What Does It Mean to Put Your Spouse First?

It starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected.
By Reggie Madison
April 28, 2021
couple laughing together

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. The Puzzled Look on my daughter’s face turned to a smile, and then came the proverbial rolling of the eyes (and that’s a good thing).

Here’s the conversation:

Daughter: You’re really not going to be at our basketball game Saturday? (Said with disbelief.)

Me: Nope. I’m taking my wife (who happens to be your mother) on a marriage retreat.

Daughter: Can’t y’all go anytime?

Me: Doesn’t matter. We’re going this weekend. What you worried about? 

Daughter: Nothing. I just… (Shrugs her shoulders.)

Me: If anyone asks where your parents are, just say, “At a marriage retreat acting married.”

Daughter: (Rolls the eyes.)

Me: Don’t worry. We love you, and we hope you play well. But I love that fine-looking queen of mine more.

Daughter: (Walks away smiling, rolling her eyes, and I’m guessing, processing what’s just happened.)

She’s witnessing me putting her mother, a.k.a. my spouse, ahead of her. 

What does it mean to put your spouse first? 

It doesn’t mean that you miss every sporting event, never hang out with friends, or never work overtime. It starts with the heart. And your actions and thoughts will reflect the contents of your heart.

A priority is something we treat or rank as more important. Putting your spouse first above work, children, hobbies, birth family, or other responsibilities means prioritizing your spouse. It doesn’t mean we neglect work, abandon our children or don’t do the things we love. It means that we make sure our spouse knows that we value them more than we value all those other “good” things. 

Here are some ways you can demonstrate that you prioritize your spouse.

Ask Before You Make Plans

When making plans and decisions (particularly ones that affect where you spend your time, money, and energy), ask your spouse for their thoughts and opinions. This shows that you don’t want to do things that may negatively affect your spouse or marriage.

Example: Your co-workers are going out for drinks after work. You want to go. 

Prioritizing Your Spouse:

  1. Call to tell your spouse the situation.
  2. Ask how they feel about it. “What are your thoughts?”
  3. Ask how it will affect the rest of the day. “Anything happening that this will change?”
  4. Understand that turning down the offer may be the best move for your marriage.

Message Sent: Asking shows your spouse that he or she matters. Their feelings matter. How your decisions or plans affect them matters.

Pay Attention to Your Spouse’s Needs

Your husband’s or wife’s needs come first. That’s where your strongest commitment is. Be aware of how easy it is to want to help everyone else and think your spouse can handle everything themselves.

Example: It’s nearing your kids’ bedtime. They’re fussy, whiny, and being difficult. You’re having a deep, meaningful phone conversation, helping a friend.

Prioritizing Your Spouse: 

Tell your friend, “I know this is important, but it’s bedtime, and I need to jump in and help get these kids down. Let me call you back.”

Message Sent: You have your spouse’s back. Even though your friend has a pressing issue, so did your mate. You just demonstrated where your priorities lie. Jumping to help fix everyone’s problem and only helping your spouse when it’s convenient shows they aren’t the priority. We want our spouse to be the first one we support, not the last.

Consider the Impact on Your Spouse

After marriage, your life isn’t just about you. Significant changes affect you both. Be upfront with your spouse about changes and let them prepare for how it will affect them.

Example: A major project will require you to work overtime and use a lot of mental energy.

Prioritizing Your Spouse: 

Address it head-on from the moment you sense this is a major time-consuming project. Tell your spouse about the overtime and potential stress. You might say, “I don’t want you to feel neglected. As soon as it’s over, we can make up for some lost time, if you know what I mean.”

Message Sent: You’ve considered the impact on your spouse and shown some vulnerability. You’ve recognized what you will lose and indicated a desire to gain it back because you’d rather be with your spouse than work all those extra hours. 

Couples experience different seasons. You may both have heavy work seasons and superactive kids’ seasons where you feel like taxicabs. Dealing with sick family members can also pull lots of time away. 

Putting your spouse first starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected. 

That’s what my daughter took away from us missing her basketball game. 

Interestingly, research shows that putting your spouse first provides the security, comfort, and stability that helps children thrive. And, when couples put each other first, it sets the stage for a fantastic relationship where each person feels loved, supported, and secure.

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