When your priorities are in line with God’s desires, your marriage will impact not only your blended family, but countless others as well.
When people ask us to name one of the biggest problems that we see in blended families, we talk about misplaced priorities—when a husband or wife puts their children ahead of their spouse. It is one of the most common reasons for divorce in remarried couples. We’ve counseled many blended couples, and we have seen this child-over-spouse choice as the catalyst of division in their blended family and marriage.
We teach a lot about priorities in marriage. We believe that next to your relationship with Christ, the most important priority in your life is your relationship with your spouse. Children and extended family fall below those two things. If other things take precendence, the enemy can sneak in and wreak havoc on your marriage, blended family, and relationships. Anyone or anything that comes before your spouse— including your children—can lead to resentment, doubt, fear, and anger in your spouse, and it can create division in your marriage.
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Most couples who enter remarriage have previously faced divorce, the death of a spouse, or a failed relationship, and the children have been involved and affected by that life event. When you go into a new marriage with children who have experienced pain, it is natural for a parent to want to protect their children in every way possible. It can be easy to place them in a position that supercedes your new spouse and marriage. We hear comments from parents who fall into this trap. They make statements like, “My children come first and will always come first”or “My children have already been through so much. I don’t want them to experience any more pain.” These attitudes can be a recipe for disaster in your marriage and can ultimately destroy it. In Mark 3:25, Jesus said, “ And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
What do you do if this is your current situation and your marriage is suffering as a result? Let’s look at the solution from two angles—practical and spiritual.
Practically speaking, the first step is to sit down with your spouse and talk about the issue at hand in a healthy, non-confrontational way that allows for open and effective communication. If we approach our spouse in frustration, we open the door for defensiveness to step in. Instead, try to remain calm and use “I” statements that are not combative. Instead of saying “You make me mad when you…” you could say, “I feel frustrated when…” This allows your spouse to understand your feelings.
If your spouse continues to prioritize the children above you, we would recommend wise counsel and professional biblical counseling. When one spouse cannot see that prioritizing their children is hurting the marriage, a neutral party with an outside perspective can bring insight, direction, and clarity to the situation. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us that ,“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Wise, professional counseling is a wonderful tool that allows both spouses to express their thoughts and feelings in a safe place, while also receiving support and guidance.
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Spiritually speaking, we would recommend getting involved in a marriage group or small group (also known as a “life group”). Here, both you and your spouse can experience community together with other believers who can speak life over you and support your marriage as you walk through this season. Many churches offer mentorship programs in which a couple can meet with wise, godly couples who will walk them through marital situations. And, above all, we encourage you to take this to God and pray over your spouse and marriage. You might even try praying with your spouse too. Even if your spouse is unwilling to pray about this situation, continuing to lay your marriage before God is the best gift that you can give them and your marriage.
Marriage is a beautiful gift from the Lord. He wants our relationship with our spouse to flourish and become a testimony of His power to change lives. A God-centered, healthy marriage can also break the generational chain of divorce. It can serve as an example for your children and stepchildren to follow. When your priorities are in line with God’s desires, your marriage will impact not only your blended family, but countless others as well.