Who should come first in our stepfamily, my spouse or my children?
The relationship between parent and child is important, but it’s not as fundamental as the relationship between a husband and a wife (Genesis 2:24). Too often, though, parents feel a pull to put the children first in the family, and in the process, they neglect their spouse.
It’s natural for parents to feel protective of their children. But parents who have gone through a life-shattering divorce feel especially protective. They don’t want their children to hurt anymore, or to fear losing them again. For that reason, putting a new spouse first can feel like they are betraying their children.
Children need to know you love them and that you will always be there for them. Just as important, they need the security of a stable home. A healthy marriage gives children that security, because when a husband and a wife are looking out for each other’s interests, they will also look out for the best interests of the children.
Putting your spouse first never means that you neglect or abuse your children. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you allow a new spouse to neglect or abuse the children. Even something like showing favoritism, which is natural to do, should be talked about and addressed in a blended family. Ignoring unfair treatment is wrong (Romans 12:9). Parents are always responsible to provide loving, secure, healthy, and safe homes for their children to grow (Proverbs 14:26).
It’s important for husbands and wives to consider one another’s feelings and opinions. They need to stick together and head in the same direction as a couple and as parents. They should pursue each other and show deep care and respect for one another. A caring and loving spouse knows that what affects them, affects their spouse and the children. Happy marriages are loving, respectful, and considerate (Ephesians 5:21-33).
A good marriage not only gives children the security of a stable home, but it also gives them a positive example of what God intended a marriage to be. They will learn about love, confession, forgiveness, accountability, responsibility, and honesty. Parents who love one another deeply help their children develop realistic expectations about what it takes to build a strong marriage. Children need that kind of example to give them hope for their own futures.