My Marriage Comes First

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Growing up, I didn’t have the best example of a healthy marital relationship.

As a result, I have had my share of unhealthy relationships. I even had an extremely abusive one, and I am still putting myself back together from it. Hindsight is 20/20, and in hindsight, I have discovered that my unhealthy choices in relationships partly came from not having a good example from which to build. I rarely saw my parents’ love for each other. The few times I did are now memories burned into my brain. That said, recollections of the bad times are also so very much ingrained. I never saw my Mother advocate for her needs.  She always put us kids or my Dad’s needs before her own. It was a lot of my Mom giving and us taking. Her marriage never came first.

What if I put my relationship first?

My husband’s paternal grandparents inspired me. His grandfather practically worshipped his grandmother. He did everything he could, within and above his power, to make sure she was happy. To make sure she knew that he loved her. She returned the sentiment. They put each other first; before children, before friends, before work, before anything. Their relationship became my husband’s standard for marriage. He knew that kind of unconditional love was possible, and he was not going to settle for anything less. When we first talked about his theory on how his grandparent’s way of life was what made marriage successful, I was skeptical. Shouldn’t the children come first? Aren’t they what is most important?

The Gottman Institute researches and teaches couples how to sustain their marriages (or committed relationships) throughout different seasons of life.

They discovered that 66% of marriages decline within three months of their baby being born. Those who did not see a decline commonly reported that they were spending more time with each other. They were maintaining intimacy despite the newly added responsibilities. John Gottman, the founder of The Gottman Institute, declares that the American family is only as happy as the parents are because we marry for love, not for the mere collaboration to raise children. This declaration hit home for me because when my parents were happy when I was a child, our family life was great; when they were not, it wasn’t.

My husband and I are both children of unhappy marriages.

We have experienced what it is like to see our parents fight and break. We are committed to keeping each other happy, so our children do not have to go through the same thing. That means learning what we need from each other and making it a priority. We know each other’s love languages; he is Physical Touch, and I am Quality Time. I’m not big on physical affection but make an effort to hug him every day. He goes on Dancing with the Stars dates with me because he knows I just want him with me. We know our enneagram numbers, him an 8, me a 2. I support his decisions and affirm my loyalty to him as much as possible. He relays his appreciation for all that I do for friends and family to show they are loved. We designate one night a week for us – whether that is staying in to watch a mutually-loved show, or getting a sitter and going out. We talk about our problems instead of assuming they will get better over time. We make an effort even though sometimes we are just SO TIRED and probably annoyed by something we encountered that day.

So we’re putting our marriage first: even before our children and I’m optimistic it will benefit our family as a whole.

While not everyone is fortunate to have a partner in raising their children, my message is to value yourself and model healthy relationships. Would you want your child to treat someone the way you are being treated? Do you want them to receive the treatment you get from your partner? If the answer is “yes” then – great. If the answer is “no”- even if the situation is financially or economically benefiting you, it’s not worth the lessons you will teach to these sponge-like children you love so dear.

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