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Last week I guest posted on "A Martha Heart", writing about how to keep your bedroom a sacred place for you and your husband.

The first commenter really took me to task for one of my points. I had said that co-sleeping--inviting the children into your bed--even when they were toddlers, was not good for one's marriage. It hindered one's sex life, and most men resent the kids' presence. And men's feelings should matter.

The woman said that was ridiculous, because "while you can divorce your husband, most women wouldn't dream of divorcing their kids." Therefore, the kids should come first.

I'm always amazed when I read this so blatantly. Do people not understand what they are saying? So I thought perhaps this needed its own post.

First, it goes without saying that having the attitude that "you can always divorce your husband" is a seriously bad idea. That means when he starts to really bug you, or consistently seems to ignore your needs or not listen to your feelings that you could think about leaving rather than trying to fix the problem.

But there's a bigger issue, and it's this. The best way that you can love your kids is to love your husband. What kids want, more than anything, is to feel that their home is stable and secure. That security gives them the wings to grow and explore in safety. That's not to say, of course, that all marriages can be saved or that marriage, no matter what goes on behind closed doors, is best for kids. Obviously there are cases where you need to leave to protect the children. But that is rare, and I believe most marriages that break up do so for far less.

Do you remember that scene in the movie The Incredibles, where the two older children are huddling in the cave, wondering what to do to rescue their parents. The little boy is tickled pink with all the excitement around them, while the more mature teenage girl tries to kick some reality into his little head. "Don't you realize that our parents' lives may be at stake?" she yells at him. "Or even worse, their marriage?" To kids, divorce is just about as bad as death.

Never think that you are doing your children a favor by prioritizing them over your husband. You're not. And yet what often happens is that the overwhelming love that we feel for our children makes our husbands seem selfish if they want something from us, too. Doesn't he understand that the kids need to come first?

After all, every one of us would die for our kids in an instant. But who would die for your husbands? Chances are you'd have to really think about it, because you know that your kids likely need you more. It's not a straightforward question, is it? And yet because our love for our kids is so primal and so different, it's easy to push our husbands out of the way and build our lives around our kids.

Don't. Your kids don't need you to be with them every single night. They would benefit from you taking a break and going on a date with your spouse. They would benefit from having their own room, so that you and your hubby can relax together in your bedroom. Your children will thrive when you learn how to resolve conflict with your husband, how to form a real team, and how to put him first.

After all, the Bible says that the husband and wife are one flesh, not the kids and the mom. They may come from us, but we are united with our husband, not our kids.

Husbands often feel very put out when children are born, because they take over everything. We're exhausted, and we need to feed the babies every 3-4 hours, so our husband's needs fall far down the list. I think in the newborn period this is only natural. But, honestly, don't let that persist. He is not wrong if he still wants to spend time with you, or wants to have sex with you! He actually is doing the right thing; he's prioritizing the right relationship. He's not being selfish.

Let me ask you: how do you navigate the muddy waters of everyone's conflicting needs? Do you sometimes feel like your husband is putting too much on you? How do you put him first? Let me know!

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At 10:10 AM , Anonymous honey said…

Your right! That lady is ridiculous! We are in a covenant with our spouses, most of us promised before God to love, honor and cherish them. And you're right again that making your marriage a priority is the best thing you can do for your kids! Our kids know that our marriage comes first. We go out without the kids, my hubbies needs come before theirs. He is a Godly man so perhaps I don't have it as hard as others, but I know that our children appreciate the way we value our marriage and our bedroom. Our bedroom is off limits to our children unless they are invited in. When our neighbors got divorced, they informed them that "their parents would never get divorced because they love each other too much!" My husband is a Pastor and he always says that the best thing a parent can do for their kids is to love their spouse. My daughter is newly married and I see her following our example and setting a good foundation in their marriage. Their first child is due in August and I know that they well be great parents. Even when our kids, now teens, want to come along on our dates because they didn't see their Dad much that day, we tell them they can't because we are the ones that are married to each other. Don't worry! They get plenty of attention the rest of the time. They are very close to both of us. A sound, loving and passionate marriage does bring stability and security into the lives of your children and creates the home atmosphere as a safe place, a shelter and a place where they can always go when they need that.


At 11:59 AM , Blogger ET @ Titus2:3-5 said…

I agree 100%! The best thing we can ever do for our kids is to work hard on our marriages.

I tend to do well with setting aside time together and keeping our bed our own, but I've noticed lately that I'll often allow the kids to interrupt our conversations. Sometimes it seems easier to quickly deal with their needs than to have them hovering in the background. But I'm realizing how disrespectful this is to my husband, so I'm going to make a concerted effort to make the kids wait until we're done (even if it means they wait half an hour for juice, I'm sure no one will die of juice deprevation!).


At 12:19 PM , Blogger Pickle said…

Thank you Shelia! I have received appalled looks and nasty comments when I have told people my husband ALWAYS comes first.

Our children want us to stay married, they want and need the security of a solid marriage. They need to learn from that as well.

One day those kids will fly the nest and all you have left is your spouse. What will you do then if you have put him on the back burner for so many years? What will keep you connected? The kids are gone!


At 12:24 PM , Anonymous Kristi said…

Sheila, you are so right! How stressful for that poor husband of that lady! One wrong move buddy and you're OUT!

I did a series on co-sleeping/attachment parenting several months ago on my blog and ruffled a few feathers. =)

One thing I never quite knew how to "argue" was the point that people brought up about how we are coming at this opinion from our "privilaged white society" and in most cultures in the world, including ours until fairly recently, all co-slept with their children, if not in the same bed, at least in the same room. How do you argue that point?


At 12:42 PM , Blogger Pickle said…

I co-slept and did the attachment parenting with my son while he was small and helpless. I really do think that is a VERY natural human need. I do believe most other cultures have a MUCH different outlook on things like sex and nudity and their children aren't really brought up blind to it, but also not taught to go about doing it. I have no doubt plenty of them make love in the same room as their children, but its not thought to be sexual abuse as it would be here.

And also I wonder if the whole divorce culture is really a western thing? We throw it around like its normal and nothing to concern ourselves with. It's divorce or else!! After all there is welfare that can make up when a woman chooses to bail or visa versa. SO there really isn't a good reason to stay married, when we give so much reward for leaving.


At 12:52 PM , Anonymous Tessa W said…

I totally agree that husband should come first. But this can mean different things to different people. On the co-sleeping note, we sleep with both of our sons right now (3 and 5 months). It was something that just started out of convenience with my first son and, after asking my husband multiple times if he was okay with it, we decided that it was the best arrangement for our family. I still ask him (my husband) regularly if he feels it's still working for him/us and he LOVES it! So do I. Yes it has made our bedroom life a little different than if the boys were in their own room, but when we make it a priority, our sex life suffers no more than any other couple with a new baby. We make some changes but we've made it work for us. And I feel so much closer to my husband because I love watching him snuggle with the boys as we all fall asleep at night.

If at some point our sons are getting in the way of our relationship, then we will make changes. As of right now, our sons, and the closeness they bring, has only helped our marriage become stronger.

So I'm inclined to disagree on the co-sleeping point (for various reasons that I have researched as well as knowing my own marriage, and those of a number of other moms I know, have actually improved because of it) but I will agree that your relationship with your husband comes before your children. If it weren't for your husband, you wouldn't have your children. And when your children move out, your husband is the one that stays with you, till death do you part.


At 1:12 PM , Anonymous meg said…

i'm a lurker here but i just had to comment a resounding "AMEN" to this post. i've only been married 8 years but with 2 toddlers i have lived the struggle of wanting to put my kids first. that is not right. Lord help me as i seek to follow God's plan and put my husband first.

a wise woman at church recently commented that we CAN possess our husbands: song of solomon "i am my beloved's and he is mine", together until the day we DIE, but on the flipside our children are gifts from God, entrusted to us for a time, people we are NOT called to 'possess'. afterall, one day our kids' spouses will 'possess' them, and i for one do not want to be the MIL from hell ha!!


At 2:56 PM , Anonymous Tom said…


This was a mistake my wife made (and I let it happen :(

We've been married 26 years. The first 21 years, she definitely put the kids first and me/our marriage second (although it was a close second). The last 5 years - she made a significant adjustment - I wish I knew why or what prompted her - but I've been too delirious just enjoying it!

Since we took the divorce word out of our vocabulary, I wasn't going anywhere -but I can't help but think back on the lost opportunities to build a stronger marriage. As we are now in our early 50's, the physical side of aging is beginning to limit what we can do or go together.


We're BOTH looking forward to "Growing Old Together - the Best is Yet to Be!"


At 3:07 PM , Anonymous Gorbachev said…

If men are nothing but sperm donors, then the "children come first" thing makes sense.

Your children won't respect you for choosing them above their father - when they're old enough to understand it.

The problem is that many women only find a man because they want a family and kids; the actual man, as a partner and equal in a relationship, is a convenience or a function.

Most men aren't like this (though there are some, of course).

But that said, this can be managed: men just need to be firm about their own needs and they need to discuss the woman's downgrading of the man in her life in a very direct and open fashion.


At 4:24 PM , Anonymous Madel said…

The bible teaches that the woman was made for the man to be his helper. Then the children came. We were not created to be mothers FIRST. just my two cents...


At 9:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Woot! I couldn't agree more! thanks for saying it SO well!


At 1:33 AM , Blogger Hippie4ever said…

Well, I have to agree and disagree. I do believe the marriage comes first. That was God's plan and provides stability, security and the proper example for children.

However I don't believe that cosleeping automatically is detrimental to the marriage. I asked my husband MANY times both before and while our son was cosleeping if he was uncomfortable with the arrangement, but HE insisted it was the best thing for our son. (We did make sure that our bed was safe for cosleeping.)

Being a parent is sacrifice, but there is no need to sacrifice your sex life. I clicked over to your linked post "Keeping your bedroom a Sacred Place" and I would say even pre-children there are definitely more interesting places to enjoy your husband then just the bedroom. It doesn't take any more intentionality to have sex in the bedroom than any other room of your home.


At 8:03 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Thanks, all, for the comments! Obviously I've opened a bit of a hornet's nest, since not all of you agree with me about the co-sleeping. And I see some people have linked to this blog to talk about the issue, too.

If it's honestly working for you, and you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you are having sex as frequently and as enthusiastically as you would be without your kids being present in the bedroom, then I don't think it's a big deal.

But I think that's rare. I really do. And so I'd just encourage you to think about it, that's all.

As for what I say about other cultures, I actually don't find that one that hard. Our culture is completely different. In the Middle Ages, when everyone piled in the same bed, a 7-year-old was basically doing the work of an adult. There was no such thing as childhood, let alone adolescence.

So to compare our time with theirs is very difficult because life is so much different. I think it all comes back to principles. Our husbands, and even our sex lives, have to be the priority.

If you can do that while still co-sleeping, and your husband is in agreement, then you aren't violating any principle. If, on the other hand, you can't, then saying that "families have always lived this way" isn't really the point. God tells us our husbands come first, and so we have to live that out in the best way that we can!

And incidentally, my kids did not sleep in our room, and they are extremely well bonded to us! It can be done. I was also one of those who couldn't sleep if Katie was in bed with me, so for me it was also necessity that banished her!


At 1:07 PM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Did you see my post? I mentioned that it is very hard for me to sleep with the kids in bed, even though my husband has never really had a problem with the kids coming in there.

My feelings on the culture issue are mixed. As I said on my blog, life in the 21st Century Western world is complex and couples do have to work harder to tend the garden of their marriage.

At the same time, couples and families (and children) have different needs different ways to go about meeting those needs.

When our two youngest were babies, we were in a bit of a unique situation because we had children well capable of keeping an eye on them while we walked around the block, or went off to *take a nap* on a Saturday afternoon, etc. My husband also has a flexible work schedule so their afternoon naps leave time for us to concentrate on each other during seasons when he isn't as busy.

So having the kids in our bedroom really didn't hinder us all that much. BUT...I have to admit that I do miss the little haven we'd created in the years between when our oldest were little and when Lil' Princess and Sweetie Pie came along.

I guess, as is evident from my range of comments on the blog, my opinion really isn't as cut and dried as the AP parents or the parents who believe the kids should stay out of mom and dad's bed.

Okay, I'm finished!


At 10:47 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Hi Terry! Thanks for commenting!

I'm a few days late chiming in here again (I took some time off for my birthday), but this discussion has largely migrated over to Terry's blog, where it's gotten quite a few comments that are quite heated at times! But also extremely interesting.

So if you want to keep following it, head on over here!.


At 10:51 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

I also wanted to address something Pickle said: she points out that this is really a very Western attitude in both ways--wanting the bedroom to yourself, but also having a high divorce culture.

I'd agree with her on both, actually. Yes, most cultures sleep with the kids in bed, but I'm still not sure that this is the ideal for the marriage. Most cultures also have much smaller homes. If it's possible and you have room for kids to be separate, and your marriage can be stronger, why wouldn't you? If, on the other hand, you really can create a close marriage with the kids in bed, and your husband agrees (please make sure he does, and don't pressure him in to it), then I don't think it's a problem. It's just that I've seen many marriages in which husbands are pressured into it.

As for divorce, I think Pickle is right in that it is part of our selfish culture. But it's also part of a post-Christian or non-religious culture. China and Russia also have high divorce rates, for instance, and in the Arab world they're extremely high (because you can get rid of wives easily). So it's not only in the West that we have high divorce rates. I think it's anywhere God isn't the centre, and that is WHY the West's divorce rates are so high.

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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