Melanie and Derek ran down the porch steps of her parents’ house. Almost giddy with excitement, Melanie said she felt like doing one of her college cheers, as they walked holding hands as they approached their aging mini-van. They sounded like school kids as they chattered recalling how long it had been since they had been alone anywhere. Derek in a shocked tone said “Has it been over a year? Really, Melanie, I don’t even think we’ve had a meal alone since Valerie was born.”
She heard the annoyed tone as his mood suddenly changed. She thought, “It’s true, we’ve not been away, really alone, for a long time.” This recall made her begin missing her kids before they had even left the driveway. Their youngest child, their first daughter, Valerie, had just turned two. She was so sweet and fun with her perky personality. Her older kids, Todd was almost six, going on sixteen and Ethan was four. Both boys had turned into such big helpers in the past few months. She couldn’t believe how much they had grown and changed. She could feel her own mood changing as she recapped some of her and Derek’s recent conversations. She realized she wasn’t really interested in leaving the children for this trip. Here she was already feeling sad about being separated for just a few minutes, how was she going to manage two whole days?
Their pastor had recently taught a series on marriage and Melanie and Derek had agreed it was important they tried harder to work on their relationship. That’s the reason she had agreed to this quick trip. She knew how much it meant to Derek to get away for the overnight getaway. Besides, they had been talking about how to use the restaurant gift certificate his parents had given him for his birthday. It was for dinner one of the nicest steakhouses. Now they were on their way across the city and with Derek’s tone taking the downward turn, she wasn’t sure he was excited about their romantic plans as she had thought he was.
His words as he closed the van door for stung, “It’s better than nothing”! The tension between them now hung heavy. She had heard him tell her Dad, “Don’t be surprised if we’re back early tomorrow. You know how Mel is about the kids.” She had been giving their hotel information to her mother. Her mom gave her a look as if to say, “Do not blow this opportunity, Melanie.” She had confided in her mom lately several times about how Derek had been getting more annoyed with the ways she was parenting the children. Now, sitting alone with Derek, as the sun was setting behind them, she wasn’t sure what to think about the next few hours with just the two of them.
She wondered just what he meant by those comments. She had mentioned to her mom just yesterday that Derek seemed to be unhappy with the amount of time the children took. But they had three children! She had explained who were at different ages with so many needs. She had also been spending a lot more time with her part-time job. Since a lot of it could be finished at home, Melanie had been taking much of it home for the evening. She loved her job with the dentist office, but it was true that the office manager was giving her a lot more responsibility. Anxiously, she wondered if that was bothering him?” She didn’t’ want to bring it up now, but at some point they would need to talk about why he had withdrawn to his home office more and more.
Having three children so quickly while she continued working had definitely put a strain on their marriage. In several sit-down sessions, they both had agreed it was worth it because they enjoyed the thought of their children having close siblings. Many of the couples at their church were doing the same thing so it seemed doable. The work load of keeping up with laundry for five people, the food prep which Melanie did alone most days, and then the school work their kindergartner was now bringing home was definitely taking a toll on their time as a couple. After finding out she was pregnant with their third child, she remembered Derek jokingly saying, “We’ll just have to plan to spend a lot of time getting to know each other after the kids are grown.” Maybe he wasn’t really kidding, Melanie thought.
Many couples could relate to this family situation. A lot of young Christians are doing the same things as Melanie and Derek. Two working parents busy all day and all night with two, three and even four and five children is not unusual in the families of the millennials. The calendar isn’t large enough to stretch to accommodate their busy, demanding schedules and the one thing that is almost always missing is time for them as a couple.
A recent study by the Barna Group reported that in the church today, women members (over 75%) of women stated they were satisfied with their marriages. Another finding was they reported that they were spending most of their time and energy with their children. Not their marriages. Not their husbands. These women commented, they enjoyed being a mother more than their married life.
What is going on here? As a woman, as a wife and a mother, and also as a trained marriage therapist, I can tell you what I’ve observed and experienced.
It’s a whole lot easier to be with kids, as grumpy, demanding and unpredictable as they are, than being with that adult guy we are married too. It is a natural thing for us. Women by our very DNA’s wiring are attracted to hanging out with our children equally, or as reported – instead of – with their husbands.
This is not good for marriages.
But this is. Love on your husband. Take and make time to get away with him. Go on a date at least once a month and be enthusiastic about it. Talk with him, but also listen to him patiently and attentively. Show him a more affection. Just do it. Work hard to include your spouse in your life. This will be very good for your kids. It builds a stronger, healthier family when your marriage is good and healthy.
During a Bible class I was teaching a few months ago, one of the younger friend who had had known since a child told me something. She said she had once asked me in a class I was teaching for expectant parents for some personal advice. She asked what was the one thing I would say had helped my own marriage when we begin to have children. I really couldn’t recall that conversation, but she reminded me of how I had answered. I had told her to always keep her husband and marriage first in her priorities. That her children would be demanding and needing much, but she had to work to meet the needs of her marriage in the middle of raising her kids. I was impressed she had remembered the advice but more impressed knowing she had taken it to heart and applied it.
God’s Word says this: “Love your husbands.” (Titus 2:4-5) There’s a reason God had to tell women to do this. It doesn’t always come naturally