Married First, and Then Employees – No, you cannot leave work every time your future spouse calls, but you can attempt to prioritize him or her when you are there. You can return missed calls. Text on your way to the bathroom. Discuss with your supervisor ways you can streamline your work if you find you are spending too many late hours at the office. In some cases, you may even need to find a different job which does not require so much overtime if it is causing your marriage to suffer. Just as with school, work requires some sacrifice; but, if your job is taking over your life to the detriment of your family, it is time to brainstorm other options.
- Be Married First, and Then Parents – Children are demanding. They are cute, but they think they are the most important people on the planet. What two-year-old do you know who thinks someone else is more important than him or her? We were all self-centered as little children. Unless they are taught differently, children will always place themselves at the top of the priority list. And, since they are cute and demand so much attention, it will take continuous effort to keep them from claiming the top spot. What would it do for marriages everywhere if husbands and wives walked in the door, said, “Just a minute” to the clamoring kids, and immediately sought out their spouses first? It would create closer marital connections while also showing the children how much mommy and daddy love each other – something incredibly special to a child’s heart. Children will require oodles of your time, patience, and energy, sometimes making it difficult to have a full conversation with your spouse; but, even on the most exhausting of days, remember your sweetheart was there before the little ones, and he or she still needs to be the most important person in the world to you.
- Be Married First, and Then Business Partners – Building a business together can be rough on a marriage. Work is home and home is work. Conversations often revolve around business. When couples do not see eye-to-eye on the family business, it can cause tension in the marriage. For any couple who plans to go into business together, I cannot stress this enough: your marriage is more important than your business. If your business endeavors create constant friction in your relationship, something will need to change. Couples who focus primarily on their monetary partnership and secondarily on their sacred union will be shaken far more easily than couples who take steps to prioritize their marriage over their company. Building a business is no joke. It takes hours upon hours of blood, sweat, and tears; but, it is all for naught if you lose your relationship in the process.
- Be Married First in Every Situation, except…
Be Children of God First, and Then Be Married.
When God is first in both of your lives and you love Him more than anyone or anything else – including each other – your priorities will naturally flow in the correct direction. When we commune with the Father, His love pours into us. Then, we are able to pour that love into others. Once you are married, your spouse will be the single most important person in your world; and, the love God pours into you, you will then have available to pour out on him or her.
A well-loved wife is a better mother. A well-respected husband is a better employee or employer. Nourished couples make better friends, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and church members. And, spouses who remember to kneel before their heavenly Father first will have less trouble remembering to prioritize their marriages.
What can you see vying for your future spouse’s rightful place in your life? [Comment below!]