|And Then There Were Three|
Are Children a Threat to Your Marriage?
Romantic movies are all alike. A man and woman are thrown together by unusual circumstances. They fall madly in love despite overwhelming adversity. And in the end they run into each otherís arms to kiss under a moonlit sky before walking hand in hand toward a bright future together.
But these movies donít lend themselves very well to romantic sequels. Imagine what one might be like. The couple would now be married with three children. Instead of moonlit walks, theyíd be helping the six-year-old with a school project, potty training the three-year-old, and trying to settle down the crying baby. And instead of running into each otherís arms, theyíd be running around the house, trying to get everything ready for another busy day of work, school, and household tasks. Talk about overwhelming adversity! At the end of the day our couple would collapse into bed, completely exhausted. How could even the best director make that look romantic?
Most couples tie the knot because they are in love. They want to be lovers for life, so they marry. And they assume that nothing will keep them from caring for each other-least of all, children.
But unlike the movies, where the final credits pop on the screen after the wedding, real-life couples have to handle the ups and downs of marriage. And once children arrive, they face even more challenges. The presence of children distracts them from their original objective-to care for each other. Caring for children suddenly becomes their highest priority. With less time and energy to care for each other, their love gradually fades, and the once starry-eyed couple forgets why they ever married.
Sound familiar? If so, youíre not alone. Many couples lose their love for each other after children arrive. Iíve counseled thousands of these couples, who usually are on the brink of divorce. And I tell them all the same thing: Your marriage can be saved only if you make caring for each other your top priority. And the best way to do this is by spending time together-away from your children.
|      You may question that advice at first. After all, natural instincts tell us that children are more important than anything else in life. And doesnít it sound selfish to take time away from them so that we can be alone with our spouse?|
Children do need very special love and care, and responsible parents must give them the time and attention they need. But children desperately need something else too-parents who love each other and stay married. Numerous studies have shown that children of happily married parents are healthier, mentally and physically, than children of divorced parents. They usually become better educated and more successful later in life, and they are less likely to become criminals or to suffer as victims of domestic violence.
So my advice for parents is simple. If you want to be good parents, you must care for each other first. Your childrenís future depends on it.
Whatís at Stake
If I offered you a million dollars to stay in love for ten years after your children arrived, how would you earn the money?
You might have a good idea of what it takes to keep love alive, if you can remember how your love was first created. When you were dating, you were affectionate with each other; you talked to each other the way lovers talk; you spend your recreational time together; and you were attracted to each other sexually. So to keep your love alive youíd probably create enough privacy and time to do all the things that kept you emotionally connected while dating. And after ten years, Iíd owe you a million dollars.
Well, I canít pay you to stay in love, but thereís actually something more valuable than money at stake when it comes to your marriage. If you can stay happily married, your children will benefit from living in a stable home and seeing a healthy model for marriage. And theyíll be spared the extreme pain and confusion of witnessing a divorce.
In case after case, children report extraordinary trauma during and after their parentsí divorce. Just prior to divorce, parents often try to tell their children why they feel the ordeal is necessary. They explain that they simply donít love each other anymore or that their fighting is creating a bad environment for their children.
|      But children usually donít want to solve these problems through divorce. They just want their parents to love each other again and stop fighting. And thatís exactly what parents should do. They should do whatever it takes to love each other-for their childrenís sake.|
Iíve helped thousands of couples avoid divorce by restoring their love for each other. And many of those couples did it for their children. They knew that their children needed them to stay together. And thatís enough incentive for most couples to follow my plan. But thereís another reason thatís just as important.
Is it a good idea to stay married for the sake of your children? Absolutely! Should you avoid fights if you stay together? Definitely! But why just stay married and avoid fights? Why not also be in live? Youíll find that if you are in love, youíll want to stay married and avoid fights. And best of all, your lives will be far more fulfilling when you are in love.
So how can you guarantee the lifelong marriage your children need you to have? How can you stay in love even while raising a busy family? The answer is remarkable simple. In most cases, it doesnít require entirely new skills. All it takes is going back to what created your love in the first place-caring for each other just like you did while dating.
Unfortunately, most parents donít make time to care for each other. When children arrive, careers and domestic responsibilities shift into high gear. Parents come home from a challenging day at work to find household responsibilities and children who need their attention. By the time they get to bed, they are so tired that they dread the thought of more responsibilities-those of caring for each other.
On top of all of that, parents tend to feel overwhelmed. So they seek refuse away from their children-where they can finally relax. Since parents are rarely together without their children, they end up creating recreational interests that do not include each other. And they spend their most enjoyable moments apart.
Have you fallen into these habits? Do your children, career, and household responsibilities require so much time that you have none left for each other? If so, you are failing to care for each other-and your children. When you stop giving each other the care you need, you start losing your love for each other. And when thatís lost, you risk losing your marriage, something your children desperately need. Children suffer when their parents divorce. And they thrive when Mom and Dad make their care for each other a top priority. But kids canít set priorities for their parents. And they canít stop their parents from neglecting each other after theyíre born. So itís up to you to keep your priorities straight
|Give Love Time|
My wife, Joyce, and I value our children above life itself. Jennifer and Steven are our greatest treasures and achievements. They now have children of their own and feel the same way about them.
You are probably just as protective and caring of your own children. But if that concern changes your priorities, making time with your children more important than time with your spouse, your marriage will be at risk. Because it takes time to be in love.
Most married couples never realize this crucial fact. They think chemistry will keep them together because theyíre soul mates. Or they think that a commitment to stay married will guarantee their success. While both of these factors are important, millions of couples have discovered that they donít prevent divorce. When spouses neglect each other, they usually lose both chemistry and commitment.
Fortunately, you and your spouse donít need to learn this lesson the hard way. If you care for each other, youíll be able to sustain your love almost effortlessly. But it does take time to provide that care, and it takes privacy. You canít do it with your children running around your feet. Youíll need to carve out time from your busy schedule for just the two of you-time for intimate conversations, heartfelt affection, passionate lovemaking, and pure relaxation. These things are what you needed from each other when you were first married, and you still need them today. Truth is, you have the time for everything thatís important-including your children and your marriage-if you schedule it wisely. And the wisest part of your schedule will be the time you spend caring for your spouse.
If marriage and parenting leave you feeling overwhelmed, youíre not alone. Most couples feel the way you do after children arrive. But donít make the mistake that leads most couples into a loveless marriage, letting the pressure of life destroy their romantic relationship. Instead, make caring for each other your top priority in spite of all the pressures you face.
|      This book will give you tools to achieve that valuable objective. And it will also give you tools to raise happy and successful children. In fact, youíll find that those two objectives go hand in hand. Doing what it takes to stay in love with each other will help your children grow up to be happy and successful. And raising children the right way will help you build a love that last a lifetime.|
Your marriage may never be the subject of a big screen movie. But to your children, itís the most important love story they know. They watch and learn from the way you care-or donít care-for each other. They werenít around for the first production that showed you falling in love and marrying to be with each other for life. All they get to see is the sequel, how you try to sustain your love for each other as you face lifeís challenges-including them. Their future health and happiness, and yours, depend on that sequel begin just as romantic as the first production.