All relationships start with a commonality – a relational glue that binds two people together.
For some it is a favorite bar visited with regularity, love of basketball, or having attended the same church together.
The strength of a relationship and its ability to grow and mature is defined by the quality of the commonality.
And that is why so many marriages fall into the trap of making the kids the glue that holds the relationship together.
Instead of the marriage being the primary relationship in the household – and the kids drawing a sense of security from that firm foundation – each parent focuses on the child (or children) as the relationship to build into.
Everything becomes about what makes the kids happy and gives them a “better future”.
So mom makes the kids’ favorite foods.
Dad makes sure to show up for a sporting events.
And mom shuttles the kids to their multiple commitments.
And dad works extra for the college savings account.
And the routine of life is predicated on homework, when the child eats, where the child needs to be, what the child watches, and when the child goes to bed.
This seems right and self-less, because after all, it is for the kids.
But that is a trap.
Children feel the relational pressure of being the center around which everything orbits.
Children feel the entitlement of having everything fit their needs.
Children feel the triangulation of being the primary relational outlet for each parent.
Far from protecting the children, such pressures help form the lies (see The Lie) that will shape their false self, and which they will carry into their own relationships.
Many couples feel this stress, and the shame and dissatisfaction that goes along with it, and gut it out or become susceptible to another relationship or live as roommates because, after all, it would be selfish not the live for the kids. Right? (see But She’s a Good Mom)
But what happens to the relationship when the glue goes away?
When the child begins to develop their own relational world in high school, then graduates to go off to work or college and leaves the home – what is left to bind the couple together?
Sadly, many discover that there is nothing. The spouses may have developed interests independent of each other, or suddenly realize that their reason for living has left the house.
They look and realize that they do not know each other, having grown separately and differently so as not to share any commonality at all.
At that point, it may look like the marriage ended suddenly, but in truth it had been drifting to this point for years.
Relationships need common interest.
It is never to late to begin to develop a relational glue, but it does take a motivation to nurture the relationship. That may require retraining your primary focus off of other things.
Begin taking nightly walks. Find a hobby you both delight in that will develop mutual respect and admiration. Do things together for the sake of the other.
Each spouse may have to enter into something they don’t love initially, but that is part of being self-less.
Beyond this, if you are reading this as a follower of Christ, make developing your marital identity in Christ a large chunk of your glue. Other interests are great, but Christ is the true source of identity and worth. Not based on performance. In him you will learn to view the other with compassion and love and have the security to be vulnerable.
I’m not saying center around church activities (although there may be some of those to partake in), but center in Christ. Pray together. Meditate on scripture together and listen to one another. Experience the fruit of being in Christ together – serving, community, generosity, etc. – because of the commonality. (see It Takes Three – warning: very old blog, different style, different voice)
What common interests do you share with your spouse? What could you do to improve making the marital relationship primary?