Have you ever listened to the instructions that airlines give you just before the airplane takes off? That is, to put on your own oxygen mask first before putting them on your kids.
Why would the airline want you do that? Isn’t your duty as a parent to take care of your kids first? Actually, no. The reason is simple. Should you become faint from lack of oxygen, you won’t be much good to your kids at all! Many couples fail to see the same logic when it comes to their own relationship.
This may sound a little strange to you, and leave you to wonder if I’m crazy. Here’s what I mean. My wife and I have two boys. One is already a teenager and the other one is soon to be. And we love them with every ounce of ourselves.
But we also know our priority ladder.
Our marriage comes first, then our children. For the very same reason that the airline is instructing you to put on your own oxygen mask first, we’ve consciously chosen to give that priority to our marriage.
It’s an Easy Trap to Fall Into
Why would I encourage you to NOT give your kids top priority?
It sounds selfish.
Aren’t we supposed to put our children’s needs first? Who will take care of them? It’s an easy trap to fall into.
So many couples let their children’s immediate wants and desires rise right to the top in their life and take over. As their attention gets spread so thin between work, kids, household duties, and the other dozen hats they wear, quality time with their spouse is often the first thing to slip.
Then, one day they wake up.
There’s no one in the house except them, and their spouse is still sleeping. The kids are all grown up, doing their own things, or away at college. Maybe they have already moved out.
They look at their spouse and say to themselves “Who are you?” Maybe not literally, but that’s pretty much how they feel.
During all these years they didn’t even realize how much they had grown apart. Now they do realize. Suddenly, they feel that painful distance.
They wonder “How have we gotten so far apart?” The scariest thing is, they didn’t mean to become disconnected. But they did.
After 10 to 20 years of putting the needs of their children above the needs of their relationship, their marriage has suffocated. For far too long there was not enough air for their relationship.
If you’re not feeding your relationship the oxygen it needs, it’s just a matter of time before this happens to you too.
The key is to set aside a dedicated regular time to spend quality time together as a couple. It should become a part of your daily routine – a Love Ritual, if you want.
It sounds simple.
And it is. But it’s also easy not to do it.
It’s one of those things, that if you are not doing it over a long period of time it can really damage your relationship.
Putting Your Marriage First
So, how do you actually provide oxygen for your marriage to thrive? How can you make or keep your relationship with your spouse a top priority?
Here’s something you can start with right now.
- Every day, do something thoughtful for your spouse. Remember, that can be just a genuine smile, a warm hug for no reason, a loving touch, or a simple “Thank you.” Ask yourself: “What can I do to make my loved one’s life more pleasurable TODAY?” Don’t expect anything in return and persist. Show your love by example and not by words alone.
- Each day, carve out 10-15 minutes of intentional time to connect the dots. Don’t let your spouse become a stranger who happens to share the same roof, children, and mortgage.
- Once a week, spend some quality time together. Have some fun, or learn new things together. If you’re not able to do it so frequently, a bi-weekly schedule will serve the purpose as well. Block that time in advance and make it regular. Tell your kids about your time together. They will be happy to see their dad and mom having a good time.
- Use every opportunity to touch, without any expectation of having sex (as a primary motive). Snuggling on the couch, hugging your partner from behind next time they are brushing their teeth, or just holding hands while walking together are some examples. You almost can’t overdo it.
- Once a month, do something unexpected for your spouse. Think of little surprises that you can do for your loved one and surprise them. Bonus? The excitement that comes with a surprise is a powerful aphrodisiac.
- Once or twice per year, go somewhere nice, just the two of you, without the kids. It doesn’t have to be expensive. The goal is to just hang out together and spend a few days together as a couple. Plan it far in advance, block it off, and protect it ferociously from intruders.
Your Kids Will Only Benefit
Putting your marriage first does not mean you don’t love your kids. On the contrary, when you give your marriage the priority it deserves, you are able to love your kids even more!
That’s true for a few reasons.
- You can give more. Raising children is hard work. But it’s even harder if you feel disconnected from your spouse. If you feel a lack of intimacy. If you feel like you’re raising kids with a stranger. By putting your marriage first, you’ll have more positive energy to give to your kids. They will feel the difference.
- You’re setting a powerful example. You’re letting your kids see firsthand what a healthy marriage looks and feels like. Where else should they learn that from? Certainly not in school or on the street.
- You are providing an emotional shelter. Your kids may already know (or will get to know) other kids, many of whom will be coming from broken marriages. Your happy marriage is their assurance this won’t happen to them.
- It pays forward. By seeing their mom and dad intentionally spending time together, subconsciously your children will form the very same positive behavior pattern. They will learn it from YOU. They will bring those behavior patterns into their own relationship later in their adult life. What a great gift!
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