What to Do When You Love Your Children More than Your Spouse

It's so easy to let our children be the primary focus of our love and attention. But when we give them that top spot, we put our marriage in danger. Find out more at the link! #marriage #children #parent #parenting #connection #priority #priorities #boundaries #prioritize #tips #Bible

Most days around here, I talk about my marriage rather than about my three young adult sons who matter monumentally to my life and family. But, make no mistake! Being a mom has been my highest calling and greatest joy.

It's so easy to let our children be the primary focus of our love and attention. But when we give them that top spot, we put our marriage in danger. Find out more at the link! #marriage #children #parent #parenting #connection #priority #priorities #boundaries #prioritize #tips #Bible

I can still remember the day each of my sons were born like it was yesterday. The moment my babies were placed in my arms, I instantly fell in love with each one of them and that feeling continues to grow deeper with each passing year.

It felt as if each of my sons were a part of me. And even after they were born, I felt like they were extensions of my life—not just of my family—for many years.

When each of them launched out on their own, I would tell people it felt like my heart was walking around out in the world … a dangerous world, to boot!

What touches their lives, touches me in the most vulnerable places of my heart.

Can you relate?

Honestly, I could not manage that motherly love and bond very well, especially early on in their lives. Like many young mothers, I gave in to the temptation to let my affection and concern for my children override my affection and concern for my spouse.

I made my children my foundation and priority for my life and family. This is a burden that is far too great for children to carry. And it can actually weaken and crack your family’s foundation.

God never intended for our children or our parents to be the ones we cling to in marriage.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The Bible does not say that we become one with our children nor does it say build your family on the foundation of your children. We protect our children’s hearts by building our marriage on Christ and our families on the foundation of our marriages.

In my life, this upside-down foundation showed itself in a variety of ways …

  • Giving more attention and time to my children than to my husband.
  • Favoring them when my husband’s parenting seemed wrong.
  • Being freer with my affection for them than with my husband.
  • Making them and their preferences my priority over my husband’s.

With these in mind, I want to offer you some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from when I was out-of-balance in my parenting.

Thankfully, at about 15 years in, I woke up to how destructive my attitudes and actions were on my children, family and marriage.

Unfortunately, this meant my children and husband had a long history of being negatively impacted by my idolatrous choices.

Yes, I made my children my idol.

If it were not for the healing power of God and His amazing redemption of my situation, I’m not sure where my husband nor my children would be today.    

4 Ways to Avoid Weakening Your Family by Idolizing Your Children

1. Give at least as much time and attention to your spouse as you do your kids.

I realize that the younger your children are, the more they need your time and attention. But if you do not carve out times to fully engage with your spouse—getting conversations times and dates on the docket—your marriage will suffer. Then everyone will suffer. Maybe not today or tomorrow …

But someday down the road, you may be dragging your children through divorce court because you neglected their mommy or daddy.

If you have trouble gauging your progress here, ask another same-gender friend to pray for and hold each other accountable. Text or call each other weekly, asking each other how well you did on giving time and attention to your spouses.

2. Remain committed to a united front with your spouse.

Another mother who did not do this well was Rebekah of Rebekah-and-Isaac fame. Rebekah was not content to leave a decision for their son’s birthright in her husband’s hands. She felt as if he was making the wrong decision.

So, not only did Rebekah buck her husband’s authority on this decision, she deceived him into thinking he was giving his birthright to their son Esau when he was actually giving it to their other son (Gen. 27:5-13; Gen. 27:20-29).

There are so many times in marriage when we think our own way is superior to our spouse’s way of parenting. And there may be occasions when we’re in the right. But if we disagree with our spouse in front of our children—especially about parenting—we all lose.

[bctt tweet=”It’s like taking a sledgehammer to the foundation under our children’s feet and they will be the ones falling into the cracks! Find out what it is at MM!” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Doing this also teaches your children to resist other authority figures in their lives. They will come to think that they are being mistreated and need someone to rescue them from a demanding teacher, boss, spouse, etc. It’s a recipe for disaster!

3. Make being affectionate with your spouse a daily priority.

And, I might add, show lots of affection to your spouse in front of your children! 😉

This helps them to feel more secure because they see that mommy and daddy clearly love each other. It also teaches them how to be affectionate people who go on to be affectionate spouses one day. 

I’ve struggled here for this very reason—it wasn’t modeled for me in my home growing up. This has left me more insecure in my ability to show affection. I’m still somewhat afraid of rejection even though my husband never turns affection down! Silly me!

Ultimately, this helps your spouse to feel more secure in your love. And your love will grow in accordance with your actions as well.

4. Prioritize your spouse’s preferences above your children’s.

This one is similar to number 2 since not making your spouse a priority divides you in marriage. If you don’t make your spouse a priority, your mate will begin to feel like you love your children more than you love him or her. And, this practice WILL skew your feelings in time in that dangerous direction.

But, if you make your spouse’s preferences your first priority and your children’s your next priority, you will feel greater love not only for your spouse but also for your children.

To be clear …

[bctt tweet=”Loving God first, then your spouse, then your children, allows God’s love to flow more freely to all concerned. #love #marriage #Jesus” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Maybe you fear that your spouse will take advantage of this, essentially stealing opportunities away from your children. But, in most cases, deferring to your spouse allows him or her to feel more secure in your love and, in turn, more inclined to be generous with your children.

If not, use this as a litmus test for knowing whether you need to seek marriage counseling. When a spouse does not operate with the children’s best interest in mind, you’ll need outside guidance and support to resolve this problem.

For more posts in this Out of Balance series click here

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[bctt tweet=”Make sure to get your copy of Messiah in a Manger while it’s still on sale! Click the link to find out more! #Christmas #Christmaspeace” username=”BethSteffaniak”]


How have you struggled to balance your great love for your children with your love for your spouse? 


Which of the four principles do you need to work on the most?


Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me MondayPurposeful Faith, Tell His StoryInstaEncouragements LinkupRecharge WednesdayWorth Beyond Rubies WednesdayTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementGrace and Truth, and  Faith on Fire Friday.


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16 responses to “What to Do When You Love Your Children More than Your Spouse”

  1. I’m wondering if this has become even more of a problem as more women choose to / need to work outside the home and that phony mama-guilt sneaks in …


  2. Linda made a great point!
    Unfortunately, I have all kinds of sad memories of my dad accusing my mum of loving us more than him, and feeling very guilty and conflicted about it. I am thankful for the God-enabled sifting process that has characterized my family, but I know this is a sticky point for many.


  3. Beth, when you asked the question “Can you relate?” I thought “Oh, yes!!! I CAN relate!” Ha! I also have 3 adult sons who are out there in the world. One has what I consider to be a dangerous job.

    I think even when our kids were young, however, my husband and I enjoyed spending time together alone or with other adults. Now that we are both retired and empty nesters, it has been like an extended second honeymoon! We had our kids when we were very young, so we are still young enough now to be able to travel (if the restrictions ever are relaxed again), have new experiences, and enjoy life. I am very grateful to have had a good partner to raise kids with! 🙂


  4. Excellent points, Beth. I’ve been guilty of these things, but I’m improving with God’s help. Pinned 2x and tweeted!


  5. This was so good for me to read today, Beth. I read it slowly…twice…As a mom of young ones, it’s so easy to fall into this trap, and I felt the gentle conviction of the Spirit as I let these words wash over me. Thank you for this today!


  6. Ebos Aifuobhokhan Avatar
    Ebos Aifuobhokhan

    Wonderful and helpful.


  7. We have no kids, but…

    They say that you should truly love
    your chosen, cheished, darling wife
    more than the stars and clouds above,
    and far more than you very life.
    And this is all so very true,
    devotion is no trifle,
    but just what is a man to do,
    when comparing to a rifle?
    She is the apple of my eye,
    like my GTO, she’s held so dear,
    but I still need to really try
    to love her more than beer.
    And what Kipling said, that is no joke:
    “Woman’s a woman, but cigar’s a SMOKE!”


  8. YES I worry about this all of the time, Beth! I have to be very conscientious of how much time I’m spending on my son and make sure it at least matches the quality time I’m spending with my husband. Even with one precious babe, my husband tends to get overlooked. I think I’m going to start with being affectionate every day! That will at least be my first step in showing more love to him.


  9. Great post! I think this is a very prevalent problem in families today.


  10. Thank you ,very clear points whch I am sure so many of us are guilty of and can relate to, much needed mesage!


  11. Great points, Beth. I think it is easy to fall into this trap, especially when they are little, and then not climb out. I remember someone giving me the advice when early married that I needed to put my mate first. The children would grow up and then there would just be the two of us again. I have tried to remember that. And now that the youngest is in high school, it is becoming more of a reality. I don’t want to look across the table after the kids are gone and think, “Who are you?” I know when our daughter got married, it caused my husband and I to desire to put our marriage first so that we could be a good example and be there for them. This required addressing some things that had built up after years of marriage. But ultimately it strengthened our marriage. We have friends at this stage divorcing, and we don’t want that to be us.


  12. What a great post! I think child centered parenting is causing this problem to increase. Thanks for sharing.


  13. Putting your child first is definitely an easy trap to fall into! I’ve been guilty of it.

    Marriage is work; and like anything worth having, takes work. Thanks for sharing. It helps all of us to stop and reflect sometimes on priorities.


  14. Yes, I think this has definitely been happening here. There are outside/objective forces pushing in this direction: partly it seems the child naturally turns to the mother for emotional support; partly the father’s earning capacity means he has to be out there earning. Actually I have noticed this more since our son was a late teenager rather than the earlier years.


  15. […] This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Messy Marriage […]


  16. […] like how Messy Marriage summarizes it: “Loving God first, then your spouse, then your children, allows God’s love to […]


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