When I married my husband Michael eight years ago, we decided to have the ceremony in a Catholic Church. In order to be married in the Church we had to meet a number of requirements including pre-marital counseling. The only thing I remember from those sessions was being told that once we were married we had to put each other above all others. We were to be one another’s family, even more so than our parents, siblings, and children. Initially I did not take this point seriously. I had been raised on a ride or die mentality when it came to family. Meaning family comes first and will always be there for you. So to put my husband above them went against everything I had been taught.
Then about three years into my marriage my parents decided to divorce. To say their divorce was ugly is a vast understatement. It took years and turned so hateful and nasty I felt like I didn’t recognize the people who raised me. The basic and unwavering idea of family I spent 27 years believing was rocked. At the same time, I had my first child. Emotionally, I was all over the place. I know all of you have experienced the vast array of feeling that come with the first baby, and the pressure we take on becoming insta-moms. So as I watched my parents fall apart I began to build my own family. I also spent a lot of time thinking about what detours my parents experienced and how different decisions could have resulted in a better ending. I was putting a huge amount of time and energy into my parent’s issues that my husband and baby were left with an unenthusiastic and exhausted wife/mother. I didn’t want that and the reality was my parent’s problems could not be my concern.
Then it hit me, I totally got what the Deacon told us years ago in pre martial counseling, my husband is my Family. Putting my husband before my family and even our children, means that our relationship always remains a central focus. So that’s what I did. I directed all my energy toward my husband and put some literal and figurative distance between my parents and me. I no longer discussed their divorce and shut down topics I felt could turn toward a negative energy.
I made the conscience effort to make Michael’s needs/wants/desires central as well as encourage a home where we could both vocalize any concerns or fears. I began to see that if Michael and I are happy with our relationship then that filters down to our children. Simple, happy parents = happy kids
At times it can be difficult because this approach requires boatloads of communication. Getting married doesn’t mean all-of-a-sudden y’all become one person. We still have our own thoughts, feelings, and change with new experiences. It doesn’t mean we don’t disagree; we’re still two different people with our own options. The key is sharing all of these emotions so you stay on the same page with your partner.
As a wedding coordinator I’ve seen blended families struggle with this. If you’re a single parent and decide to get married it can be very difficult to put your partner’s well being over that of your children. I’ve had clients feel torn between their spouse and child usually leaving the mother with lots of guilt. This is when communication is crucial and may require professional help in facilitating.
I’m not telling you to overlook your kids. What I am suggesting is to put the emotional wellbeing of your spouse and your relationship as priority before your children. It’s so easy to become consumed by all things kids. From birthday parties and dance lessons to play dates and Pixar movies before you know it your life solely belongs to your kids and their activities. By putting my husband first, it means I discuss outings with him before accepting invitations, and more importantly understand if he doesn’t feel we should participate. After years of incorporating this mentality it has has become second nature. I’m aware that this is perspective isn’t easily adopted; it took my parent’s divorce before I understood it. It also may not be everyone but for me, it’s been a very positive lifestyle choice. Without a doubt I know that Michael and I are each other’s number one priority and after 14 years together, still very much in love!