Monday, July 14, 2014

Why My Marriage Doesn't Come First

Before I had JaiseAnn, I always knew that I wanted my husband and I to keep our marriage strong after we became parents. I have a firm belief that a happy marriage will lead to happy children and a happy home. I wanted desperately to set a good example of marriage to my kids and hoped that they would walk away expecting romance, selflessness, forgiveness, and respect from their future spouses. Date nights, yes? Trips away? Of course! My marriage will absolutely come first.

After my daughter was born, during those first few weeks, we had no schedule. There was no time to spend watching our favorite Netflix show or eat dinner together. The time we did have together was honestly spent with me in tears as I battled the baby blues for the first 3 weeks.  As a creature of habit and routine, I was really bothered with not knowing what to expect every day. I became envious of couples with kids who seemed to have it figured out. Dinner times, date nights, and bedtimes were all established and routines were in place. They were able to take that advice I’d read so much about and put their marriage first.

My daughter is now nearing six months old--routines are a little more predictable than those early weeks and yet I’m learning to resent the phrase, put your marriage first.  Here’s why:

What does that look like?
I’m the type of person who likes lists and checking off accomplishments and goals. Labeling something “first” tells me that this is something that is measurable and therefore I feel like it’s something I should be able to do, but I don’t know what that looks like. What does a marriage first home look like? How do they act? What actions demonstrate that your marriage comes first?  I don’t know how to measure where something is ranking in my life. And if it’s not “first” I don’t know how to take specific steps to put it at the top.  Marriage isn’t a place in a race against parenting and it’s not something that you can put a number on. 

It’s Not Possible
My daughter is an infant and right now, there’s just no other way to put it, she is my first priority. I am fully responsible for her—she needs every bit of me and she gets it. She has all of me right now. Date nights are few if any outside of the home. My nights cuddling with my husband are broken up with middle of the night feedings, and me passing out on my side of the bed where I can still look over and check on her. If she’s still awake during dinner, she’s the star of the show during our meals. She needs both of us and all of us and we’re glad to give it.  We both recognize how quickly the time is flying and we are aware that she won't need us this much forever, so we want to be as there for her as we possibly can while she does.

It's Not Necessary
I don’t feel that marriage and parenting are always separate entities that need to be addressed separately. While someday my daughter will leave us (oh my goodness, how my heart breaks just thinking about that) and set out to live her own life. She will still be our daughter and very much a part of our lives. We will never truly be just us again, we will always be parents.  My husband is now a dad. He has needs as a husband and a father now (and he always will). By taking care of his little girl and putting her first, I’m taking care of him and he of me. We will continue to work on learning to be parents and support each other that way. 

"But you need to remember who you were before you were parents!!!" Seems to be a message I read and hear just about everywhere. Remember? Yes. Return to? No. We will never be the same as we were before. For us, our date nights aren't meant to rekindle our old ways and bring back what once was. Our date nights are to date each other and get to know the ever-changing versions of ourselves. We changed a lot in an instant and continue to change little by little every day. Our priorities, needs, wants, feelings, observations, EVERYTHING changed in some way. I have loved getting to know the new parts of my husband and sharing my new ideas/thoughts with him. 

 I can’t measure putting our marriage first, but I can measure making it a priority. That means we have set nights that are “just us” after she goes to bed. I make an effort to do something nice or thoughtful for my husband every day. No matter how tired I am, I try to tickle his back at bedtime and I continue to pack his lunch every day. The very first thing he does when he walks in the door each day is kiss me, and then he goes on to catch up on all the kisses from our little one he missed during the day. The little things matter the most right now.  We are both overwhelmed in love and responsibility. Neither one of us come first right now, but we do little things to let the other one know, “I haven’t forgotten about you. I haven’t forgotten about us.”

What are your tricks/tips for prioritizing in your relationship?

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