I love my kids, but one day, God willing, they’re going to leave my home.  And God willing, until it’s time to go to heaven, there’s never going to be a day when my wife leaves my home.

Here’s the thing about God’s will-I have to pursue it, He’s not just going to make it happen.  God is sovereign, but in that sovereignty he’s given us a billion individual choices.  He’s going to make the big picture ultimately work out  for His glory and the good of the world, but I have plenty of opportunity to make a mess this little micro corner of creation through my choices and decisions.

So here’s a typical story: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get married.  Things are great, except for the stress, the fighting, the drowning in expectations, and realization that feelings don’t stay burning hot when you’re dealing with morning breath, mortgages, and mothers-in law.  But still, there’s a general sense of fun and freedom an flexibility to date, do what you want, and build memories.

Then you have a kid.  And now it takes more packing to go to a friends house for the evening than it used to take for a week long camping trip.  Maybe you have more kids.  And the kids grow.  And man, are they demanding.  But you love them so much!   So you have more kids, and your world has become consumed with meeting their needs, caring for their sicknesses, and helping them become super achievers so they can be athletic musical Einsteins.  Husband and Wife roles have now become subservient to Mom and Dad roles.  There’s just no time for yourself, much less each other.  And when you get time, you’re exhausted and just want to numb yourself in front of a screen.  You don’t even know each other any more, and you’re not sure you care.

Fight the power.

I know you’ve been told this at some point, but let me say it again: homes where the children are the center of the universe are homes where the marriage doesn’t last.   The greatest stability you can give your kids is the knowledge that mom and dad really love each other and are not going to get a divorce.  

No matter what state your marriage is in the moment (unless it’s wickedly abusive or has been totally broken by chronic immorality), no matter how much work it feels like it will take, it’s easier to work hard on your marriage than to blow up your family.

So you want to be a great parent?  Start by being a great spouse.  Here are some practical, simple suggestions to get you along the way.  Most are free.  Several don’t take any time and very little effort.  All will go a long way:

Tell your spouse you love them.  Tell them often.  In front of the kids even.

Flirt with your spouse.  In front of the kids even.

Hug and kiss and cuddle with your spouse.  When the kids try to invade and get in the middle, kick them out. They’ll be sad now but stable later.

Put a date night on the calendar for each week. Fight for it, and then walk in grace when it only happens once or twice a month.  If you’re poor, pack some sandwiches and just get out of the house together.  If you can’t afford a babysitter, team up with another couple that lacks family in the area and switch off watching one another’s kids each week.

Write notes to each other.  Put them in places your spouse will find at surprising points in the day.

Have sex.  With each other.  A lot.

Be open with what you need from one another.  Wives, if your husband isn’t doing something you want, tell him.  It doesn’t make him a worse husband or human, and it doesn’t mean he loves you less because he didn’t figure it out on his own.  If you tell him and he starts doing it, it PROVES his love, because men, though clueless, don’t generally do things just because someone asks.  So if you ask and he does it, you’ve got a man!

Pray with each other. Read the Bible together.

Find a hobby together, apart from the kids.

Talk up your spouse to your kids.  Talk about how awesome they are, how mommy and daddy are a team, how much you love them, and how you’ve got their back.

In a dream world, get away, overnight, a few times  a year.  This will take some sacrifice, some humbling as you ask for help from others, and will remind you how awesome you think your spouse is.

Give yourself grace.  Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.  Lighten up!

You can do this.  And it turns out that this stuff is super fun.  Being married has plenty of challenges, but with a little bit of intention, it should remain one of the biggest blessings in your life.  Your kids will leave you.  But you spouse promised you and God to stay.  By God’s grace, and your work, they will.