Marriage {Before} Mothering

Share this!Pin on Pinterest0Share on Google+1Share on Facebook2Tweet about this on Twitter0Email this to someone

Dear Heidi,

My husband is upset with me. We rarely talk anymore, except to discuss finances or other “necessary” things.  He is a good father and a wonderful man. I’m trying to be a good mother and wife, but my husband says he feels neglected. I honestly can’t help it! I’m too tired at the end of the day for sex most days—and even though I try to explain how much energy it takes to parent our four children and keep the house in decent order, he doesn’t get it. I know we feel more like roommates than lovers these days. But I don’t know what to do about it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really think my kids need my energy right now.  After they are grown, my husband and I will have all the time we want together.  My priority is our kids while they are little. How can I talk to my husband to help him understand this?”

You know, I get many letters like this each week. And I get it. Motherhood is demanding. It’s often 24/7, diapers, dishes and discipline. It’s enough to bring a woman to her breaking point. That’s part of the reason I’m so passionate about moms encouraging other moms.  We need each other! Only a mother can truly understand the demands and pressures of another mother.

But here’s the thing: we can’t let motherhood rob us of one of life’s greatest blessings—and that’s a healthy marriage.  I’ve often said that I believe the marriage comes before mothering. I’ve taken some heat for it, because some take that to mean that I don’t care about the kids.  This is not the case. Here’s why:

The marriage is the primary relationship at home. Many moms believe that their children should come first; after all their husbands are grownups! I understand the reasoning behind this, but I believe it’s based in a misunderstanding of God’s design for marriage.

The intent of the mom who puts her children before her marriage is noble, but it lacks vision for the greater picture of a truly healthy family.

Have you ever heard a flight attendant as she instructs passengers before take off? She’ll say something like, “In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, SECURE YOUR MASK FIRST BEFORE ASSISTING YOUNGER PASSENGERS.” This is because everyone knows that if the parents pass out from lack of oxygen, the child is rendered defenseless in most cases.

 

Your marriage is a lot like this situation. Think of nurturing your marriage in the same way you might think of securing an oxygen mask to yourself and your husband. Breathe life into your marriage every day. Keep your marriage physically and emotionally healthy.

If we create a child-centered home to the neglect of our marriage and the marriage falls apart, or if we only give the marriage 50% of the oxygen it needs, the marriage will suffer. And the children of that marriage will suffer too.

So yes, love your children fiercely. Teach them. Discipline and train them. Nurture them.

But love your spouse FIRST. Your spouse should get the best part of you. Healthy relationships with our children flow out of healthy, thriving marriages. The best thing a busy mom can do for her children is to love their father.

Precious mom, take time to recharge your inner batteries.  You need to have something left for your husband at the end of the day. Give yourself an hour of quiet time each day to shower, read, nap, or tidy up (if that’s what relaxes your heart and mind). I’ve been doing “quiet time” for years.  Quiet time just means that the kids are either reading in their rooms or napping, or watching a movie quietly. The point is: do what you need to do to refresh your spirit.  The days of mothering are long but the years go by fast.  Be sure your marriage is thriving when your nest is empty.

The investment you make in your marriage today pay dividends far into the future. Your marriage is worth investing in!

Heidi St John Guide to Romance

Heidi St John Firmly Planted Family Devotional For All Ages

Heidi
Heidi St. John has been married to her husband Jay since 1989. Together they have seven children from toddler to adult and have homeschooled all the way through high school. A favorite conference and radio speaker, Heidi approaches marriage and parenting with humor and grace. Her passion to encourage moms and set them free to be who God has created them to be will bless and encourage you.
Heidi
Heidi

66 Responses to Marriage {Before} Mothering

  1. Amber says:

    Well said! We need to have a good relationship with our husbands so when our children leave, we are not left as strangers in the same home. Kids thrive off of seeing parents be affectionate and know that the marriage is secure. SERVE your husbands! Then, they will want to serve us!

  2. Lynn says:

    Well said! And if we don’t show our children a healthy relationship how will they possibly have one when they’re grown!!!

  3. sara says:

    THANK YOU! Wish more woman got this-not that I’m not surprised that they don’t, balance is tough. But if we are always only serving our children, they are raised to think they are the center, and their relationship with their spouse is second. We wouldn’t want that for their future with their spouse and we shouldn’t want it for ours.

  4. Carissa says:

    There is no room for quiet time unfortunately, and we only have to. Number 3 will be here at the end of the month/beginning of Feb. We are in a small apartment where we really can’t get far enough from each other to have “quiet time”. lol My husband takes this to the extreme and thinks parenting isn’t even about the kids. Yes marriage first I guess, but he believes that at the EXPENSE of the kids. As if it’s ok to be harsh with them and not parent as a reflection of Christ because if the kids see us focus on our marriage somehow it will be a trickle down affect. Doesn’t work that way. All they will see is that dad cares about mom but not them. It’s neglecting the whole model of parenting and what it is a reflection of. It’s a mess.

    • Perhaps your husband is where mine was – he is just all worn out from me being all about our son and homeschool. Our house is only 380 square feet, one room, in the middle of the National Forest. In the winter, there isn’t even the ability to really “get out” for a walk due to snow. I hear you about small places. We bumped up bedtime by a hour and called that quiet time. My son is allowed to read, draw, or sleep during quiet time and his father and I get to enjoy child-less-ness. It took me actually telling my son that he needed to let me have time with his father. He needed to understand me as something more than just mom. I was a person before he was born and needed to still be a person now. Once I started making a very direct effort my husband eased up quite a bit. He was directly resentful of our son. He was at the point that marriage should be at the expense of children, because I was putting children at the expense of our marriage.

    • Anne says:

      Completely understand what you’ve written. My baby stopped napping when she was 7 weeks old and would be up fussing for 12 hours at a time (yes, literally!). My sanity was pretty fried but the one thing that helped me hang on was to hire a “mother’s helper” a couple of times a week. This would be a younger girl who can’t babysit yet but could entertain the baby/children while you just shut yourself in the bathroom for an hour. I think I only hired her for 1 or 2 hours at a time so I could still be around but get other things done or just rested. Much cheaper than hiring a babysitter – you could probably pay half of what you would pay a sitter. The younger girls enjoy the babies and being allowed some responsibility for them (not to mention the money; it’s very hard for kids this age to actually earn their own money). Another option is to switch babysitting with another mom on a regular basis. Yes, half the time you will be looking after other children, but they can entertain each other when it’s your turn to watch them. My “baby” is now 20 years old (notice I only had 1 child!)and from today’s perspective I can agree that we need to put our husbands first, but handling child, husband, and home was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Because of my earlier trials, however, I really enjoy my family and my God now. Hang in there! I am devoted to Christ, but detest most of the Christian resources written by happy moms with normal/average children who sleep on a regular basis and have extended family nearby. If it helps you, just throw these books out!

      • heidistjohn says:

        Mother’s Helper! Great idea, Anne! Love that. Everyone has a different set of circumstances in their mothering. Motherhood is hard. But it’s so worth it. Good job :)

    • Amy says:

      My husband and I have been married 12 years and have had some extreme obstacles in our marriage to overcome, and I would tell you to pray without ceasing for God to open both hearts to truth. I have seen major miracles in my marriage, and although I can not change another person, God can, and He wants us to trust in Him. I pray for unconditional love and God to bless our marriage every day, and am so thankful that God has answered this prayer. It did not happen overnight though, but more like over years. I wish you the best, and know it can be heartbreaking in the meantime.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    This sounds so much like me most days! I really needed to read this. Thank you!

  6. Annoymous says:

    Can I ask, what if it was the other way round? The wife felt like they were roommates as the husband was too busy and tired for that part of marriage. I read a lot about the wife depriving the husband, but never the other way round. What if he has lost interest? If so he can’t just ‘get on with it’ like the wife can. I’ve just heard of many having problems the other way round, and wondered what your advice would be to them?

    Enjoyed the post, thanks for writing it!

    • Lisa says:

      My thoughts exactly! I am sick to death of reading all the “good Christian books” about MY obligations and responsibilities in a marriage. I am well aware of what I am supposed to do. I think there is this general assumption that all men pursue their wives sexually, tell them how beautiful and desireable they are, and constantly seek them. Well, what if it’s the other way around? What if, no matter how much I praise my husband, instead of responding in kind (like so many books have promised), I just get more drained?

      • Lisa says:

        And no, I have not let myself go, I am not overweight, I don’t stink, and I am not emotionally unavailable.

        • Nancy says:

          I do not mean to offend you in any way, but if your husband is not interested in marital intimacy, I would first try to determine if he has a pornography problem. Pornography is devastating to a marriage. And really loving, good, Christian men can become ensnared. If they do, it eventually saps them of all ability to love sacrificially. This website, http://reclaimsexualhealth.com/, can be a source of healing. If pornography is not an issue, then I would also pursue the possibility of depression or a physical health problem. Healthy adult men and women should be interested in a healthy sexual intimacy in marriage. If they are not, there is something out of balance.

      • Meredith says:

        I have felt that way at times, reading books and thinking why is it always about what I have to do?! Then I realized that all the books I was reading were written by women for the WIFE to read. Duh. So I decided to read a book written by a man for a husband and read about all his stuff! If you already “know” what you as a wife are supposed to be doing, stop reading the books because they will just make you feel inadequate. If you feel like your husband isn’t stepping up in his roll, then maybe it’s time to get him a book of his own. But don’t expect him to act like you, to just pick up and move on, because that is not how men function. We are different! And that’s okay:)

  7. I agree with this. Thankfully, I had a good example of this growing up. I never doubted my parents’ love for my siblings and me, but I always knew that they were best friends and partners – willing to do whatever for each other.
    My hubby and I get to go on a date tonight and most of the day tomorrow as all of our kids are spending the night somewhere else. I’m excited to spend time with my best friend, nurturing our marriage.

  8. Susan says:

    I do believe that the marriage comes first. But in my situation, my husband chose his daughter over me, setting her as #1 in his life instead of me. So when I had ‘our’ children, I only had them to give my attention to. He rejected me in many ways. We’ve been no more than ‘room mates’ for the entire 25yrs. He gave all his love to her, hardly giving to me.

    • heidistjohn says:

      I hurt for you, Susan. There are many moms who can relate to your post. Sometimes we wonder where strength and hope come from; and I know you know this so at the risk of repeating it, here is a verse that has meant a lot to me over the years: Romans 5:5 tells us that when we hope in the Lord, it does not disappoint … and then Psalm 119:116 “Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”

      In the many times of my life where I have felt hopeless, God has met me. He has not always given me the answer I wanted, but He comforts and sustains. Hang in there. Keep trusting. Ask the Lord to show you how you can love your husband.

    • Sharon says:

      Susan, my heart also hurts for you. I, too, have been rejected by my husband, but not for a child, but for no apparent reason. It’s as if we got married and he lost ALL interest in me. It really is a miracle that we were able to have two children. In our entire marriage he has NEVER initated sex. He has NEVER reached out and touched me in any way. If I were naked in front of him, he would make no attempt to touch me….it was as if I were not even there. So, like you, my child gets my attention. We, too, are roomates, married really in name only. So posts like the ones that say “It’s that simple.” are made by people who are blessed to have someone who actually loves them. Wish I knew what that was like.

  9. Anon says:

    Dear Anonymous who asked about “the other way around.” My marriage has this issue, too. Many women seem to hit that sexual peek & interest later in life right when their husband’s testosterone is crashing (for us this hit at mid 30s). We hs moms also spends all day with or kids & are often starved of adult companionship until husband gets home. Whereas, husband had been with other adults all day & is tired of talking by then, too. We haven’t come up with a good remedy for the issues the latter creates, but as for testosterone related our depression/energy related issues for BOTH sexes, vitamin D had been a huge help (@10,000 units per day). Yes, that is with 4 zeros. Also helps but is more expensive is an OTC medication/vitamin compound called Extenz for men.
    We also found tv as escapism a huge problem, too. As my husband “escaped” his stress at the end of the day with tv, the emotional neglect had made my children & me turn to tv, too. When Dad’s sitting in the middle of the house being a couch potato it’s hard for anyone else to want to do anything else either. We just canceled cable to rectify this! Our children (both boys) don’t get to see their dad work all day like they see me so the example of dad as couch potato is really, really destructive & catching!
    Praying for all of us who feel neglected, tired, & misunderstood- wives & husbands alike!

    • Lisa says:

      Thank you for your post! I have been providing my husband with healthy fats (salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds) for several months now.

  10. Sarah says:

    Agreed. My mom told me one way to keep hubby happy is whatever it is he “complained” about before going out to bed or going out the door to work should be your first thing of the day. Because that is the first thing he will look at when he comes home. Have the kiddos help out. If it’s needing socks washed, kids clothes are on the bathroom floor, or whatever. Let the children know Dad is important and we want to please him just as we want to please our heavenly father. Jesus said Obedience = Love.

    Also, I was exasperated with my husband after 3 children. I felt he was married to work and complained when he came home. I prayed and told God he had to do something because I didn’t know how much more I could take. Be careful what you pray for. We ended up being asked to leave a ministry for 3 1/2 years. I wouldn’t trade it though. God put hubby in a job where he could observe others in their job and marriage. He taught him during that time away about loving your wife and being a dad. I ended up with a husband I wouldn’t trade for anyone else. God did a much better job shaping him than I could ever have.

  11. Tam says:

    Awesome article! So well written & so needed to be read by all ladies! Thanks for posting!

  12. Lisa says:

    This only works if both spouses are equally reciprocating. The more I do for my husband and put him first, the more life he sucks out of me. He is not my oxygen; GOD is. My son is my joy and my light, and fills my love tank waaay quicker than my husband does.

    • heidistjohn says:

      Lisa, I’m sorry you are struggling. I want to encourage you though—nothing you do for the Lord is ever in vain. I believe He would have you love your husband in the best way you can. If your marriage can be restored, your son will reap the benefits of that as well. Keep praying. Don’t give up. ((hugs))

      • Lisa says:

        My marriage is not bad. My husband truly is my best friend. He can be rather selfish and self-absorbed; the more I do for him, the less he does for himself, me, and our son. I have to be careful not to overdo the “doting”. As I stated above, I am addressing the physical issue by providing healthy foods for my husband, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and salmon.

        • Alida says:

          Hi Lisa,
          I have read a few of your posts. I am not sure if this is applicable to you but I wanted to share two things. 1) I am in a great class that is healing brokenness/relational issues with my childhood. Many amazing Titus 2 mentors of mine took it and recommended it. I am so glad I took their advice! EVERY married couple, orphan and foster youth should too. It also addresses sexual issues though that’s not really my issue but all of it stems form them same thing… relational brokenness. Go ahead and look at the class and see if one is in your area. If not contact them and ask for suggestions and/or resources. I have been so blessed as the Lord is restoring me and healing wounds from my past. ( I used to be in fostercare) My husband will take it with me next year. The class is called Living Waters. God wants your marriage to THRIVE! http://www.desertstream.org/Groups/1000040091/Desert_Stream_Ministries/Living_Waters/Living_Waters.aspx I hope this helps! Bless you and your precious family. You are dear to the Father. Alida

    • Anonymous says:

      Lisa, we are in the same boat. Heidi, I understand the Biblical principal but I am at a loss. What happens when you are married to a man who thinks he sacrifices daily and yet everything is all about him? My husband equates getting up and going to work as the ‘end all, be all’ of being a husband and father. He does not think he has to/needs to do anything else other than that. After 14 years of marriage, he thinks since he goes to work that the children and I should just fall down and praise him at the end of the day. If we don’t drop what we’re doing and meet him at the door with hugs and kisses when he comes home, he will sulk and pout. All he does is complain about his job and thinks that I’m unreasonable because I’m not ok with him quitting his job without having another job lined up or future prospects. If we talk about something else, I get ‘enlightened’ instead of having a two way discussion. I can’t disagree with him or have a different opinion; if I do he gets agitated. I have physical difficulties and he rarely does anything to help and if he does, it’s because I’ve “badgered him” (or in other words, asked him more than once). The last time I asked him to shovel the driveway (it was icy and our son slipped and fell), his exact words were “Do you want me to come home and have to do MORE work?” He will go out of his way to help the homeless or shovel snow off a widow’s sidewalk but won’t lift a finger to help me. I have made it my policy of just asking how he’s doing, giving him my shoulder to cry on, not complaining about the kids or house, etc. I try to keep conversation very superficial and amiable because anything else brings on agitation and anger in him. He is well aware there are things he could do but simply refuses to. He does very little with the children. When he’s home, he will go into the bedroom and watch Netflix or work on his computer AND THEN COMPLAIN because he says no one wants to do anything with him. I have sat in the living room every evening for the past month, trying to get him to hang out and talk. That lasted a week.

      I have never seen someone who thought they were so generous and giving, and yet not see that they make EVERYTHING about them. It seems the more I give, the more he sucks the life out of me. I’m sorry Heidi, but when I see blog posts like this, all it does is make me angry. I am a Christian and know what is right, but I am so tired of it being my job to help a grown man mature and feel ‘wanted’ when very little is done for me. I can’t do anymore than I’m doing and he has not responded in ways that people say he will. I am at a loss as to what else I can do, other than try to love him and endure this as best as I can. He is not my soul mate, he is not my best friend, he’s not even my friend. I always thought it was interesting that wives are told in Ephesians to respect their husbands, while husbands are told to love their wives as they love their own bodies; and how older women are to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children, among other things. Titus 2:4

      • Brandon says:

        Sounds like this man needs to really think about his priorities. The job is not the most important thing or the center of the family. The family should be the center, the job is just a tool for provision. Maybe try to convey this to him. Not an easy task but worth the effort.

      • Janine says:

        Dear Anonymous, I could have written your post 6 or 7 years ago word for word. This describes exactly who my husband was and how I felt. I feel your pain! I want to share with you a bit of insight I learned from Carolyn Mahaney in her Titus 2 course that helped me out a lot. In the verses you mentioned, men are commanded to love their wives using the Greek word agape. Agape implies a self-sacrificing kind of love, something that doesn’t come naturally to men. In Titus 2, the older women are to teach the younger women how to love their husbands, but this Greek word is philandros. It implies an affectionate, tender kind of love. Carolyn Mahaney believes the reason for this is because women are naturally good at the self-sacrificing kind of love, but not at the affectionate kind. Now, my first thought was no way, that’s not true. But then she quoted Douglas Wilson saying “In a similar way, women are fully capable of loving a man, and sacrificing for him, while believing the entire time that he is a true and unvarnished jerk. Women are good at this kind of love…” That caught my attention, because it described me exactly.

        This bit of info made me realize that while I was doing all kinds of things and wearing myself out, my husband wasn’t feeling the love. Since his idea of love isn’t naturally the self-sacrificing kind, all my sacrificing wasn’t being received that way. So this is what I did. First, I prayed for him every day that the Lord would teach him agape love and I prayed for myself that I would feel the affection for him that I needed to. I also started showing him physical affection every day. (Like you said, your husband wants to be met at the door with hugs and kisses, that makes sense to me now!) I started with little things; i’d kiss the top of his head while he was watching tv or playing video games. I’d squeeze his arm as I passed by. The more I did it, the more I felt that affection.

        I also changed the way I’d ask for help. Since I pushed through and did what needed to be done no matter how tired I was, I always expected the same from him. I think that came across in the way I’d ask him to do things. I started prefacing all my requests with “honey, I know you work hard all day and you’re tired and you want to relax, and I appreciate it so much…I hate to ask you but I really need your help with….” The funny thing is, the more I expressed how he worked for us, the more I actually did appreciate it.

        Over a rather short period of time, those three things changed our relationship entirely. I don’t know if any of this will help you at all, but for me it was answers to my prayers. God is faithful; trust Him to show you what to do. In the end, everything we do in this life is to glorify Him. Even if you’re never rewarded in this life for doing what is right, you are storing up for yourself riches in heaven.

        • Agreeing says:

          I too could have written that letter, things are better and due to much of the same reason they’re better for you. I prayed and prayed and also set up some personal boundaries. Now we’re doing Bible studies together and our relationship has totally changed. There is hope!

      • Cyntha says:

        To all those women out there. Struggles can be quite frustrating at times and we as women don’t always express it in male language. We tend to complain and bark, nag. I am not saying we all do but it seems to be a trend. Try this instead of nagging perhaps there is a feeling or logic behind the problem that we are not seeing. Ask your husband “What can I do to help with the problem”. Or Perhaps I am not seeing this in the right perspective. “I would really appreciate it if you could”. Sometimes we demand and they resort back to the mentality of when they were a little boy with their mothers. They will see us as mothers and not wives. We need to find another way of asking. I don’t know your situation and I am not saying it is your fault. I kept praying to the Lord what was wrong and I found that I just needed to realize male language is so much different. Start by asking in an appreciative tone and a kiss to add to it and perhaps it can be a bit different. If not then the problem lies with him and then you need to find peace with yourself and realize you have done your best. Holding hands and doing simple touch does a lot for a marriage. Sometimes we forget the small physical details. One other thing this takes a lot of practice because we seem to resort back to bad habits at the time and this takes a while to implement. It isn’t going to change over night. We have to repeat and repeat. I hope this hasn’t offended anyone. I don’t want people to think I am just blaming the wife because the husband needs to do his part. Perhaps this helps in some of the thinking of a man. I discovered this one day through prayer and then asking the husband.

      • Mary says:

        While I am grateful for your insights into homeschooling, reading the words to weary moms about how THEY are responsible to keep the marriage together has triggered some red flags — that we’ve all grown up with, but that are taking scripture out of context.

        The HUSBAND is supposed to be agape-loving his wife. HE is supposed to be laying down his life for his bride, not just be willing to do so. HE is to cherish and honor her.

        When the wife lets her husband know how tired she is… why can’t HE love on her, the weaker vessel, and figure out ways to get her rested and refreshed… and then, perhaps, she will be able to respond in sexually endearing ways later on.

        WHY is it on the WIFE? The Bible does not. Titus wrote that the older women (not men) should encourage the younger women to PHILANDROS (responsive) love their husbands. IF he is loving (actions, words and deeds) his bride, then she’s got something to respond to.

        In the meantime, the children do need to be nurtured tenderly, and for homeschoolers it is while they rise up, and as they go about their day until they lie down. (Deut) MUCH more stress (and opportunities for loving) than mothers who send their children to school.

        A man can compartmentalize — God gifted him with that. Not so with the woman. So, MEN, suck it up before you come home – leave the troubles and concerns of work at the door, and focus on agape-loving your bride, the daughter of the King of Kings (the one whom entrusted her to you)

        My .04

        • Heidi says:

          Mary, I think we are on the same page here. My post was in no way saying that this issue is only and all on women. I believe that a healthy marriage has two people serving each other. I believe you have read to much into my words – I never said that it was the sole responsibility of the woman.

          Truly, healthy marriages involve sacrificial love on BOTH sides – however, this post was geared toward women. I wanted to remind them that if they spend their mothering years focusing only on the needs of their children, they can often do so to the peril of their marriage.

          You are right that too many writers and speakers have put an unbiblical and heavy burden on women in this area- but be gentle in your admonition :) Telling men to “suck it up” does not help the cause of “agape-loving” their brides.

          Thanks for posting.

  13. Angela says:

    WOW! This has been interesting to read. I have been a housewife for years because the Lord impressed upon me that it was the anointed role for married women. (Titus 2:3) I didn’t think it was a good idea and neither did my husband. I CHOSE God to be my Director, Comforter, Instructor, and Source of love. I never could have imagined how much I had to die to self to allow God to work. We started having children and they just kept coming. We had 3 children 3 years in a row. My husband was not really into raising children yet they were here. He wanted to have his time as well. I decided that since God is the One that thought this was a good idea, I gave my anxieties, concerns, and burdens to Him. I gleamed from older mothers who encouraged and instructed. I was renewed by the scriptures, and I taught children according to the scriptures. I taught little one how to work. (Story of Jacob and Esau) I was determined to be happy.(This is the day that the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.) Even when we had a child each fall, I taught the next oldest to do something to help, like make a bottle, fold the towels, hold the dust pan while the older one swept. I was a mother not a maid. It it the role of the parents to train children. That is what I did. Now don’t get me wrong, it was plenty of work to do and we all a fair share. I must say because I had more work than the others I got overwhelmed and tired but I would reassess things and continued to share the labor ;-) I even taught a 7 year old to work with the circular saw while I helped and one of our daughters was potty trained before she was 1. When children had too much energy, I gave out more work. It wasn’t always chore type things, it might be writing the grocery list as I dictated it, washing walls that meant extra bubbles and water with lots of towels, go outside and run around the house 3 times when it was dark, or make a dessert for dinner. During the day, I would write downs things to do that could be broken down for different age groups. It is amazing how many ways kitchen work can be broken down. Believe it or not, I didn’t blame my husband when he was not much help at home. He worked during the day, spent some time with us when he came home and retired to the tv. I would send a child to dad to call out the spelling words or have him to sign the permission slips. I learned that God was really my ALL. He gave mothers this role and He showed me how to rejoice while doing it. I have been married now for 27 yrs and we have 7 children and 2 grands. My oldest is married, there are 3 in college (2 are on full scholarships and the other is on partial) and still 3 at home, one in elem, middle, and a senior. I am truly a happily married mother who has learned how to put ALL my trust in God!

  14. Rachael says:

    Heidi-this is only one of the reasons I love you and you ministry-you are more dedicated to Truth than you are to popularity. Your post holds up a high bar, the cross bar of Calvary. It reminds us that we must look to Him who died for us for the strength, hope and patience we need in our marriages. God is faithful and we must trust Him. We have been married for 26 year and we have faced many different transitions through 7 seven children, several moves, job changes and unemployment. My relationship with God must come first. Then my marriage; I must resolve to invest in ‘us’. My kids are a blessing and a trust, but their place must not become central. Blessings upon you and your ministry-love you-

  15. Anonymous says:

    I wish I could get my wife to listen to your wisdom. I feel like the husband in the wife’s letter you posted above. I shared your “That Girl” article with my wife and it did not go down well. She’s resisted almost every other effort I’ve made to work through the issues. I’m so tired of having to ask for almost every ounce of attention I get and feeling like I’m taking most of the initiative to focus on the health of our marriage. We tried 6 months of counseling and I eventually had to gave up. Not helping and really hard to manage with my work schedule and costing a fortune in fees and childcare. It doesn’t help that I travel a lot but that is the job I took to get us close to my wife’s Mom and to earn the salary that let’s hear stay home and homeschooling. I expected delivery that would count for something….

    I love my wife dearly and really want to delighting in her passion for homeschooling and the benefits for our kids, but my attitude and desire to serve her is becoming more and more challenged with each ignored plea for attention. As one husband posted in response to some similar article “how much dying to self does it take to get your wife to notice your sacrifice? ” Yes, husband’s are to be sacrificial leaders and love their wives as Christ loved the church, but what about the wife’s role of helper and showing respect? I know my kids are demanding and I try not to ask for much, to notice her efforts, be understanding and offer frequent her breaks often after I return from a business trip and am myself exhausted, but it’s hard to watch as our relationship suffers and the tension and irritation increases. How long before it spills over and the kids take note? I certainly don’t feel we are modeling a strong marriage to our kids. I’m very worried about the future. I’m not perfect by any means and have made mistakes in how I originally approached my wife on this topic. I’ve let my frustrations boil over at times and said unloving things, even openly questioned our commitment to each other. “Sorry” and “I love you” seem like the most frequently used words in my vocabulary and the least used in hers. I’m lonely and miss my wife. Any advice?

    • Alida says:

      Anonymous, I am sorry you are struggling in your marriage. Rest assured that God does want your marriage to thrive. I am not sure if this is applicable to you but I wanted to share two things. 1) I am in a great class that is healing brokenness/relational issues. Many amazing Titus 2 mentors of mine took it and recommended it. I am so glad I took their advice! EVERY married couple, orphan and foster youth should too. It also addresses sexual issues though that’s not really my issue but all of it stems form them same thing… relational brokenness. Go ahead and look at the class and see if one is in your area. If not contact them and ask for suggestions and/or resources. I have been so blessed as the Lord is restoring me and healing wounds from my past. ( I used to be in fostercare) My husband will take it with me next year. The class is called Living Waters. God wants your marriage to THRIVE! http://www.desertstream.org/Groups/1000040091/Desert_Stream_Ministries/Living_Waters/Living_Waters.aspx I hope this helps! Alida

  16. Anon2 says:

    Anonymous, I too have struggled in the areas you mentioned. For all of you who once had a great marriage and now are struggling with a depressed moody husband, I would highly recommend a couple of books. They are “men in midlife crisis” by Jim Conway and “your husbands mid-life crisis” by Sally Conway. I didn’t necessarily like what the books had to say about men between the ages of 35-45, but it was very eye-opening and has helped me be a more assertive/ supportive wife. It was also reassuring to know that the decline of my marriage wasn’t all my fault but I have the power to strengthen or worsen the relationship. I hope this helps someone. Don’t give up!

  17. Rachel says:

    What an excellent illustration of this principle! *oxygen masks* Tucking it away for later remembrance… brilliant! Thank you :) .

  18. Well on a lighter note, I realized (after a few years, and a often annoyed husband) that the ‘art of the quicky’ got me to sleep much earlier than lying in bed feeling guilty over being too tired for sex, win, win…more sleep and very happy hubby!

    We also learned to ‘schedule’ sex, I know that sound ridiculous, but when I knew the nights we were to have sex I was mentally prepared and not dreading it…it was on the schedule after all and we all know how we moms live and die by our schedules! Then if we spontaneously had sex on ‘the night off’ he pretty much thought I was the best thing since sliced bread!

    Kim (married almost 30 years, homeschooling mom of 5)

    • heidistjohn says:

      Thanks for writing, Kim! This is good stuff! ;)

      • Heidi I didn’t get a chance to let you know in person how very much I enjoyed and was touched by (aka your grandparents) your humor and wise insights Saturday. I ‘kidnapped’ my dear friend who is homeschooling 4 while mothering an 8 year old with leukemia. Our over night stay was a chance for her to relax and enjoy being with her co-op friends for the night (first night not involving a hospital in almost a year). So thanks for contributing so much to a great weekend of fun, friendship, and ‘keeping it real’.

        Oh and btw, we still follow pretty much the same schedule that we did as ‘youngsters’, the difference is I am no longer just ‘mentally prepared’, but actually look forward to our ‘nights on’. Somewhere along the way I figured since I bought the ticket I might as well enjoy the dance! Kim

  19. John says:

    As a husband I was saddened by this letter because I think this describes a lot of marriages. As a husband this is what I am hearing Dear husband your needs aren’t that important but please wait 10 to 20 years while I raise the kids. Once that is done then you will have my full attention. Your husbands needs are very real and sex is so much more to a male than to a women (IMHO). Men derive a lot of there emotional needs from the intimacy of sex. We have three kids (10, 3 & 2 and we are in our mid – 40′) and we are in survival mode. However, we have scheduled date nights 3 nights a week. Those are nights were we focus on each other with intentional conversation about a book we are both reading, sermon questions or just play a game. We start date night after the younger 2 are in bed around 8 and we are usually sound asleep by 10:30. When it is clicking our household runs so much better and my wife and I are so much happier and a lot of the little things don’t get in our way. During the time we are not clicking it is not as much fun in the house. I withdraw and I’m little less forgiving. Also, my self esteem is a little down in the dumps.

    Our house may not always be cleaned but that is okay because when we are out this stage of life there will time to clean the house together – because we will be together.

    If your husband is not interested in you – please talk to him, try going to a consuler or at the very least find a good book on marriage and sex (I would highly recommend the book by the Mark & Grace Driscol – Real Marriage) . Fight for your husband and re-kindle that romance that may have died during the room mate years.

    Lastly if you ignore your husband needs for two long here is what you can expect.
    1. That part inside of him dies and the two of you become life long room mates and friends.
    2. Someone else will come by and show him the attention he is craving

    Remember you are modeling for your kids:
    Keep God first in all you do
    Make sure your Spouse is #2 in your life and choose them over others
    Your kids will be third – and they will be much better off for that in the long run.

  20. Jen Reckley says:

    Something my husband and I heard a long time ago at a marriage conference was that we need to nurture our marriage and relationship because when the kids are gone, it will be us alone together. If we do not, we will not know what to do with each other. Also, showing love for one another, spending time together, nurturing that relationship creates security for our children. We do this out of love for each other but also for one another.
    Find a way to give your hubby your best. Remember its for the kids as much as it for you and your hubby.
    Jen

  21. Molly says:

    Wow! I have so much to say about this. I have to disagree with Heidi. I agree that marriage comes before kids, but not that it is the first relationship to be nourished.
    1. DH’s and my relationship with GOD comes first. I know it sounds trite. Believe me, it doesn’t always happen either. Rest assured, if our separate relationships are not right with God and we are not spending time in the Word our marriage and our kids suffer dearly. God comes first. Do what you need to do to get that sqaured away. Find and accountability partner. Join a couple’s bible study. Join a women’s group. If 2 hours a week away from Hubby and kids keeps your eternal perspective firmly in place, that is time WELL SPENT!
    2. Marriage comes before kids. Biblically, you can find verses that support marriage first or kids first or both on equal footing. Practically, if you ignore your spouse and don’t nurture your relationship, you won’t have a marriage at all. Putting the kids with the sitter or leaving them with grandparents or putting in a movie while you and DH eat a romantic movie in another room with strict rules about interrupting is a lot less hard on the kiddos than divorce or a loveless marriage with hostile parents.
    Loving your spouse doesn’t have to mean sex either. I am sure my Hubby would like that to be more frequent…but there are countless ways to say I love you without making love. Call him at work to say “thanks for working hard to support our family.” The next time you have a writing project, have the kids write letters to, for, or about dad. Or write a poem about how much he means to you. Make him his favorite snack or meal and tell him you did it because you love, appreciate, and value him. Do his least favorite chore for him…and tell him you did it because you love him. Make him coffee in the morning. Kiss. Hold hands. Hug. Fall asleep on the couch together. Sex should be mutual. If 1 person isn’t really in tune, it isn’t intimacy, it is just sex. That might be nice physically, but is isn’t going to make your marriage stronger. Get to know your spouse. People change over time. Sometimes we forget to catch up. Find out his likes, dislikes, what stresses him, what makes his day, what his dreams and aspirations are. If you have been together more than 5 years, you might be surprised at the answers now.
    3. The kids get everything else. Just remember the reasons you stayed home to teach them. I don’t know what yours are, but I know, just today, I was tired and cranky and raised my voice and snapped at the kids for being, well, kids. Then my daughter, not trying to be naughty, addressed her your sibling in the way I had been addressing them. It was like hearing a take recorder. So…yes…I had to fish the Wii Fit DVD out of the cat box today, my children jumped on the furniture (which is NOT allowed), there was much slapping, spitting, and biting (also NOT allowed). I can’t say exactly why. I do know when I stopped being exasperated long enough to have a stern conversation about what we do and do not do in our home, gave appropriate discipline, and then sat down and did puzzles and read with them, everything was better. It makes me think that between making dr. appointments, calling repair men, and trying to pick up the house, the kids felt left out and wanted my attention. It is a lot of work. I quit my job to stay home and be with them though. They don’t really ask a lot of me. They just want to BE with me.

  22. Maile says:

    Project:Happily Ever After may not be a Christian book, but it is a wonderful book to read when your marriage is troubled. It gave me wonderful ideas that have proven successful in my marriage so I recommend it.
    I’ve learned, personally, that though my husband has a rough week, and longs for couple time, he also needs his own down time, to unwind, destress, relax so as not to take out his frustrations on us. However, I’ve also learned to put a limit on his down time as if I don’t, he ignores/neglects us while home. I cuddle, snuggle, little kisses, quick hugs, a wink & a smile just to tease him. Maybe offer to share a shower with him. I know not all men are alike. My husband is much more willing to be giving and loving when he feels loved and cherished. The more I give, the more he gives. If he pulls away, I’ve learned not to “chase” him, but to remind him where I am.
    Sex is important, so is intimacy. A shared shower just washing each other doesn’t have to lead to sex to bring you closer. It’s the act of pampering one another that makes it so wonderful.
    Don’t give up, try everything. Every marriage has hills and valleys – when you climb or slip into them together, encouraging one another, they don’t seem so daunting. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had times we felt alone in our struggles, giving 200% while our spouse gives nothing (in our eyes). Having other moms, or dads, as encouragement to keep doing is essential. Having blogs like this is vital. They let us know we are not alone, we do have a support group cheering us on to happier days. Pray, seek God, invite Him to guide your marriage, to lead you to be all your spouse needs. Follow Him, heart full of joy and love, He will bring your marriage to where it is meant to be.

  23. Betty Price says:

    You simply cannot provide your children with the stability they require if you and your husband are at odds. God ordained our relationship with Him to come first. Then our marriage, then our children.

    Children sense dissension between parents and it causes them to feel unstable even though they may not verbalize (because in most cases they don’t even know HOW to verbalize that).

    And, as others have said, you don’t want the children to leave and you and your husband to be strangers. That’s silliness.

    In addition, sex is incredibly important for intimacy between a husband and wife. Often times women crave intimacy but instead have a piece of cake or a big bowl of ice cream instead. We are simply masking the problem. Cut your day off earlier. Take a shower. Put perfume on. Put the kids in their rooms or with a movie. Pour a glass of wine for you and your husband. Look into his eyes and enjoy. It’s that simple.

    If you make it a priority, then it will happen. It’s a choice, like everything else…

  24. Liz says:

    Amen! Keep preaching it, Heidi. It’s true and needs to be said over and over.

  25. Jane H says:

    My husband and I have been married for 41 years…..have been through lots of ups and downs like most couples. Over the past 6 years, I have experienced some physical problems….my husband has become my hero….he has cared for me with such love and devotion…I don’t know if I would have done the same for him if the tables had been turned. We have a new kind of intimacy…not the same physical that we had, but the love we have has grown deeper and sweeter. He goes the extra mile for me every day…we never know what will come along in life….cherish your marriage, of course your children are a high priority, but it is true that they will be gone. It is good for them to see that you love each other and put each other right at the top of the list. My children can sometimes be intrusive (well, what kids can’t), but my husband has protected me from that when I’m not feeling well. As I said, he is my hero and now I’m trying to be the kind of wife that I wish I’d been for all those many years.

  26. Kelley Howard says:

    I agree… I do not think it is wrong for a woman to nurture and “tend” to her marriage as she would do for her kids. BUT I believe that you have to find a healthy and non draining balance. I don’t want to say this like men are “childish” like children (some boys are, because some of us are married to “boys” and not men, ME!) but you kind of have to think of them as your child, they need love and attention too. Great reference to the Airline safety guide, perfectly explains it. And great post, we as moms should not envy one another or be rash toward each other, we should help one another!

  27. DeeDee says:

    Morning sex! Put your husband first, literally, instead of last thing in the day after you have given until you drop! That and regular date nights…where you DON’T have to cook!!

  28. Heartbroke says:

    After almost 13 I have nearly given up. I believe that husband & wife should put each other first. When I married my husband I vowed to stand by him and that marriage is till death do us part. Now I have realized his view of a wife is pretty much equal to a concubine in bible times. When he wants sex he just takes it and then goes to sleep. He has shown pretty much zero affection since we were married. I really mean nothing to him to the point that at a family gathering he introduced himself and our 4 boys and literally forgot to mention his wife. After an uncomfortable, strained silence his mother asked if he was also going to introduce his wife… he never even apoligized about this. We never take time for each other and he is ok with that. He just wants me to be a ‘robot’. Now he wants to go back to a plain church that we left a few years ago. It seems that he wants everyone to know that he is a christian by his plain clothes yet he treats his family like animals. For many years I was determined to win his respect by loving & honoring him, going along with decisions even though I wasn’t agreed because I wanted to show my submission. I also started a home based business to help with finances. This has been successful yet my reason for starting the business has turned out to be an utter failure. The more I give the less I’m appreciated. At this point I have dug in my heels and told him that I can’t go on living like this and I will have to stand my ground. Respect can never be forced yet I feel the need to try to stop the train before it derails and we loose all passengers- our children. I can very much identify with others who say they are just roommates. Any one else have experience with a situation like this?

  29. Mara says:

    My husband and I had the opportunity to attend one of your mini marriage seminars last summer. It has really helped us to make our marriage a priority, so thanks! One thing that you shared in the seminar was to find a shared ministry. My hubby and I were very inspired by that, but we have yet to take action. I would love to hear some examples of shared ministries that other husbands and wives have. Thanks!

  30. Shannon says:

    I agree with what you say here – I really do. But even for the wives who *want* to implement this, sometimes it’s just nearly impossible. I am a homeschooling mom of six kids. My youngest is 9 mo and she doesn’t sleep well. She doesn’t usually nap when the other kids do, so I end up with no quiet time by myself during the day… Both she and the 2-year old end up in our bed every single night. It’s become the only way WE get any sleep. My husband works 60 hours a week and has to leave the house at 4:30am and so we have no morning time together… If I attempt to get up earlier than the kids, both the little ones will wake up early and will get up as well. We have tried everything. This is just a really tough season for us. We are praying for God’s help and His guidance to show is if there’s anything we can change and how to make things better… But right now ‘quiet time’ has become me sitting with all the kids on the living room each morning and having my 6-year-old daughter read Jesus Calling to us. Just wanted to comment here in case there are any other moms in my situation. We’re just trying to hold on tight through a tough phase.

    • John says:

      You are in a busy season of life that will change very soon. The days are long but the years are short. I would suggest you and your husband having good communication about your marriage life and sex life so you can both be on the same page. Maybe on Saturdays he can do something with or take care of all the kids so you can take a nap and a long bath or shower, then at some point in the early evening get the kids off to bed and lock your door and rejoice in one another. As a husband it is hard during this busy seasons of life when I get ignored not to have some resentment against my wife and kids. However, when my bride takes time for me during her busy season of life I feel more connected and want to be bigger part of the family.

  31. Amy says:

    Thank you for this encouraging word! I have been (and sometimes still am) guilty before of pointing my fingers at my husband and focusing on all of his faults. This only resulted in bloating myself even further with pride and sending my marriage on a downward spiral. I was filled with bitterness. But thank God for His amazing grace!!! The Holy Spirit has helped me to see how miserably I WAS FAILING at showing Christlike love. I was piously using the “love” chapter (1 Cor. 13) against my husband, accusing him in my mind of not loving me because “love is not rude”, or “love does not insist on its own way”. But the Spirit, over a painful course of time, showed me my sin. Through the Word of God, I saw that the bitterness in my heart was actually a result of my “love” for my husband being self-seeking and that I was blatantly guilty of keeping a record of wrongs – among other things I’m sure!! It’s so easy to do those things. However, God has given us His Spirit, who enables us to make the right decisions and leads us in the way of righteousness. I am not a captive to sin…I am free to choose to love my husband with the love of Christ. And the result of that has been overwhelmingly satisfying. God’s way is always better!!

    Thank you for your faithfulness to encourage us in our homeschooling, mothering and marriages. God bless you!

  32. [...] 8.  Marriage needs to consistently come … before mothering. [...]

  33. Jane H says:

    Reading this morning reminded me again of how precious our marriage is and what work is can be every day. I see that I responded on 2/14 and spoke about my husband has cared for me through physical challenges over the past several years. Since then, I’ve had two more major surgeries and right now have shingles. His tenderness is overwhelming.

    When the children are young, when the tweens are involved in sports and activities and when the teens are busy, busy, busy, it does not seem as though you will ever have that quiet home. But it really does happen one day. Our home is not completely empty-nest because our daughter left an abusive marriage and lives here with her 2 1/2 year old son. What a joy he has been to us during challenging days. But do nuture your relationship with your husband, first with the Lord, then yours husband and then with your children. At this point, my husband has to take me almost everywhere because he is nervous about me getting light headed when driving. So we are together 24-7….how miserable that could be if we were not truly best friends. We both have other interests and friends and that is important, but his love for me overwhelms.

  34. Amy says:

    I try hard to put my husband’s needs ahead of the kids, but the hard part is when you have a special needs child. They can take much more out of you than having multiple children…then add that you do have more than one child. What is the advice there? I am honestly asking.

    Some days, the end of the day has me passing out in my chair of exhaustion. My son is physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times. I love him with all my heart but trying to balance making sure he is taken care of and not leaving my daughter to feel like she doesn’t matter plus homeschooling them both takes a lot out of me. Unfortunately, I have no libido (due to health issues of my own) and really no energy to speak of.

    I try to get help with the kids but with my son’s special needs, I can’t get just anyone to help out. They have to know how to deal with his needs. My mom (who is elderly and having her own physical issues) and my sister are the only two I trust to watch him. I am not comfortable using respite at this time. I already use my mom and sister for watching them when I have to work at my part time job so I don’t want to over burden them.

    How does one who has to put a lot of physical time, effort and emotion into raising a special needs child find the ability at the end of the day for her man?

    I am very blessed to be married to a wonderful man who does help me out around the house and is very thoughtful towards my needs concerning his help with our son (and daughter)…even though he is working on his Master’s degree while working full time. It’s not that I don’t think of my husband, I really do a lot of special things for him all week long and let him know how much I appreciate everything he does (and he does the same to me). I just don’t have energy at the end of any day for the physical needs and getting a date night is next to impossible since the only ones that I trust with my son are not really available in the evenings. We are lucky if we get 2 date nights a year.

    Having a special needs child puts something into the mix that goes beyond the normal relationship standards. We love and enjoy both of our kids immensely just the way that they are, but it puts a strain on us that we could not have imagined. I feel that I know why God gave us our son…just the way he is. I am content in knowing that God chose him just for us. I just feel that I don’t know how to put our marriage into the mix beyond what it is now. The thought of putting even one more minute of energy out at the end of the day after they go to bed just makes me want to cry.

    • Maggie says:

      Amy,
      I totally understand and feel for you. I am a pediatric physical therapist who works with special needs children and their and families and what you are saying is all so true! I always ask God to bless mothers and families like yours, for until someone is in your shoes, they have NO idea how much harder special needs is than just several children. I have a dear friend how has both like you and see how much she does for her “typical children” and “special needs” children, I also have a child with emotional/sensory needs and so know first hand, although I know it’s still not the same as you’ve described above. May God bless you, your son, your daughter and your husband. I’m glad he is a wonderful, helpful husband around the house/children, despite his own work/studies, that says alot! Your son is indeed blessed to have you and your family, that’s the same way I feel about our daughter!

  35. cindy says:

    My husband’s parents got divorced after 35 years of marriage when the youngest left home. They had saved nothing for each other, having focused on children and career. We had been married 7 years and were expecting our second child. We naively promised to never let this happen to us, yet there we were 20 years later when our youngest graduated high school. We stood in a hotel room on the Friday night of a marriage conference, as far apart as we could, in tears, waiting/hoping the other would walk out and put us out of our misery. Bur neither did, and because we serve a God of miracles, we left Sunday revitalized, encouraged, and looking forward to “until death do us part”. Marriage is an adventure created by God. He alone enables us to make it through the long haul, but that is His desire and He is faithful if we are willing to let Him in the middle of it. Yes, your kids need you, but you and your husband need each other, need to nourish and take are of one another, show your kids that each other is number one. Engage the help of another couple/family to trade off kids, encourage one another, and have fun together! Blessings to all.

  36. Maggie says:

    I totally agree with what you are saying Heidi, the best gift we can give our children is a loving, happy marriage! But I also believe it’s not just the wives duty to put her husband first and demonstrate this, the husband also should. I only have one child, a very active/strongwilled toddler who has some special emotional/sensory needs and so most days I feel totally drained and have little to nothing to give. I only wish my husband would consider to help me out in the evenings – clean up after dinner, bathe our daughter, get her dressed, read her bible story, pray and then lie with her to put her to sleep. I know he works 12 hr. days and is tired, but I also work 12+ hrs. during the day and sometimes the night. For me if he did that it would be the best “foreplay”. I am totally tired emotionally and physical most days to give to him and also have the competition of the TV, computer and ipad! As far as “making” any quiet time for myself, I also wish my husband would help facilitate this, either by watching our daughter other than the day I work (I work 1 day/week) and do it without rushing me back home or pay for daycare without grumbling how much it costs.

Leave a reply