Marriage more important than children?

In kittery’s thread I encountered for the second time in my life (the first was in articles about Ezzo) the idea that marriage is more important than children - that your spouse’s (usually husband’s) needs come first, and your children should wait. That couples must have alone time and go out on dates, leaving the kids with sitters, if they want their marriage to work.

This is alien to my culture and I don’t understand it. It sounds like the man is the biggest kid in the family and needs more pampering than the other kids. In my culture, children always come first, b/c they just don’t know how to be very patient. And I only know OF a few divorces - I don’t think I’ve actually met someone who’s been divorced.

What does everybody think? Who comes first?

I have known thousands of people who have been divorced, and, while there are certainly exceptions, it has seemed to me that the big ME comes first in many marriages. Not the spouse, not the children.

Now, if one asks who SHOULD come first, in my mind there is no question that the children come first. The parents are adults, and ought to act as adults. And among the things adults ought to do is to act in a mature manner and care for those who are not adults, particularly those whom they brought into the world. I see no inconsistency between a “children first” orientation and a strong marriage. A spouse who is truly loving toward his children, and of good heart, will not fail to be loving toward his spouse.

Without reading your post first I voted for “marriage more important”.

I stipulated that I didn’t read your post because I think your interpretation of “marriage coming first” isn’t the same as mine.

Marriage is a sacrament.
Having babies is not.
This is how I voted.

Marriage, as a sacrament, also involves welcoming and raising children… they are PART of the sacrament… a fulfillment, of sorts (not required, but definitely a result of).

I don’t think that a husband’s needs should be taken before a child’s if the child has needs that must be met. A married couple has a sacramental responsibility to raise their children with love in the faith.

However, I also feel there are many marriages that become only about the children… and couples loose their identity as “a couple” whose marriage came first before the children. I don’t think this is right either.
We have a responsibility to maintain that sacramental element of the partnership… and if one partner is feeling neglected in some way then that sacrament is not being fulfilled.

I’m not real happy with the words of the poll so I didn’t vote. The wants and desires of my husband come before the wants and desires of my child. True needs should be filled for both spouse and children. Anyone who knows me knows I can not be accused of neglecting my child’s needs.

My marriage is until death do us part. My child is going to grow into an adult and live independantly someday. My child does not run my house, does not get to feel that life revolves around her which can be the danger in child centered marriages. I’ve seen many a marriage fall apart once children come into the picture and the wife makes the children her central focus becoming a mom and forgetting she was a wife first. I don’t think it’s healthy for the children to be in such a situation.

When I say the spouses desires coming first I’m not talking about child neglect which an unhealthy extreme of a adult relationship centered marriage.

Children are important and husband or wife is important. No human should be used or understand as a tool in satisfying our goals - this is something most modern philosophies with a pretence to some right reason or general benevolence, agree on - this is something Catholic philosophers agree on with the followers of Kant. Children are no by-products and not really products in any sense reducing them in their value as persons. Husbands and wives are not just mere cooperators in the work of bringing children about.

There may be situations leading to potential conflicts of duty or loyalty, having to make some choices. But the answer to those choices, those problems, is not coming up with a clear, simplified hierarchy. Nowhere does it say that the wife can forget about going out because there are kids now or that the husband is a grown man and can wait, but a young son cannot.

Sometimes it seems to me that there are two opposing opinions and according to the one, forget the kids, the husband must be cared for. According to the other, forget the husband, the kids must be taken care of. If you really forced me to tick either option, I would say marriage, but this certainly doesn’t mean that a spouse’s whims come before children’s needs, that in case of conflict between the spouse and a child, the spouse is automatically right, that a grumpy husband gets food before the kids or that a wife’s social needs are more important than the proper ubringing of the children. There must be reason in all of it, and charity. Perhaps the other way round, but still. :wink:

In general, I believe marriage comes first. Kids are a blessing, but marriage is a sacrament.

Are there times when a child might come first temporarily? Sure, if the child is sick or having a tough time.

Honestly, though, in 23 years of marriage, I can’t think of a time when I had to pit my husband against the kids, so I think the question is kind of silly. —KCT

I don’t see how there could be a conflict. :shrug: If you have a healthy marriage, then being good parents should be a part of that.
I know that when our marriage was on the rocks, I wasn’t the best parent. I was too self-absorbed in my misery to give what I needed to give to my son. Once we got back on track (through Retrouvaille), I was able to parent much better.

I think so too :stuck_out_tongue: , but I was confused by this (and no disrespect intended to the poster):

“Keep the ball rolling” by making SURE that you have time together without the kids. It is essential that your husband knows he comes first. I’v been married for 22 years so I know what I am talking about.
You must get into a habit of making the children your secondary priority and your marriage first priority. Believe me, your DH will appreciate that. Let him know he comes first.

as I’d never heard this line of reasoning before. I wonder how many people actually subscribe to it and what they mean by it. :confused:

Thank you :slight_smile:

I think generally speaking, children come first because they have the greatest needs when they are young. I definitely believe that they need and are entitled to (to an extent) the time and attention of both parents. Now certainly as they grow older and they are able to help and do more for themselves, they will of course need to learn basic manners such as not interrupting and patience and independence (which helps them to understand that the world does not revolve around them - certainly this is an extreme to be avoided). But how can they learn patience and putting others first if the parents do not first exhibit this behavior in dealing w/ each other and the children?

Certainly the parents need to tend to their relationship and fulfill the sacrament of marriage, but why can’t this be done around the children’s schedule for the first few years of their life? Get up early together in the mornings, or put the children to bed early and stay up for a little together? I definitely believe in ‘dates’ where mom and dad go out together alone, and if you have grandparents close by, even better - kids and grandparents need time together as well.

But couples who have children, often times wanted those children. And even though you can never know the extent of the needs of children until you have them, you make sacrifices and learn to find joy w/ your spouse and your children in family time. Children are a gift that are only on loan to us for a short while, God willing, we will have our spouses long after the children are gone and we may even find ourselves feeling like ‘less’ without them. There is plenty of time to work on your marriage, but children will be gone in the blink of an eye and we need to give them all we’ve got.

I think you just have to find the balance that works for your family.

I have no firsthand experience here, but I can envision a situation where the husband would become jealous in a cosleeping situation (because the wife is giving her attention to the kids all night, to the exclusion of him.)

The situation in the thread that inspired this post was vaguely similar to this. The conflict there would be keeping the kids in the parents bedroom vs putting them in their own rooms.

its not really one or the other. if you put your husbands needs or your marriage needs as your first priority it doesnt mean that you neglect your children. In away by devoting your self to maintaining a healthy marraige you are giving also to your children. My kids love when we go out on dates and i dont feel guilty about putting them to bed early so my DH and I have more one on one time. None of those things hurt my children. I can’t think of a single need that my husband has that would get in the way of caring for my children. maybe an example would help.

Eventhough my husband comes first i still spend twice as much time with my children. luckily we are multi taskers and there doesnt have to be a #1 or #2, it all just has to get done!

**My husband is my number one priority. Like already mentioned, it’s until death do us part. A sacrament. Also, if we do not put eachother first then we risk having a less than healthy marriage which, in my opinion, is one of the worst things to put a child through.

But, since our only child is still a baby, her NEEDS come first. Before my hubby’s and before mine. As she grows her needs will become less and her wants/desires will have to be balanced with the entire family’s.

Too many women forget that they must continue being wives even after they become mothers. It’s part of the vocation.


I didn’t vote because I don’t feel it’s one or the other.

When my husband and I work to meet the needs of our marriage as we believe the Sacrament & our faith calls us to we are able to better meet the needs of our children which are the joyous product of that union. We don’t neglect each other when we meet our children’s needs and we don’t neglect our children when we meet each other’s needs (or our own personal needs).

Granted our kids are 3 all under the age of 4 so we cannot just jet off to exotic locals right now (unless the laundry room is exotic:p ) But we can set aside some time on & off throughout the day to reconnect & put our marriage front & center. We also make the effort to do the little things to meet the other’s needs this can be pretty mundane but wonderful like getting the pot of coffee on before the other is up or getting all the kids baths while the other takes a little down time. Overall for us it’s that we see it as by taking time to reconnect, working together as parents to meet our children’s needs, praying together as a couple, living out the faith, and making “dates” together (even if they are at home after the kids doze off:D ) we can continue to grow together & become better parents as a result.

Our children we believe are a reflection of our mutual love for each other, they are given by God and they are able to feel secure because they have a strong foundation to rest on. If we forget to keep the foundation (our marriage & our faith) then we have created instability & not remembered how/why we were given these beautiful gifts (our children) to begin with. That may mean that sometimes we as a couple have to sacrifice to do this but we do this as a couple, on the same page & working together to care for our children because we keep our marriage strong.

I don’t believe this is the same as what the Ezzos believe. The Ezzos put sex & a man’s sex drive first before the kids, not the marriage.

I think like others have said, that the MARRIAGE comes first.

In saying that, I mean that the needs of the husband, the wife, and the children must fit within the purpose of the marriage. A marriage entails the procreation and education of children and also the mutual nurturing of the husband and wife.

The point is, it’s not that the husband and wife should be choosing between the other spouse and the children. They have to chose the marriage about all. Sometimes meeting the needs/wants of the other spouse is the best way to serve the marriage. Sometimes meeting the needs/wants of the child is the best way to serve the marriage. Sometimes meeting his/her own needs/wants is the best way to serve the marriage. Most times it is probably some sort of compromise.

Those various needs of a marriage will change over time.

Newlyweds will hopefully have lots of time for mutual companionship and nurturing. And that will probably lead to some procreating (which for most people doesn’t involve much additional time.)

Couples with very young children will probably spend the majority of their time educating their children. I consider feeding and cuddling to be part of that education. So the time for one on one companionship between husband and wife is going to be limited.

As the children grow, the parents will be training those children that they need to be sensitive to the needs and reasonable wants of others, including parents, other siblings, extended family, and those outside of the family. Most such learning will be by experience. One of the biggest lessons for the children (and this will include those supposedly grown up children known as the parents) is the distinction between needs and wants.

Once the children become more independent, the parents will have more time to devote to their mutual companionship again. The children will hopefully be learning about how to be good husbands, wives, friends, employees, etc., by watching what the parents do in order to get by.

There’s no getting away from the fact that some of the ways this plays out are cultural. There are better and worse examples of doing things in almost all cultures.

I think that the OP is looking at this from the wrong perspective. It isn’t supposed to be a case of treating your spouse as the favorite child. Rather, you’re supposed to treat him/her as your vocation. As such, he/she is your number one priority and you respect their decisions and preferences. You also take time out from childcare or daily life to nurture your marriage.

Doing this is not neglecting your children. It is providing them proper perspective on the importance of marriage in a family. And if both mommy and daddy are happy, the children will grow up wanting a family like their parents. :thumbsup:

I didn’t vote either, because I don’t like the 2 choices. The priest that married my hubby and I told us before our wedding that the marriage comes first, and that in turn is the best thing for your children. I try to remember that.

Sure, there are lots of times when one of my girls needs something, and our alone time has to wait. So, we just sneak a few minutes here and there when we can. We go out on a true date very rarely these days, but we try to make the everyday things special. A couple of weeks ago, we left our girls with the grandparents for a little while, and went on a “date” to go buy paint and a few other things. Sounds silly, but it was actually fun.

In caring for your marriage you are caring for your children.

I recently blogged on how children sanctify their parents, which strengthens marriage.

The question isn’t either/or, but both/and.

Guys, what you’re saying is making sense. I’d just never heard this opinion voiced before and it confused me. Also, I have a 7mo baby, and it sounded horrible from that point of view - I imagined it meant sex or conversations with my husband were more important than feeding or cuddling my baby. I can see how with older, more independent children, the perspective can change.

But what about women who always have a baby around, whose children don’t all grow up before she’s well into menopause?

Well…It is difficult to establish a hierarchy. But it cannot go unnoticed that women do have a tendency to focus on children, specially small children, right after birth…It is true of course that little ones are needy…but women ‘overdo’ it, cuddle, talk to, marvel, etc. And then objectively speaking, the husband is being neglected , as the woman focuses on her baby, following her instinct. It is not about putting someone’s needs first : rather it is about remembering that a married woman is a mother and a wife.
Men do not have a problem with choosing to be a father or a husband, because they do not have such a strong ‘nurturing’ instinct. If anything, they can forget that they have also the role of a father, not only of a husband. But I would tend to say that for a man the dilemma is rather between being a provider *and *a caring husband.

This is why tending to the Sacrament throughout our lives is important & not neglecting it because our lives & families are always changing in their circumstances. Even for couples whose kids are long gone by menopause there are circumstances that can cause them to have to actively remember to put their Sacrament first (illness, grandchildren, finances etc…) & their marriages are wonderful models. Many couples have also had babies present until menopause & managed to be wonderful models of marriage. It’s because they remembered to focus on their marriage as the foundation of their family, even with little ones under foot. This doesn’t mean that in “wonderful models” there are not problems or disagreements that arise, there are. But it is how these are handled and the focus on the overall good of the marriage that is key.

The Sacrament sustains in Christ throughout out lives, we cannot neglect it or we are neglecting what will sustain our union together. If a couple continues to develop interests together and know each other outside of changing poopy diapers then their marriage will be strong (even if it is not always easy) because Christ is their strength.

When a couple meets a baby/child’s needs together it is the best thing for both the couple & their baby/child. Children really do sanctify us when we fully give ourselves as parents which includes fully as spouses and in turn we are doing the same for our children by helping them to live the path of holiness. It’s not just mom’s job or dad’s job to meet a baby/child’s needs it’s part of their joined vocation as a married couple. Even when there are more “mom” specific tasks like breastfeeding for example dad can still be involved in support & love. Attentive parenting is not spoiling the child and neglecting the spouse, it’s working as parents together to care for the blessing you have been given by God. It’s still best a joint effort even in things where it seems like only one parent is able to do something (like breastfeeding). There are times babies & children cannot wait to have their needs meet, but adults can wait & sometimes part of being the adult is waiting. It’s about knowing how to make time to meet each set of needs not ignoring one for the other.

Knowing that you are working together as parents, seeing your children grow into the people God created them to be, and having that basis of your Sacrament makes it all worth it, but this takes communication & effort to be on the same page. It also helps to stem off the feelings of “neglect” that either spouse can sometimes feel (many women also state they feel unappreciated or neglected not just men).

Couples must continually reconnecting (date nights, chatting throughout the day, a kiss hello or goodbye, holding hands etc…) & communicating about what our parenting & maritial choices/feelings/issues are by making time for each other. In this we continually renew our promise to each other & God in our Sacrament. It is about being both spouses & parents together, not one or the other apart.

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