In this post, we’re going to do something totally counter intuitive. We’re going to talk about parenting, without talking about parenting!
Instead, we’re going to look at marriage.
Have you thought about how much your marriage affects your parenting?
Do you know what God said the purpose of marriage is, when he discussed it in Malachi 3? “And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.” (Mal 3:16)
Wow. That means God gave you your hubby, not just so you can have this wonderful romantic partner for life, but so you can form a partnership to bring up faithful children.
Passing on faith has always been the goal. Look at what God told the Israelites in the Old Testament: “Repeat [my words] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deut. 6:7) Check out what God told fathers in the New Testament. He said children are to be brought up, “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)
But there’s not a lot in the Bible that is specific to parenting. Hmmmm. You’d think God would give us struggling moms more instructions!
Doug Jacoby suggests a solution to this mystery in his book, Till the Nets are Full. “Why is there so much more biblical material, especially in the New Testament, on marriage than there is on being a father or mother? We believe that’s because the better the marriage, the better the parenting.”
The better the marriage, the better the parenting. From my experience, I KNOW this is true. I’m writing this post because I believe it’s super important to help you have the best marriage you can have, so you can be the best mom you can be.
Now if you’re reading this and you’re a single parent, don’t freak out. God’s grace is sufficient. Likewise, if you have a husband who isn’t as spiritual as you want him to be, you don’t have to throw in the towel. A good marriage still leads to good parenting, even if your husband isn’t passing on faith.
So read on! I have some things on my heart to share with you that I’ve learned are super effective in helping you have a strong marriage.
Find good ways to communicate –
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Communication helps keep your heart clean. It creates a flow in the marriage. You build the good stuff — intimacy — as you share your thoughts and feelings. You keep the bad stuff from accumulating as you discuss your relationship challenges. (Eph 4:27, Matt 18:15, Hebrews 12:15)
This is not something I did well in the early years of my marriage. I am a conflict avoider!! A turning point came when my husband asked me to start jogging with him on his lunch break. I’ll admit, I was less than enthusiastic about running around a high school track in the hot sun. But I agreed to try. I soon found that I had a captive audience. Hmmm, this was a good thing! As we jogged along, my husband was willing to talk about the issues. It gave us an easy way to discuss prickly topics. There wasn’t pressure. There weren’t children clamoring for our attention. We weren’t exhausted at the end of the day. We were finally able to communicate in a more productive way. Jogging at lunch became a regular event.
So my first piece of advice is to make ways to have regular good talks with your spouse. You may need to schedule them. One mom I know would have a “working date” with her husband once a week. This was a set time when they each could talk about areas they needed to improve in their marriage, or about the business decisions that needed to be made.
Now I will caution you that your husband may not be fired up about this talking stuff. So think of how you can sweeten the deal. In my situation, running worked perfectly, because my husband wanted someone to exercise with, and I wanted to communicate. What might work for you?
Also, if you have a thorny issue that is getting little too thorny, I want to recommend that you get someone else involved. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I talked with a spiritually mature person or couple who helped us get back on the track of good communication where we were hearing and respecting one another.
Find quality time.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:14)
I know, I know. This verse is about heaven. But the principle is the same. You need to make wise choices about what you treasure. If you don’t, your heart will develop strong feelings for the wrong things.
Sister moms, you have to fight to keep your relationship with your husband as your greatest treasure, besides God. And the only way you’re going to do that is by consistently investing in it, especially with time.
Ack! How can you do that with so many demands for your attention? Here are some suggestions from my mom friends.
- Have a weekly “date” with your husband. “We do dates once a week. It’s breakfast usually while the kids are in school. Sometimes we do a date at home after the kids are in bed.”
- Have a monthly date that is more special.
- Be intentional about spending time together daily: “We try to put the electronics away and snuggle on the couch in our down time. Even it’s for 10 minutes a day.”
I agree! My husband and I ride our bikes and have a coffee shop date once a week. We talk every day on his lunch break. And much more. We continue to invest in our relationship, and it makes a world of difference.
Believe in the good in your husband.
If I could share only one thing with you, it would be Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears it down.”
Moms, are you tearing down your house? Are you being too critical? Are you sabotaging the very thing you’re trying to create?
The problem usually comes from thinking your husband should be more like you.
In general, women are more detail oriented and able to multitask. They’re also more nurturing and concerned about their child’s feelings. To them, every facet about how the child eats, sleeps and behaves is important, and should be carefully considered. To them, it’s complicated!
Men see the big picture. They don’t care about the fine points, they just want to get in there and play with the kids. (If only they didn’t wind them up!) Men challenge the children and expect them to toe the line. They have a simple, cut and dried leadership style.
Wow, do you begin to see how God designed this? Our children need the balance of what both parents bring. They need nurturing, and they need to be challenged and disciplined. They need someone to be concerned about the details, and they need someone to cut through the confusion and set a direction. And if the roles are flipped in your marriage, you still need what both of you contribute.
So appreciate your husband. I know he’s not perfect, but he has strengths. He has potential. Practice I Corinthians 13, and always believe in him and have hope for him.
One quick story before I move on. I was talking with a newlywed man the other day, and he told me how his wife encouraged him about a speech he was going to make. He said, “I went out of there feeling like I could conquer the world.”
Sister moms, we can empower our husbands, or deflate them. We can build our house, or tear it down.
Give 100% to your spouse.
I remember one time when my marriage was at an impasse. I was completely played out. I didn’t feel like I could give anymore. My husband didn’t feel like he could give anymore. It was awful. I thought our marriage was over, even though we weren’t going to get divorced.
You’ve probably experienced the same sort of impasse, where both you and your husband start pulling back, and then you don’t know how to stop the downward spiral.
But there is a way out. You have something totally powerful you can do. You can imitate Christ. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus didn’t just give to those who reciprocated. He gave everything he had to his “enemies.” (Romans 5:10)
So the standard is to always give 100% to your spouse, whether he deserves it or not. When you do this, it creates a positive dynamic instead of a negative one.
That’s what happened in my situation. My husband decided he would be like Christ. He would give. And when he did, I was so appreciative that I changed my attitude and started giving back. This changed the whole trajectory of our marriage.
Let’s create a culture of giving. Here are a few suggestions from my mom friends:
- “We write cards, and give small gifts. We share responsibilities and help each other take breaks to recharge.”
- “He knows I like my coffee made in the morning and while I’m getting the kids ready he’ll make it and bring it to me.”
- “My husband makes the beds for me. I make his lunches and write notes in them.”
- “I try to hug my husband often, because I know he likes it, though I’m not a huggy person.”
Invest in intimacy.
The physical relationship can be one of the first casualties of child rearing. When do you have time? When do you have privacy? When do you have the energy? Ha!
Sometimes you have to be super intentional. One of my friends schedules a “date” at the same time every week, and lets nothing, I mean nothing, get in the way of it. And while this date does involve dinner, the main attraction is sex!
But let’s be honest. We can feel resentful about one more demand on us. What really helped me with this was to understand better how men feel about sex.
Look at what an expert says. “Women commonly think men only want one thing: sex. The truth is, however, that men really want love. A man wants love just as much as a woman, but before he can open his heart and let in his partner’s love, sexual arousal is a prerequisite. Just as a woman needs love to open up to sex, a man needs sex to open up to love.” (John Grey, “Mars and Venus on Sex”)
Friends, you are only hurting yourselves if you don’t make time for intimacy. More than anything, you want to feel loved. But if you are not having much intimacy, you’re not helping your husband to feel loved, and it’s harder for him to turn around and love you.
Of course, God knew this all along. That’s why Paul wrote through the Spirit, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. . . do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time. . . “ (I Cor 7:3-4)
So cuddle up to your honey! After almost 40 years of marriage, I can tell you that there are never ending layers of blessings to uncover through intimacy.
In closing, here are a few more quick suggestions:
- Make pivotal spiritual decisions. The most important thing my husband and I ever did for our marriage was decide to become part of a church where people were being their best for God. We found examples we could imitate. We found couples who helped us in our marriage. We became more of a team for God. Another important decision in our marriage was to move to help with a small church. My husband and I grew spiritually, and this helped our marriage in huge ways.
- Pray together regularly. One of my friends prays with her husband before bed every night. My husband and I pray together about all sorts of things on Saturday mornings. However you do it, do make prayer part of your routine. You will learn more about your spouse’s heart, and you will feel more at peace. And of course, God will work.
- Be unified, especially in front of the children. Make it your goal to be a team. Be solution oriented. Be willing to submit to your husband’s leadership and trust God. (Yikes, the “S” word! Eph. 5:21-22.)
Okay, after all of this, what are you feeling? I want you to be encouraged, and know that there is tremendous hope! I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed, as I sometimes was, wondering how on earth my marriage would get there.
If I could go back and talk to myself then, I would tell myself to hold the course, to keep putting God first and know that He was working.
Mom friends, in the end, the best thing you can do for your marriage is to hold the course. Keep seeking God wholeheartedly. Doing this WILL create the foundation of a good marriage. Having a good marriage WILL create the foundation of good parenting. And good parenting WILL create the foundation of your child’s faith.
It all starts on your knees. That seems so small. So counter intuitive.
But it’s the equation, the plan, the spiritual design, that works.