Hey Parents! How to avoid a mediocre marriage

The other day, an article caught my attention in the Guardian, a United Kingdom publication. It is entitled, Want to Save Your Marriage? Don’t have kids. Please don’t read it until you finish my blog. Trust me, it will help! Honestly, there was nothing new in the article I did not know. Several years ago research found that marital satisfaction declines once couples start a family. I’ve written about this too. Let’s face it, you don’t need experts to alert you to this. Marital satisfaction decreases once kids come along. It happens to all of us. The key is not eliminating it, but controlling it. [Tweet “Marital satisfaction decreases once kids come along. It happens to all of us. The key is not eliminating it, but controlling it.”]

Why the Decline in Marital Satisfaction?

The blessing and burden of raising a family is that everyone wants attention. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough of you to go around! Kids, especially when they are young require a lot of time and energy. Marriages can quickly move to the back burner and simmer while you focus mainly on kids, work, and managing a household. Make sense? I see your head nodding. The article warns of the risk raising kids imposes on a relationship. I get it. You do too. It doesn’t mean that having children is a mistake or a death sentence on your marriage. What it does suggest is that you need to consider how to balance these all important relationships. If you don’t you can end up with a mediocre marriage. Who likes the sound of that? So, let’s take a look at 5 things to focus on to avoid having a mediocre marriage.
Focus on your priorities on the expectations you have about marriage
Do you remember the vows you made to each other the day you married? I’ve conducted several weddings over the years and the key moment in the ceremony is the exchange of vows. Some people go traditional, while others author their own. These vows are public declarations of intent to love, cherish, support, invest and be loyal to each other “till death do us part”. So, how are you tracking so far? If you regularly carve out time together, have quality conversations, pursue romance, and establish a rhythm of meeting each other’s needs, then you’re doing pretty good. If you’re out of focus, I recommend you re-examine your priorities. Give your relationship some front burner time. I encourage you to spend some time together and revisit your vows and realign your priorities. Discuss your expectations about family life. What did you envision? Did it include a healthy marriage?
Focus on your relationship too!
Families today are over-focused on kids. I think this is an over-reaction to a previous generation that ignored kids and focused on chasing the American Dream. The over-attention kids receive is not good for them. Consequently, we see kids today who are more demanding and parents who are over-compliant. Divert some attention to your marriage. Don’t worry, your kids won’t suffer! In fact, kids function better under a healthy marriage. If you’re not taking care of your marriage, your kids suffer. Is your marriage on the family calendar? I’m not talking family time or play dates for the kids. Make room in your calendar for romantic and play dates with your spouse. Guys, take the lead on this one!
Train your kids to focus on responsibility to the family
If you are an educated parent you know your child has to complete certain developmental tasks as a part of their human growth and development. Social responsibility is one. Industry is another. Train your kids how to behave socially in your home by how they communicate with you and each other. I cover this at length in my book Bringing Respect Back: Communicating Without Conflict. Here, I also address the importance of training kids to have age-appropriate responsibilities. This teaches them how to be industrious while making a contribution to the family. Do you remember the word “chores”? It was a common term in families a few generations ago. Today it is hardly spoken. I recommend you reintroduce it so that your kids are trained for adulthood. When your kids are making a contribution it gives you time and energy to spend some quality time together as a couple.
Focus on supporting the breadwinner(s)
Providing for the family is a huge burden on the breadwinner(s). Most breadwinners are worried about having enough bread. You can support this person by being mindful of the family budget. Marital satisfaction is affected by the way couples approach money. If you do not respect the breadwinner, then expect problems.
Focus on supporting the isolated parent
A stay-at-home parent makes major sacrifices for the cause of the family too! This person, often the female, faces several tough adjustments. There is the loss of career focus, loss of contact with adults, and loss of identity needs. Soon, I will devote an entire blog to this subject, but suffice it to say, this parent often feels isolated and misunderstood. You can support the stay-at-home parent by accommodating her/his need for personal time. It could be as simple as a soak in the tub or as a big as going out socially with friends or to take a course. Being an advocate for your spouse will pay dividends in your marriage.

Check out the podcast

I take this topic on a deeper dive in the podcast with my cohost Amanda Berlin. I also list 5 benefits you get in your family by focusing on your marriage. You can listen to by clicking play at the top of this blog. For regular feeds, subscribe on iTunes.

Now it’s your turn

Out of the 5, what is one area you plan to focus on right now? Post a comment below.