Raising children is probably one of the most challenging jobs I have ever had. I have backpacked over mountains, survived three-a-day football practices in scorching heat, and I have swum out of frigid rushing waters to safety. All of these experiences pale to the amount of energy and time that I have expended as a parent.
However, that was what I signed up for when I decided to be a parent. I might not have realized all that parenting entailed, but once I held my first child in my arms, those responsibilities began. If I did not feed, clothe, hold, protect and play with this child, it would not thrive and he may even die. It never crossed my mind to deny what both of my boys needed to become mature and fit. As parents, Janice and I made decisions on what was best for the boys; not what I wanted or what she wanted; what was going to help them grow.
The same is true for my marriage. When Janice and I married, before we had children, a new entity was born. This entity was “us”. We began to make decisions on what was best for the “us” which meant that our own selfish desires were set aside. It was no longer about me or about her. It was about growing and maturing the “us”.
The same amount of energy and time that we naturally expected to spend on our children was just as needed on the “us”. We needed to play, spend time with each other, nurture, learn to make decisions together and much more. My selfish desires had to be bridled and redirected.
I never lost my own identity nor did Janice lose herself. We found another identity that was greater and more powerful than either one of us was separately. A friend of mine tells a story of him sitting across the table with one of his mentors. This mentor’s wife had just passed away. This man said, “I will miss her deeply, but I will miss even more what we were together.” He missed the uniqueness of their “us”.
I am amazed at how many couples when asked how much time they spend nurturing their relationship, shake their head in shame and disbelief. When you decided to get married, you signed up for a journey in developing a brand new entity. It takes a lot of time and energy. If your marriage was a child, would it be on life support right now? It may be time to reevaluate where your efforts are going.
Please don’t end up like many couples who spend so much of their focus on their children that they ignore their marital relationship. One of the highest divorce rates is among couples married 25 years or more for this very reason. Remember, you signed up for it. It might have been more than you had expected. But just as you wouldn’t discard your child because he/she was too much trouble, you must not discard your marriage either. It is just as valuable.