Divorce was not an option. At least, that is what she would have said twelve years ago. With several children, and a miserable marriage in her past, she was not even willing to entertain the thought. This marriage would not only be different, it would be better.
And then it happened. Not all at once of course, but over the course of weeks, months, and then years. The conflict, while small at first, escalated with time, growing into a question she swore she would never ask again – “Do I stay or do I leave?” What had been unmentionable had now become seemingly unavoidable.
You might be surprised at the cause. It wasn’t financial friction that was tearing them apart. It wasn’t the seduction of another lover. It wasn’t her husband’s work, their different interests, or conflicting communication. It was something far less likely – it was their kids.
For several years, this couple tried to ignore what was becoming glaringly obvious – their parenting styles, philosophies, and priorities were pulling them apart. This isn’t true for every couple, but the sad reality is that for many, parenting can be a huge source of marital strife, and in worse case scenarios, separation.
By God’s grace, this couple made it. As a pastor, I love to see the gospel restore broken and hurting relationships. My heart grieves when sin wins the day. As a husband, and father of four children, I understand how easy it is for a couple to go amiss when kids come along. Let’s be honest, marriage can be hard enough. And when kids arrive? Marriage can be even harder. Parenting can either draw a couple together or drive them further apart.
Have you felt this challenge? Ever found yourself in a disagreement with your spouse while you were trying to discipline your child? If yes, you are not alone! While not exhaustive, the following are some practical ways to help you as a couple align your parenting so that you are working with, and not against, one another.
Decide to parent together – Parenting is not just a woman’s responsibility. The Bible instructs a father and mother to be actively involved in raising children (Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 6:20; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). A lot of men think protecting their wife means locking the doors, loading their gun, and hitting the gym. If you are reading this as a dad, one of the ways you can protect your wife is by helping her carry the heavy responsibility of parenting. God commands you to spiritually lead your family. Don’t let your wife become weary by parenting alone! Share with her in the joy and struggle of raising your children.
Envision the same goal – Vision is your ability to see clearly. Many couples struggle with parental blindness. They don’t have a clear picture, goal, or desired outcome for their parenting. As a result, they might be moving in different directions. In some cases, it’s the wrong picture all together. The good news is that God’s Word doesn’t leave us in the dark. Every Christian parent should have a vision to pass on faith(fullness) to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Ephesians 6:4). Make sure both of you are on the same page when it comes to what you are envisioning for your children. Do you both share in the goal of raising children who, by God’s grace, will leave your home some day to love Jesus and love the world? Do you have competing visions? What is your greatest ambition for your kids? Regardless of their occupation, who do you want them to be? Write it down, together. Make it a vision you see frequently as a reminder of what God has called you to work toward together.
Learn to say NO – Many couples find friction creeping in when they are over-committed. If you don’t have clarity on your vision, you will likely say yes to a lot of opportunities. The myth that our culture is selling, and many Christians are buying, is that our kids have to be involved in everything. Busyness has become a sly and deceitful intruder to the family. While there is nothing wrong with being involved with sports or extra-curricular activities, a couple needs to learn how to protect what is most important. When you have clarity on what is most important, you will have conviction to say no to everything that is less important. Take some time as a couple and write down what is most important to you as a family. Identifying these values (God time, eating together, serving, etc.) will help you know when you should say yes, and when you should say no.
Raising kids isn’t easy. You certainly don’t want to be doing while at odds with your spouse! I love John’s words in 3 John 1:4. He writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” While he wrote these words to the church, they are fitting words for our families. May that goal and ambition align you as a couple to parent together – pulling you closer to one another, and ultimately, closer to the heart of God.