We talked about mistake #1 in the last blog. Let’s move on to #2 – Put your marriage last.

The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do

1. Baby your child.

2. Put your marriage last.

I wonder if the statement “Putting your marriage” last is even accurate. It seems like it would be a more accurate statement if it read “Acting like you’re putting your marriage last.” More often, I think, marriage partners very much want to experience intimacy—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—with each other. Something gets in the way of achieving intimacy, though, and partners recede back into coping mechanisms that are wrapped in hurt and pride. It may look like the partnership isn’t a priority, that work responsibilities or other friends or even their children, are keeping them from focusing on each other, but it isn’t really true.

Choice theory teaches that the only person we can control is ourselves.

It also teaches that we intentionally behave in a way that will either bring us what we want, especially when it comes to the way others, like our spouse, treats us, or in a way that at least brings us a feeling of control.

It is this willingness to settle for a little feeling of control, rather than lovingly, humbly, and energetically going for deeper levels of intimacy that creates and maintains a “cold war” home atmosphere, a distance between partners, and even a coping numbness. Consider the following scenario –

I have a quality world picture in my head about how I would like my wife to treat me when I arrive at home after work. Upon my walking through the door, this picture involves her jumping up, doing two back handsprings toward me, and then kissing me deeply and passionately. Alas, this picture doesn’t take place. Instead, she says hi and asks me how my day has gone. I am hurt and frustrated that once again my pictures aren’t being matched. She is watching a program on TV, but seems interested in me, even asking me to come join her. I politely decline, trying to sound friendly, grab some food from the kitchen, and head to the back of the house to watch a program of my choosing. I have not come across with a major silent treatment behavior, yet I have had what I refer to as a mini-withdrawal, a seemingly small decision to just do my thing. However, much more has happened here than a small withdrawal. I yearned for what I thought was a major connection, an intimate moment, but I settled for something much less. I withdrew into aloneness. You are probably thinking that my quality world picture involving handsprings and wet kisses was ridiculous to begin with. To that I would say you are right. It was ridiculous. Unfortunately, even ridiculous pictures exert a powerful influence on our behavior. Fortunately, though, we choose and shape the pictures that go into our quality world. Appropriate, realistic pictures help a lot. Another thing to consider, too, is this: If I wanted my wife to welcome me with two back handsprings and a kiss, what prevents me from greeting her with handsprings and a kiss? Oh, I might say to that suggestion, she has to make the first move. She is the one that needs to change, I reason. Keeping in mind what she desires, why can’t I be the person that I would like her to be? It is scenarios like these that play in a million variations every day. We settle for roommate status instead of going for an intimate partnership.

Our children see this dance of control play out in front of their eyes day after day. It is true that a good marriage is good for the mental health of the spouses. Having good relationships, especially one as significant as marriage, is incredibly important to us. It is also true, though, that a good marriage is good for the mental health of kids. They root for their parents to be happy and to treat each other well. The energy of the home environment is palpable and obvious, regardless of adult efforts to hide the anger and protect their kids from the dysfunction. A happy, healthy energy in the home is good for everyone. Kids do not begrudge appropriate and loving attention that their parents give to one another. Instead, they feed off of it; they learn from it. Someday they will have a home of their own and it will, for good or for bad, for happiness or for unhappiness, tend to mirror the homes of their childhood.

A recent article, Marriage Is Not a 24/7 Sleepover Party, in The Atlantic underscored the effect of the challenges of marriage –

“Marriage is in trouble. According to a 2011 Pew study, barely half of American adults are married, a record low. Nearly a quarter of Americans believe marriage is becoming obsolete. Many members of the millennial generation (18- to 29-year-olds) believe being a parent is more important than being married.”

Of all the relationships we form, marriage is the hardest one to maintain. Divorce rates are grim enough (hovering around 50% for decades); when you factor in how many more couples stay together in unhappy marriages it becomes downright discouraging. Entire families are affected by this dysfunction. Whether partners split and go their separate ways or stay together as lonely roommates, children are caught in the unhappy crossfire. Let’s do what we can (words like love, acceptance, trust, and humility come to mind) and stop the crossfire.

3. Push your child into too many activities.

4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.

5. Be your child’s best friend.

6. Fail to give your child structure.

7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams.

Friel, J. and Friel, L. (1999). The 7 worst things good parents do. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Click on the following link to access the article in The Atlantic