All of us at one time or another will face life changing events. I am not sure which ones would be on your top-ten list but I wonder if it would include children. I know that the first child represents a huge life change for both the husband and the wife. Yet this blessing from God often introduces stress and conflict into a marriage.
The Bible makes it clear that children are a blessing from the Lord, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3–5). One wife responded to this verse by stating, “Maybe it is a blessing for the man, but it is not for the woman. I thought a child would help us grow closer together yet it has pushed us further apart.” “Research shows that for the mom, the greatest impact is from birth to 6 months as she is making major life adjustments and changes to the focus of her life. For the dad the greatest impact is from 6 to 19 months. During this time he perceives the wife becoming more critical, less supportive and withdrawn from him sexually.” (Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman) The impact of children on a marriage does not end after 18 months but continues through each phase of parenting and can even extend into adulthood. I believe that if most couples are honest, they would agree that children can become a wedge in the relationship, if they let it.
This past Sunday, my wife Caryl and I shared six practical ways to “Team Parent.” If you are interested in the complete message you can listen here. Let me point you to my message this past week on “Learning to Team Parent” for a more comprehensive discussion. The key, as I develop it in the message, is to make your relationship with your spouse, the primary relationship in your family. Here are three ways you can do that.
First, you have to make time for each other. It begins by praying together each day as a couple. I stopped being surprised at couples that stopped spending time together when they had their first child. Some couples have not gotten away alone in years and that would include a date night and romantic getaways. Relationships grow cold when couples do not spend romantic time together reconnecting as husband and wife.
Second, learn from others that have experience. My wife and I have been greatly helped by other couples that were a steps ahead of us in this area. Help begins with seeking it then with implementing it. All too often we find that couples are looking for that silver bullet that produces results but requires no change. Sorry, team parenting requires work, it requires you to grow and change. Let me encourage you to seek out couples whose children model the attitudes and behaviors that you desire.
Third and last, deal with your issues privately. Do not work out your issues in front of your children, do it privately. Caryl and I use the code phrase, “Can I talk to you in the bedroom for a moment?” It is a signal that we are not pulling the same direction. It could involve a decision that needs to be made, the request from a child, or even a behavior issue. The private discussion helps us to communicate and make a decision that is best for our family. Successful teams work together. It is also true for your marriage.
Children are a blessing from the Lord but they take work. Realizing that blessing requires that Dad and Mom grow in learning to be Team Parents!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson