Clarifying the priority list of God, Spouse, Children

So, there have been debates on here about whether the order of priorities should be

God
Children
Spouse

Or

God
Spouse
Children

In other words, should children be the priority over the spouse or the spouse be the priority over the children.

Many people tend to become exasperated by the notion that one should put one’s spouse before one’s children. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this, and I think it’s important to clear it up.

First, let’s talk about what putting spouse first doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean allowing a spouse to abuse children (or anyone). It doesn’t mean catering to a spouse’s every whim while the helpless children fend for themselves. It doesn’t mean you would rush to save your spouse from a burning building before you’d rush to save the children.

Anyone who is mistreating people—especially the children—must be dealt with appropriately. In situations where a spouse is abusing or mistreating the children, they must be stopped. That may mean admonishing them, telling them their behavior is unacceptable, or even throwing them out of the house. Putting someone “first” never means allowing them to hurt others or do wrong. Also, whomever a spouse is mistreating needs to be defended and protected, especially if it’s the children.

In situations where a spouse is not abusive or acting detrimentally toward the children (or anyone), putting a spouse first can be described like this. Children are helpless and need continuous care. Taking care of their needs is going to take most of one’s time when the children are small. The spouse, who can take care of themselves, will naturally have to have some of their needs or wants placed on the back burner and prioritize the immediate needs of the children. However, as children get older this changes. They become more and more independent, and eventually will leave the nest and form their own lives with their own spouse and children. The relationship of the spouses will remain. If spouses focus solely on the children and forget about each other, their marriage will possibly crumble after the youngest child turns 18.

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(Part 2 of 2)

Therefore, the idea of putting spouse first—even before children—has to do with the relationship of the spouses. And it is important because the relationship of the spouses is the foundation of the family. One way to think of it is by comparing it to the foundation for a house. The spouses’ relationship is the foundation and the children are the house itself. If the foundation crumbles, the house will fall. Children feel safe and secure when they know their parents love each other and their marriage is in tact. Children can sense tension between parents, and it negatively affects children if their parents are at odds. And of course children will suffer if their parents divorce. If spouses love each other first and prioritize their relationship, that safety and security spills over to the children and everyone is happy. And when the children are grown and off living their own lives, the spouses will still lead a happy life together.

Putting spouse first could also be compared to putting on your own oxygen mask on an airplane before helping the person next to you. You have to take care of yourself before you help others. But when you’re married, it’s not just you—it’s you and your spouse. The two of you are one. So the same way you take care of yourself so you can properly care for others (in this case, the children), you have to take care of the relationship with your spouse and make it a priority to nourish that relationship. Say I love you, call each other from work, leave notes, do things that speak each other’s love language. And yes, sometimes this may also mean occasionally getting Grandma to watch the kids while you and your spouse go on a date night, or spending quality time together after the kids go to bed.

Now, it’s important to acknowledge all marriages are different. Some people love their children “more” than their spouse. Some love their spouse “more” than the kids. Some say they love them both equally but differently. All I can say about that is, while people tend to be exasperated by the notion that one could love a spouse more than children, I think what people who say that mean is this: their spouse is one with them, the one they chose and vowed to love until death, and it’s the love of the spouses that created the children in the first place. That intense love flows over into love for their children, and the children benefit from knowing their parents love each other. I realize that due to specific circumstances in a marriages, not everyone feels this way about their spouse (their spouse has hurt them badly or even irreparably, their spouse is abusive, they don’t see eye to eye with their spouse, they don’t get along with their spouse, etc). I’m not trying to tell anyone whom they should love more; feelings are what they are and we don’t have complete control over them. I’m just pointing out that when people say they love their spouse “more”, that’s what they mean.

I hope this has cleared misconceptions, and I welcome any discussion.

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I never understood why it mattered as long as we put God first. :thinking:

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I think “first” implies perhaps a ranking that doesn’t need to be there. Duties to spouse and duties to children are very different, and it doesn’t seem to me to be necessary that one always goes before the other. In many things in life it’s about balancing different duties and responsibilities, rather than always putting one or the other first.

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I definitely understand your position much better now than on previous threads. Thanks for this.
Personally, I’m in a situation right now where my child does have to come first over my wife…and at present I certainly “feel” more love for my child than my wife… but under ideal circumstances I understand what you’re getting at.

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God
Spouse
Children

Possibly it depends on the age of the children…?

If you abandon your spouse, you do a disservice to your children.

And many have a mistaken “appreciation” or “love” for their children, because children are easier, in a sense. They must obey and be subject to a parent, while each spouse is to be humble and subject to one another.

The domestic Church should have order among members.

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So what does it mean when divorce and remarriage are very common in the Catholic Church?

When spouses decide they want to leave and find a new spouse, that is.

What does this do to the order of the domestic Church?

God
Spouse
Children

is indeed the order. However, many people misinterpret this to mean that one must tolerate an abusive spouse and allow him or her to harm the children, and this is absolutely not so. Putting someone first doesn’t mean allowing them to do harm. If a spouse is harming the children, the spouse must be stopped and the children must be protected.

Sometimes an abusive spouse must be abandoned in order to protect the innocent spouse and the children.

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There is a danger of a marriage deteriorating if the spouses focus only on children and forget each other. This puts a strain on the whole family, and the innocent children will suffer. However, in circumstances where a spouse is abusive, once again, divorce might be necessary.

Putting someone first doesn’t mean allowing harm.

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Are you married? Do you have children?

Do you believe there are a quarter of married Catholics abusing their spouse and children?

Yes, and yes. Why?

I have no idea if they are abusing their spouses and children or not.

The purpose of this thread is to simply clear up misconceptions about this topic. I’ve talked about it on here before, and on other threads, I received very exasperated responses when I mentioned that the order of priority is God, Spouse, Children rather than God, Children, Spouse. Some people thought I was saying we should leave our children at home alone while we take our spouse on a two week cruise. Some people thought I was saying a person should allow their spouse to abuse their children. I’m simply trying to clear up these misconceptions and help people understand what I meant.

This is when the Catholic runs to the secular authorities, because the Church doesnt know how to deal with trouble.

Its silliness. Catholics like to feel good about having highest standards of marriage, yet when trouble comes, they run for protection by secular law, which has much lower standards of marriage. The Church says, “Hey, we dont judge, but are God’s mercy. Go let the State do the ugly work.”

A quarter, or more of Catholics dont have God or their spouse or their children as their priority. They have themselves and another spouse as their priority. And the State is the agent to assist them.

What do you propose the Church does that she isn’t already doing? Sometimes things can’t be fixed. If a person is being abusive—especially physically abusive—the only true option is to leave the situation. Secular authorities don’t “have lower standards of marriage” because they allow for divorce when your spouse is beating you. They may have lower standards of marriage overall, but in instances where people are in danger, it’s not a lower standard of marriage to allow divorce.

Yes, I agree. In situations where no one is abusive, divorce shouldn’t be allowed so easily. That’s why it’s important to have the God, Spouse, Children order. When a marriage crumbles the whole family crumbles, and in turn society crumbles.

First, I think a very small percentage of Catholic divorces are due to convicted abusive. Second, I dont know what the Church is doing at all in these cases. They seem to just say, go divorce and then get an annulment.

I think discipline for crimes against the Church law should be enforced! Why do they rely on the State to do that, but not do it themselves?

Give penance of disqualified membership for certain periods! Admonish and refuse Eucharist until Catholic counseling and therapy is followed through by mandate, and specialists report progress.

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