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“Before Them, It Was Us”: The Case for Putting Your Spouse Before Your Children

I’ve heard the concept of putting your spouse before your children. But, what does that look like? Here’s how we do it in our family.

It’s usually 8:30 p.m. when I give the first warning shot to my two teenage daughters.

At 9 p.m., I say, “It’s time for you two to head upstairs.” I repeat this nearly every night.

And nearly every night they argue. “But why do we have to go to bed at 9?” they lament. “We’re not children anymore.”

“You don’t have to go to bed, but you can’t stay down here in the living room past 9. That’s our time. We haven’t seen each other all day, and most of the day we’ve been focused on you and work. We need our time, too.”

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They roll their eyes and huff at us.

But, we’re still advocating for putting your spouse before your children. (Even if they roll their eyes…)

The other night, I went as far as to sing the Semisonic song “Closing Time” until they threw pillows at me. I kept repeating, “Closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t … stay … here!”

They didn’t laugh. At all. We, however, thought it was hilarious.

To be honest, we’ve had this rule for as long as I can remember. We’ve been parents for nearly 15 years now, and there has never been a time where our children were allowed to dominate ALL of our time in the course of the day. They dominate a lot of it, mind you, but not all of it. We love our children and we consider our role in their life to be a huge investment. We committed a long time ago to be there for them and to always be hands-on and involved in their lives.

But, there’s still us. There’s still our relationship. There’s still the health of our marriage to consider and pay attention to.

We have some big reasons why this is so important to us. Here are a few …

A healthy marriage is the cornerstone of the home.

The cornerstone of your family is not your children. They are a part of the foundation and make up a major part of the structure, but they’re not the main thing that holds this whole beautiful mess together. That’s you — you and your wife, you and your husband, you and your partner. It’s your responsibility to lead your family, and your home. Your children are looking to the two of you for direction and example (more on this in a minute).

Before them, it was us.

Before they existed it was the two of us. Me and my wife. We fell in love, skipped class to be together, stayed up too late talking on the phone (that was tied to the wall by a cord), and eventually committed to forever with one another. We were the beginning. We kicked this whole party off. Then these beautiful children came along. And we’re sure thankful they did because they fill our lives with so much joy. But, our union is sacred. Our union is holy. With all of my power, I must protect that sacredness with my wife.


Photo: Mike Berry
Mike Berry
Mike Berry
Mike Berry is an author, blogger, speaker, adoptive father, and former foster parent. He is the co-creator, along with his wife Kristin, of the blog www.confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com which is read by more than 100,000 people around the world, every month. In 2014 he authored the books 'The 7 Hills Every Parent Should Die On' and 'Your Ridiculously Amazing Year: 15 Ways To Make 2015 Your Family’s Best Year Ever!' He and Kristin co-authored the book The Adoptive Parent Toolbox in 2015. They have been married for 16 years and have 8 children, all of whom are adopted. They reside in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana.

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