“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (HCSB)
This is the final post in the “Leaving & Cleaving” series on the importance of prioritizing the marriage relationship above all other human relationships. The first post discussed the reality that sometimes the marriage bond between husband and wife is not allowed to become a priority because the parents of one or both spouses are unable to let go and send their child out as an adult. The second post covered some of the ways married adults are unable to prioritize the marriage bond because they remain overly attached to their parents. In this post, we will discuss how married couples often allow their children to be the priority, rather than their marriage.
In my experience, the prioritizing of a child or children over the spouse is the most common of the three topics discussed in this series. Further, I believe prioritizing children over the marriage relationship is a key-contributing factor to the other two threats discussed in this series.
Sometimes parents can make this mistake by overwhelming their children with attention, giving them everything they want, doing everything for their kids, and making sure they are always happy and nothing is ever too hard or inconvenient. They arrange their schedules and finances around their children. The child is raised with “too much privilege and not enough responsibility” leading to a prolonged adolescence. Mom and Dad can’t see their child as an adult, because they’ve never allowed their child to become one.
At the same time, the children find themselves unable to function in the real world because they have no idea how to do anything for themselves. They don’t know how to pay bills, because mom and dad always paid for everything. They don’t know how to handle conflict at work because mom and dad always called the teacher to fix whatever problems there were, yes, even in college. They can’t turn work in on time because mom and dad aren’t standing over them reminding them it’s due tomorrow. They even struggle in finding employment. Believe it or not, there are college graduates whose parents call a potential employer to negotiate interview and compensation packages. Don’t believe me, click here.
After many years in youth ministry, I believe one of the greatest forms of idolatry we have in this country today is the worship of our children. We put our children ahead of everything and it is detrimental to our marriages and them. What we’re talking about is the child-centered home.
On Mother’s Day, our church celebrated a parent-child dedication. This is a special time for parents to stand before the church and commit to being the primary discipler of their children. It is also a time for the church to commit to come alongside the parents and support them as they raise their children, helping to point their children toward a personal faith in and relationship with Christ. Prior to the ceremony, the parents attend an orientation in which they are taught about the importance of a Christ-centered home, rather than a child-centered home.
A child-centered is a home where children are the center of the family. This kind of home is dangerous for a number of reasons. It fosters self-centeredness in the child. It attacks the husband and wife relationship, no longer allowing the marriage bond to be the primary human relationship in the home. This often results in a husband and wife looking up at each other after the kids have gone off to college only to realize “We are strangers, I don’t know you any more.” Sadly, this often leads to divorce it is a growing trend called the “Empty Nest divorce.” In 1990 one in every ten adults over fifty was divorced, today it is one in four.
The better alternative is a Christ-centered home. This type of home supports the husband and wife bond and encourages a Biblically based balanced approach to parenting. Whereas the child-centered home fosters self-centeredness, the Christ-centered home fosters a healthy level of interdependence, “We are a team, and mommy and daddy are the leaders.”
So, how can we prioritize the marriage relationship and avoid the child-centered home?
DATE NIGHT! Date night is not the only prevention/solution, but it is a great first step and will go a long way. A weekly date night communicates to your friends, family, and children that you are going to make your marriage a priority.
My wife and I recently completed a Date Night Challenge with our church. Before one of our dates, one of our sons asked, “Why are you going out on a date?” Smiling, I responded with, “Because we love you very much and one of the best things we can give you is a healthy marriage.” He giggled and said, “Okay. Have fun.” Leaving our kids at home for a few hours a week, with a babysitter of course, is a simple way of demonstrating that our lives do not revolve around them. It also is a great reminder that mom and dad won’t always be around, so they need to plan accordingly. They need to learn how to do things for and take care of themselves.
One of the things I pray daily for my children is that when the time comes and they begin their own marriage I will be able to send them out as adults, not on a journey to become one. That they will bond with their spouse as their primary human relationship and that, when they have children, they will continue to make their marriage a priority the same way their mother and I are seeking to do.