I was busy preparing a class the other day when my husband wanted to chat. My first instinct was to tell him I was busy (politely of course) and suggest that we speak later. But I stopped myself. The topic of the class was improving your marriage, and if that wasn’t enough, the essential point I planned to make was that the secret to a great marriage is to put your husband first.

I repressed a sigh (!) and prepared to engage in conversation. I was certainly conscious of the irony.

Why is it so hard to put our husbands first? Is it all ego? Or are there other issues at play? I think that while most of us appreciate and understand the idea, we really only pay lip service to it. We don’t really accept it. We have a lot of goals in life – personal goals, career goals, financial goals, parenting goals and marriage goals. Putting our husband first seems to address only one of those.

So perhaps the real issue comes down to how we look at marriage. Is it our primary goal or just one of many? Let’s put aside for a moment the more basic issue that a relationship with God is our ultimate and most essential of goals. The Almighty has given us many paths to achieving that. Is our marriage a primary one?

I would argue yes, that the opportunity to grow and give and learn about connection is most present and simultaneously most challenging in our marriages. It’s not hard to give to our children (usually, if we’re not too exhausted…); they are children after all (no matter their age!). But our husbands are adults, peers so to speak. It’s harder to give when you think they could do it themselves. It’s harder to give when the need is less apparent. It’s harder to give when the dependence seems confusing. It’s harder to give to another adult, especially one who should know for himself where the bowls, spoons, cereal and milk are!

Before we can talk about how to put our husbands first, we really need to decide if that’s how we look at our marriages. Is our goal to have a great marriage above all else or is it on par with the other goals listed above (and some not listed above)? This is the crucial question. (And of course, husbands need to ask that question too.) If we can’t answer yes to the first part, then the rest of the conversation is moot.

I believe that if we have a healthy marriage, some of our other goals will naturally follow and be more easily accomplished. I think we will be better parents if our focus is not solely on our children, if we give them the example of other healthy, secure relationships. I think we will be more successful at achieving our personal goals if we give our marriage the attention it requires. I venture to suggest that we may even succeed better in our careers if we come from a more satisfied home life. Maybe…

So the first step is deciding that our marriage is our priority. Only then can we really be prepared to do put our husbands first. Only then do we want to put our husbands first. Only then is he not in competition with all our other goals, dreams and desires.

Deciding that our marriage comes before (almost) all else is not necessarily easy. It is not a value reinforced in the world around us. We may have to be prepared to be a little out of step with our peers. And we have to take the long view. We have to invest now for the future – although there should be current rewards as well.

If we accept this idea and make this decision, then we are ready to battle the obstacles that stand in our way and look for practical steps to accomplish this goal. Come back for next week’s blog to see those tools.