What Came First?

Great job, Sweetie! Thanks for putting that back!” I sang in my best “mom” voice.

“Thaaaaaaanks, Moooooom.” came the intentionally overly nasal retort.

I stopped in my tracks. Something wasn’t right. I turned to find my husband with that look on his face. That yep-you-just-talked-to-me-like-one-of-the-kids look.


Of course, I don’t make a habit of talking to my husband as though he’s one of our children. Not on purpose, anyway. But, I find that sometimes I look at him, think of him, and treat him as though he is. I somehow decide in my mind that I am the leader of the family, I know how and when things should be done and that he, along with my children, should follow suit. Rather than embracing the inherent differences in our male and female perspectives, and respecting his God-given authority (do not read authority as dictatorship, friend!) I shirk and resent them. And the whole family suffers.

Intimacy with my soul-mate suffers. After all, who wants to be romantically involved, or discuss deep personal dreams and ambitions, with one of their children?? Our children suffer because the balance of the household is thrown off. And my actions and words, however unintentional, undermine their respect for their father, and his authority in the family.

So, what can we do about this? How can we make sure we treat our husbands as husbands, when it can be so tempting to lump them together with our kiddos?

1. Remember God made you a wife first, mother second. Unless you are a single mom, your role as wife comes ahead of your role as mother. We’ve all heard the adage that the best thing a mother can do for her children is to love and respect their father. And vice versa. If you struggle with putting your children ahead of our husband (which is so easy to do because of their very real needs), sit down and evaluate your priorities. See what you can adjust in your thoughts, actions, and words to show your family that your husband is your highest human priority.

2. Avoid saying anything, even in jest, that emasculates your husband, or undermines his authority to anyone. The common joke often told I have 4 kids: 2 girls, a boy and a husband.” comes to mind. While at times we may feel that way, as managers of the home and primary carers of the family, even joking about things like this can go a long way to destroy respect and intimacy. The phrase, “There’s a nugget of truth in every joke” also comes to mind.

3. Date your husband. Even if you are unable to actually go out somewhere, do little things around the house to stoke the fires of emotional and physical intimacy. Love notes. Favorite snacks. Snuggles. Stolen kisses.

4. Make time for grown up conversations. When you are alone with hubby, try to avoid always and only talking about the children. Talk about each others hopes, dreams, plans, etc.

As the manager and engineer of the household, and household climate, we have ample opportunities, and responsibility, to create an atmosphere of love, intimacy, and emotional safety for our families. And a loving, balanced, marriage is one of the best ways to foster such an atmosphere.

Do you struggle with treating/thinking of your husband as just another child/person you have to take care of? What helps you keep/regain the balance of nurturing your husband and being his partner in marriage and parenting?

This post was featured at:
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• Domestically Divine
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  1. growingmom says

    I struggle with this alot. I must be too controlling. And he seems to be too passive at times. How do I practically balance being nurturing and being his partner?

    • Jennifer says

      Great question! For me, it helps to remember that he’s an adult, capable of making his own decisions and of dealing with the consequences of said decisions. So, if there’s something I need him to do, I ask him once and then leave it. I don’t nag and nag until it gets done. Many times it gets done later than my preference, but usually because he has something else he needs to get done for work or something. If its urgent, I communicate that to him.

      Also, there is a difference between nurturing your child and nurturing your hubby and his needs. There’s nothing wrong with “taking care” of your husband. My hubby is an acts of service love language (and physical touch), so often times caring for him looks very similar to caring for the kids. But, it’s where your motivation comes from that makes the difference. And, yes, control is a difficult barrier. Often I find it’s a lack of trust in hubby’s abilities that fuels it in my heart. Sometimes we just have to give a little and let go and see what happens. But, above all, love him wholly and seek to serve him through love as you would seek to serve Christ and you can’t go wrong there. :)

  2. Kim Hall says

    Great ideas and a real fresh perspective on how we see and treat our dear hubbies. Certainly we don’t like to be spoken to that way! Why would it be any different for our men?

    Sharing your post on my FB fan page. Just too good not to share!

  3. Catherine Morris says

    Thank you for the gentle reminder! I do find myself stuck in this role sometimes as my husband resents his leadership role due to an upbringing in an alcoholic and abusive home. He sees “father” as a negative person, and chooses to be very passive, then explosive. Very much like a child sometimes.

    • Jennifer says

      Blessings to you, dear one! Life would be so much easier if we all embodied the perfect versions of ourselves, wouldn’t it. A wise woman once told me that my decisions are not based on my husband’s obedience. That has freed me up to offer him the respect due his position, even at times when I feel maybe he is struggling. And vise versa. His love is not dependent on my obedience, which frees him to love me as Chrost loves the church, whether or not I’m acting deservedly.

  4. says

    I used to do that same thing … make the jokes, etc. Sometimes I fall back into it, although I try so hard not to. I’m glad you wrote this; thanks for sharing. It’s a great reminder to keep my priorities aligned with God’s plan.

    • Jennifer says

      Thanks, Lisa! I, too, need the reminder! It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one who wrestles with these things! Is there anything in particular that helped you change those habits?

      • says

        God really got a hold of me. I used to think that because I was the more outgoing one, I had to take the lead in everything. I was SO wrong. God told me one day to ask my husband’s opinion on everything I could think of that I was doing or planning to do … and then FOLLOW his ideas, instead of my own. For 6 weeks. About 5 weeks in there was no difference in my marriage, I was getting cranky, my hubby didn’t seem to notice. 1/2 way into the 6th week, I can’t tell you what changed other than that I was obedient … but it was like God opened the flood gates of heaven over our home and just blessed us so much! We had had several things we’d given up on, other areas we didn’t even realize weren’t great … but when that blessing fell, it was awesome. I don’t even know how to explain it. God later used a few godly older women to explain to me that God moves when His children are in covenant alignment and that my attitude had been rebellious and God can’t bless that in any way, shape, or form.

        • Jennifer says

          Thank you, Lisa! It’s amazing whatHe does when we are obedient, even if it doesn’t make sense to us at the time!

  5. Carrie Butler says

    you are so right Jennifer, I struggle with the thoughts and words to and about my husband also. It’s a constant battle that requires I take those thoughts and actions captive to Jesus. (daily sometimes). God is so good to give me a husband & kids that specifically challenge me to look deeper in my heart and allow God to cleanse me, without them I would continue to keep nastiness in my heart. Oh how I long to be clean!! Thanks for the post..shared on Facebook..too good not to!

    • Jennifer says

      Aw, thanks, Carrie! The Lord has placed “may the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, o Lord” on my heart lately. Please, God, let it be true!

  6. Sharon says

    This is definitely an area I struggle with. Not treating my husband like a child. Putting him first. It’s hard because I feel like since I stay home with our daughter and do most of the household related things, I feel like I am in charge of those things. But then sometimes I get annoyed when my husband asks me something that I feel like he should know the answer to. On the other hand, I get annoyed if he doesn’t automatically do something the same way I would. We have gotten much better at making sure we have a date night 1-3 times a month, but we still end up talking about our daughter during our date nights more than we should!

    • Jennifer says

      Yes, it’s a struggle,for us to get out alone with any kind of regularity. So, I’m working at ways to make at home time special. I have a long way to go, though!

  7. says

    I do struggle with this – mostly because he makes the biggest mess of all of us and I am constantly having to clean up after him. But sometimes it makes me go the the other extreme of hanging him out to dry and letting him fend for himself. Not intentionally, I just get caught up with taking care of the kids.
    To combat this I have tried to make sure I do extra little things – like packing him lunch when I do our daughter’s and making/getting special treats just for him.

    • Jennifer says

      Those are great ideas! And I think a main difference is how we talk to our hubbies about this stuff versus the kids. With kids we are instructing; training. With the hubs it’s a conversation; give and take. We’ve gone through so many seasons in our marriage of changing who does what around the house. A servants heart and allowing the Spirit to love through us is the key. :)

  8. Jandtcase says

    I worked almost all the way up until my first child was born, then I became a stay-at-home mom. While working I made mention that my husband would be a priority over my children (i.e…not neglecting the children, but making sure my relationship with him was of great value)…A co-worker looked at me like I was a crazy (a divorced male, I might add). He cynically said that all women ditch their husbands for their kids. I’ve been careful to remember that through the years..as my oldest is 11 and we have four others now added to the mix! Thanks for this reminder!

    • Jennifer says

      That is so wonderful to hear how you’ve continued that! Can you share any practical ways you’ve managed to do it? With 5 kids it must’ve taken a lot of work!

      • Jandtcase says

        Well, I, too, have sometimes joked about him being one of the kids (or one of your messes to clean up after)…I cringe to say I do sometimes still! But, when they start talking about getting a dog added to the 3 cats and 5 kids and…well, you know! :) I guess we’ve just grown in our marriage to the point where I know what he likes from me and I try hard to do it…I’m not perfect, but I do try. Like keeping the house (kind of) clean. Like making him food he likes while trying to keep it healthy. I am not perfect at it…he loves to watch movies and I have a hard time getting into movies and staying awake for them. But, I guess the point is to try to show him he’s a priority by doing the things for him and with him that he enjoys. I read alot of relationship books (Christian) and how to keep my marriage strong. So, I take their suggestions and try to find out what’s important to him. All this to say, after 14 years of marriage, you have to just keep trying to figure out how to make it better! Oh, and, I can honestly say I am married to my best friend. It helps that he is not only my lover and not only my husband and provider, but I have the privilege of having this “best friend” relationship with him.. Was this some of the practical things you were looking for? :)

  9. Anonymous says

    This is a GREAT reminder Jennifer. It is so easy to be teaching and correcting the kids all day and continue to be in that “mode” when talking to your husband. I never want to undermine who he is in the family….I will be consciously thinking about NOT doing this to my beloved! Thank you Jennifer. :D

  10. Missy says

    Thank you so much for this timely reminder. I find that I tend toward the mother role far too often with my husband. I’ve been trying recently to find ways to bless my husband in order to keep him in my mind’s focus during the day. Picking up clothes off the floor. Folding his laundry instead of leaving them in the basket. Making my hot chocolate mix so he can have a cup at night to unwind. My desire is to be his wife first and my children’s mother second. Praying for us all as we seek God’s will and counsel…

  11. Barb Spencer says

    What a great post and so needed. It’s hard to imagine that we could ever treat the love of our lives way before we’re married and how easy it is to let down afterwards. It’s important to remember God’s plan for our marriages..and that children mimic so often what they observe. Great, great reminder. Thank you!

  12. says

    Guilty as charged. And so, so often. I remember once when I got annoyed at David — something to do with laundry and my control issues — and he had to remind me that he had been doing his own laundry for 30 years. It’s usually the small things that I latch on to and, if I’m honest, it makes almost no sense. He’s a good husband. MY husband, the love of my life. Compared to him, the little stuff is pointless. He can wash the darks with the lights for all I care. :) Loved the post. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Jennifer says

      That’s so true! Most of what I get annoyed with my hubby for are pithy little things that really don’t matter.

  13. Melissa says

    This is a very good reminder for all of us – kids are very demanding, so it’s easy to fall on either side of the “wifely path” – either neglect or mothering. Something I have found helpful is to simply ask him to tell you when you are doing either. My husband HATES to be mothered – with a passion!!!!! (even by his mother!!) so he tells me very quickly when I fall into the nag or coddle mode, but I’ll bet most men will tell you if they don’t fear your response. Secondly, the kids know that our coffee time is for us. They are here with us, but they can’t dominate that conversation, it’s “our time” and they need to respect that. This is wonderful for those of us with busy lives and kids home alot to still get “us time”. It also teaches the kids that our marriage is a relationship worth working on and pursuing.

    • Jennifer says

      That’s a great idea, Melissa!! Sometimes we expect out spouse to read our minds, or vice versa. But asking them something like that is very helpful. And I love the “us time” coffees!!


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