Modeling a healthy marriage is the best gift a parent can give their children. A parent’s behavior and actions have the strongest influence on them. Teaching them how to maintain a loving environment is a crucial life skill. You should start by demonstrating how to love and prioritize their spouse. A great marriage is when two people interact with each other with respect and affection on a daily basis.

A marriage will struggle if one or both parents pour all their love and energy to their child instead of into their relationship. Although controversial, a spouse should always come first in your marriage. You made a vow to spend the rest of your life with your spouse. Your children will live with you for eighteen years. You don’t want to end with a spouse who has become just a roommate and has years of accumulated resentment due to unmet needs.

Love is not a competition. A child who is raised in a home with a strong marriage will thrive. Here are some tips to develop a healthy marriage:

  1. Schedule date nights or romantic getaways away from the kids. Couples need regular nights out to enjoy each other’s company. Trade nights with other couples: they watch your kids one night and you watch theirs on another night.
  2. Never stop appreciating your partner. You offer a high five or words of praise to your child after their musical recital or soccer game. Apply the same concept to your relationship. Surprise your partner with a bubble bath or picnic in the park for doing the dishes that night.
  3. Create boundaries with your children to have regular alone time. For instance, don’t share the bed with the kids or establish rules they cannot come into the bedroom after 9:30 p.m. unless its an emergency.
  4. Practice affection. Your child imitates the way you show love. Saying, “I love you” is not enough. Your young child doesn’t know what that means. You have to show affection, physical contact, long talks.
  5. Develop healthy ways to communicate with patience, honesty and clarity. Most of your energy goes to work and you come home tired. However, don’t make statements like “don’t bother me” or “stop acting dumb.” Children and your spouse feel unwanted and you damage their self esteem.
  6. Share household responsibilities. Prepare meals together and invite your children to help you do chores. If your child sees parents working together, its more likely he or she will bring those customs into their future relationships.
  7. Prioritize self care. You focus on working to meet your family’s needs, you forget about your own needs. Your family depends on you to be physically and emotionally healthy. Set aside time for your hobbies. It teaches the children to value their interests and they may model your habits of reading often.
  8. If you fight in front of the kids, make up in front of them. Keep in mind, young children may not know parents have made up until they hug and kiss.

Raising a family isn’t easy, but it’s important to appreciate and stay connected with the one person who understands what you are going through. Adults who experienced high levels of childhood family stress may be more vulnerable to stressors as they start a family. Focus on your spouse, you will fall more deeply in love over the years if you put your marriage first.