Saturday, 7 April 2012

Kids Ten, Marriage Zero

Paul Tripp has a number of great sayings. One of my favorites is “a desire for even a good thing can become a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.” Parenting can be a case in point. I know parents who log more miles per week in their cars taking their children to various activities than are logged at the Indianapolis 500 motor car race on Memorial Day weekend.

It is not surprising to me that there is research that indicates that it is better from a developmental standpoint that your children experience the fruit of a healthy marriage than to have all the benefits derived from violin lessons, soccer tournaments or art instruction.

It is not unusual for a marriage to become child centered. The parents lives revolve around their children’s spoken and unspoken needs and wants. It starts when the child is very young. They deprive you of sleep and drain the mom’s energy. The couple can’t even consider a night out since the baby sitter makes more per hour than the husband, not to mention the fact that you’re ridden with guilt at not being home with your bundle of joy. Intimacy falls off dramatically and the drift begins.

As poor as my memory is, I can still remember that most of the disagreements my wife and I would have centered on the children. She would tell them it was okay to take the car and then get very upset when she went to drive her car and it was low on gas. At which time I would say something that was not very helpful “If you tell them they can drive the car it means it is going to come back low on gas.” At which point her anger turned toward me.

It is not unusual for couples who come for counseling to describe the horrific marriages they experienced growing up. Whether their parents’ marriages ended in divorce, a twenty year cold war, or constant bickering this did not instill in them a sense of security nor did it give them a healthy model of what a God glorifying marriage could look like.

From God’s perspective children are at best number three in the pecking order, as He is number one and your spouse is to be number two. Invariably when a couple is struggling it is because they have violated this precept.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Adjusting to the New Baby

I’m reasonably certain that the following came from someone else’s blog, it is too well written to have come from me.   Regardless of who the author is, I can’t emphasize how important this is to the future of your marriage.

“In the best of situations husbands and wives will have to make huge adjustments in their relationship due to their new arrival.  This will be particularly true if it is your first baby since you will not know what to expect.

One of the most important things you can do with and for one another is to talk.  Talk openly about what you are experiencing.   Who gets up?  When do you let your baby cry – or do you? Etc.  If the mom is breast-feeding she is going to be exhausted in the first few months after the baby is born

Any chance the new mom has to let someone else attend to the baby is worth taking.  The new mom mustn’t think she’s the only one capable of being with that child.  Dad should be quick to interact and bond with the child and give his wife some rest.  Furthermore the baby will have a chance to interact with someone who smells, feels, and acts differently than his/her primary caregiver.  In this way the father widens the world for that child, adding to the child’s emotional and physical development.

There may be many emotional needs bombarding the husband and wife at this time.  The wife might suffer from post partum depression.  The wife might pour all of her emotional and physical energies into their new-born.  Sleep deprivation can make both the husband and the wife edgy and impatient.  The husband may feel like an unnecessary third wheel. 

If possible prior to the baby’s birth the husband and wife should talk openly and be intentional about how they plan to pay attention to their marriage.   Date nights should be programmed into your schedule as soon as possible – at least two per month.  Surely there is a parent, friend or delightful old couple from church who would watch your baby while you go for a walk together, grab an ice cream cone or sit and watch the sun set.  The husband and wife were a couple before the baby was born and should be a couple when the “bird leaves the nest 

They need to remind each other that their relationship comes before the child, and, to whatever extent possible, enjoy each other’s company.  Sex may not happen until the new mom feels comfortable with it, but affection and interaction can happen—and should.”

In a Biblical marriage God comes first, spouse next, children next, etc.  One of the best gifts parents can give their children is for them to witness a marriage that glorifies God.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Two Degree Difference

Dr. John Trent wrote a booklet entitled The 2 Degree Difference. This principle can be applied to several aspects of our life but since this is a marriage blog it makes the most sense to apply it to marriage.

Apparently Dr. Trent and I have at least one thing in common; we are both prone to falling asleep at the steering wheel. John tells of a time when he was making a trip late at night, a trip he had made many times before. In the wee hours of the morning he dosed off. He awoke to the sound of his car sliding on gravel. He had driven across six lanes of traffic. His immediate reaction was to whip the steering wheel to the right, 180 degrees. This caused his car to roll over. He realized that if he had just turned the wheels 2 degrees at a time he would have been able to avert the roll over while bringing the car under control.

The similarity is that some of us fall asleep at the marriage wheel. Sometimes it takes the form of neglect. Sometimes it is a struggle for control. At other times unfulfilled expectations become the culprit. In most cases self-centeredness is at the heart of the issue. (See James 4:1-2) In these instances it would be great if we could turn the wheel 180 degrees but chances are we can’t. So we begin to change two degrees at a time. Perhaps the husband could take a cup of coffee up to his wife as she is getting ready to start her day; or give her every other Saturday off to go do whatever she pleases while you watch the kids and clean the house; or maybe it is as simple as putting the sports page down when your wife is talking to you. Start small and keep adding little things that will make a huge difference.

For the wife it may mean allowing her husband to decompress for 30 minutes when he comes home from work before attempting to have any meaningful communication. It may mean making a special dinner, or setting aside any notion of gender roles and just taking out the garbage without nagging him. Again keep looking for the little things that make life a little easier or more pleasant.

This principle can be applied even if you have a great marriage. Most likely you are already being thoughtful and doing little things for one another but we all become lax. Ask yourself what have I stopped doing that used to bring pleasure or comfort to my spouse? What have they hinted at me doing that I never get around to?