Prioritizing Our Marriages During the Child-Raising Years

I barely know my husband anymore. I’m afraid of having an empty nest.”  My friend’s words had a sharp edge to them as we walked laps around the park. But even through her obvious angst, I could sense her sadness. 

She was a year away from all the kids being out of the house. While some look forward to this stage of life, my friend was dreading it. She and her husband had grown apart after years of focusing solely on their children. Their marriage was sustained by the distractions of football and soccer games, teen gatherings in their home, and shuffling kids to and fro. Now, the looming prospect of a quieter house with no distractions between them was unwelcome. 

Unfortunately, her story is not uncommon, especially with the sometimes out-of-control teenage schedules that pull us in a million different directions. According to recent studies, divorce rates have doubled for empty nesters over the course of the past generation, and in many cases it’s because the marriage took a backseat to the kids. 

If you, like my friend, find your marriage feels fragile because it has become subsidiary, please hear this gospel message. There is no person and no relationship that is beyond God’s power to heal. Jesus loves you more than you will ever understand. He will use your desire to strengthen what is weak for your good and for his glory. 

For Christians in otherwise healthy relationships, imperfect as they are, we must do what we can during the child-rearing years to prioritize our marriages amid the demands that require our attention. By God’s grace, you can start by remembering his design for your marriage, praying fervently and worshipping together, and pursuing each other throughout the time God gives you.

Remember God’s Design for Marriage 

Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In many ways this passage is foundational for understanding God’s intent for a Christian marriage. In fact, Jesus himself quoted it when talking about the union of a man and woman (Matt. 19:5). At its essence, marriage displays God’s glory as it was originally designed by God himself – he spoke marriage into existence when he created Adam and Eve! 

When a couple makes vows to one another God himself is joining together two people as one flesh. As Christians, this is why we fight for reconciliation and push against the all-too-common willingness to give up on a relationship when it becomes inconvenient or too much work. 

Marriage is from God, and the union is worth fighting for. As pastor and author John Piper says, “A glimpse into the magnificence of marriage comes from seeing in God’s word that God himself is the great doer. Marriage is his doing. It is from him and through him.” 1

Remembering God’s design for marriage will benefit your teens. They need to hear these Scriptural teachings as seeds planted ready to bloom if they decide to get married one day. But even more profound is seeing it displayed. That doesn’t mean striving to exemplify a perfect marriage. That doesn’t exist. Your kids will benefit from seeing what it looks like for a man and woman to value marriage as a gift from God and so commit to it faithfully instead of giving it your mere leftovers of time and energy.     

Pray For Your Spouse and Worship Together

Be on your knees every day for your relationship, and in doing so, you will naturally prioritize your marriage. Think of how easy it is to neglect this, especially in the teen years. Our teenagers can take a toll on us spiritually and emotionally! As a result, we easily forget to pray just as fervently for the partner God has given us. 

When we pray for the vitality of our marriages, our heart softens towards our spouse. Just like anything we bring to the throne of God, that spouse becomes a priority. Our teens need us to function as unified partners; praying for each other will contribute to that oneness. 

Equally important is worshipping together on a consistent basis. When our marriages are woven into our extended church family, we have natural accountability and encouragement from the people of God. This is how God intended for his bride to function. This might mean turning down an activity in order to choose worship, but making church attendance a priority can strengthen your marriage and positively affect your teens’ understanding of the role of the church in their own future family. 

Pursue Each Other

There is no busier time than the tween and teen stage. Life is beautifully full and abundantly active. But it can also be incredibly draining. If every bit of your time and energy is spent on your kids, there is no doubt your marriage will suffer. Your teens need to see you making active decisions to pursue each other, and they will ultimately reap the benefits form your connectedness. 

This might mean not going to one of the kids’ games to reconnect simply because you cannot find another time. Pursuing each other might look like giving 30 minutes of uninterrupted time (put those phones away!) with the purpose of being intentionally attentive. Don’t simply talk about the kids but talk purposefully about how each other is doing emotionally and spiritually. 

And have fun together! If you had the privilege of watching parents enjoy each other, you know the positive impact it can have on a teenager. Splurge on a date night and visit your favorite restaurant. Cook together if you both enjoy it. Sneak away for an afternoon matinee. Play a game or do a puzzle. Don’t compare your pursuit with another couple but find what works best for you and your spouse to intentionally enjoy each another. Not only will your marriage strengthen, but your children will learn from your outward affection.  

Ultimately, our hope for our marriages is not in one single way to prioritize it. Our hope is in our covenant-keeping God who never breaks his promises. Trust in his faithfulness. He covers you with his grace when you mess up in your marriage, he sustains you in the challenging seasons, and he kindly reveals ways to strengthen and prioritize your relationship even amid the busy days of child-rearing. 

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/staying-married-is-not-about-staying-in-love

For more gospel-centered parenting resources, check out our current Rooted Parent Podcast season: Parenting, Technology, and the Truth. 

Katie is a writer, teacher, and speaker. She is married to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity Church in St. Louis, MO, and is a mother to three wonderful kids. Katie works as the Director of Music Ministries and Special Events at Trinity, serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee, and writes for several Christian ministries and organizations. Katie is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. More information can be found on her website at www.katiepolski.com.

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