Ever realised it’s getting rarer to find a happily married couple celebrating their 15th, 20th or even 25th anniversary together?
According to the Malaysia Statistics of Marriage and Divorce, many couples are getting divorced in the first 10 years of marriage. A lot of times, these couples would have had children added to their households.
The early years of parenthood
I remember those years. Being a new parent was altogether exciting, challenging and stressful at the same time.
There was a particular night, I remember. In the first week of having our first daughter, for some reason, I could not soothe her and I thought I didn’t have enough milk. So, in desperation, I relented to giving her some milk formula. Then I realised I didn’t know how to prepare milk formula because I had intended to breastfeed her fully.
So, it was this very chaotic situation of not knowing how to prepare milk formula, nor sterilize the milk bottle, and feeling bad for not being able to settle my baby. When it came to feeding her, the tension grew tighter when she choked on the milk a little. Then, it was all this figuring out if it was better to feed her with a little cup or a milk bottle. I just bawled my eyes out! It was all too much to handle all at once on my own. It felt as though her wellbeing was a reflection of how I was performing as her mother.
So I can imagine how some mothers can get totally absorbed into this bubble – having thoughts that the whole responsibility of their child’s wellbeing is on them, simply because they spent the most time with the baby. They understand the child better, they soothe the child better, and the child seems more dependent on them.
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash
But what does early motherhood have to do with marriage?
My point is, moms often end up doing everything for the child, because the child seems to “prefer” them to the dads. What happens during this time is, these strong new moms may accidentally forget that it’s a journey that both husband and wife take together.
Very soon, without realizing, a mom’s whole world revolves around the child’s needs and they take priority over her whole life. Meanwhile, dad is getting used to not being needed and taking second place. A lot of times, dads may start off with the intention to help but just didn’t know how to, and decided to step back to give mom the space. When this happens, the marriage subtly suffers and in the long run, the entire family suffers.
The other factors
Of course, this is just one of the many factors of why marriages grow cold. Besides prioritizing the children, priorities in career could be one of them, priorities in parents, social networks, hobbies, any one of these could capture our emotional energy more than our spouse.
If one spouse does not get the emotional fulfilment and appreciation at home, it’s very likely that they will find it elsewhere. Nobody really wishes for that, but it happens.
Tim Keller, the author of “The Meaning of Marriage” puts it plainly when he says,
“If your spouse does not feel that you are putting him or her first, then by definition, you aren’t. And when that happens, your marriage is dying.”
Making marriage a priority
In our Asian culture, it’s not very common to see couples taking time to spend with each other especially when the children are young. There is this guilty feeling that it doesn’t seem right to be leaving the child with somebody else while we go on a date. We worry that the child is not comfortable, we worry that it’s stressful for the baby-sitter and we worry about what others might think.
Although situations may not be ideal, there are always ways to make marriage a priority. Here are little ways to show your spouse that you are serious about your marriage.
1. Be proactive in scheduling time together
Regular time alone together is key to a happy and fulfilling marriage. Don’t wait for your spouse to do it. You can make arrangements for it. Take time to be connected. Take an evening walk together alone, have ice-cream together after the kids have gone to bed, spend some time having pillow talk.
2. Be intentional in your communication
Set aside time to talk about things that matter. Not just about calendars and schedules, but talk about hurts and feelings, talk about joys and disappointments, talk about goals and dreams. When couples listen and show interest in each other, the bond grows deeper and stronger.
3. Be appreciative of each other
It’s easy to take each other for granted especially when life gets busy. Remembering to say I love you randomly through the day, or thanking him/her for taking out the trash last night helps him/her know that you are constantly thinking of them.
It’s a good practice to begin right at the start of the marriage, but if you have been married for a while now, it’s never too late to start somewhere. Take baby steps.
What are some areas that you would like to consciously take in order to prioritize your marriage today? Remember, the journey to your dream future begins with what you do today.
Luisa Yeng is an advocate for building up families and believes that they are the key to strong societies and eventually a strong nation. With a desire to see married women live fulfilled lives and have a fulfilling marriage, she co-founded Oasis by Comma and contributes her thoughts here at Comma: Rethink Life.
Luisa and her husband are also founders of Heroes Headquarters – a platform that provides family enrichment programmes, parenting courses and family coaching services to those in their community.
Her favourite pastime includes taking walks with her husband at the neighbourhood park while having deep conversations, or coming up with fun activities such as cooking or art projects to engage with her teen and younger kids. She hopes to share with others that you don’t have to be a super person to be a hero to your family. All it requires is love, commitment and a workable plan.