I am not the one to give advice about a good and strong marriage even though I am still married and could say that I have fair happiness. One thing I am noticing though is what I should've listened to when a very good friend of mine Wilton said it. Wilton and his wife Maureen had their child a month before my wife and I had our beautiful girl. We go way back Wilton and I, as friends from Technikon, both studying Art, growing together sharing dreams and wisdom we both learnt from his father Billy Paulson. Wilton later stood for me as best man on my wedding day. A very wise and caring person he is, hence he tops the list of the people I care about in my life.
We had great times the two families, did some clubbing, restauranting, dinners, braais and very loud conversations. When both our kids were toddlers, we were like wicket keepers on the table as they wanted to touch everything in front of them. My wife and I always sat our little daughter between the two of us on the table because we believed that it was a better way of protecting and looking after our little person. Wilton and his wife on the other hand sat differently from us. He would seat his wife next to him and his little son after his wife.
My wife and I questioned why they did that and his answer was simple and blunt, "My wife comes first, then my son (the toddler). I met her first and he came as a result of us meeting so it will always stay that way". This did not sound good to us. My wife and I believed that when the children came, it becomes them first and then us. I was mostly struggling with Wilton's answer and took time to think about it. My wife and I were focused more on protecting and caring for our child and not necessarily noticing how we were drifting apart from each other though we were married.
I do however feel that this might be read wrong by some fathers and think that it excuses them from being hands-on in the caring of their children. As much as Wilton put his wife first and his son second, he has a great relationship with his son; not just the macho/butch father and son goofing around, but mostly doing everything that his wife does in caring for his son, everything and offering just as equal time if not more than his wife.
Wilton's principle is not only good for marriage but also serves as a good point of reference for the children. In an article titled "How to raise a royal...", Tracy Borman writes: "Queen Victoria was famously devoted to her husband, Prince Albert, and although they doted on their children, their love for each other always remained paramount. Putting one's spouse ahead of one's children in this way seems to have ensured that the latter grow up as grounded and (for the most part) sensible individuals, with an excellent role model for their own marriage as adults. But with most royal marriages being made for politics rather than love, this was one parenting tactic that was not always easy to achieve."
This is however not a very easy parenting tactic especially for a young couple who have not known each other very long. It introduces splashes of jealousy from either side as one feels that the child has stolen all the attention. There are a lot of challenges a relationship faces when the child is placed at the top in the packing order in a marriage.
It is very important for children to learn independence at a very young age, allow them to learn by observing the love from their parents and that moulds them into who they become when they are older.
It is easy to get carried away with the joy of having children and not realising that your life has suddenly become child-centered, even the conversations between you and your spouse are only about your children. Sometimes you become naive thinking that you have this figured out, it would not consume you. What Wilton was really saying is that the presence of his little boy shouldn't somehow change his life with his wife. The children will grow and make their own lives leaving you and your spouse struggling to salvage what you neglected for around 15 to 18 years.
That mere sitting next to each other by Wilton and his wife encouraged the connection with his wife but most of all breathing a life of independence in their son's life. It is very important for children to learn independence at a very young age, allow them to learn by observing the love from their parents and that moulds them into who they become when they are older. David Code, family coach, authored To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First and he explains the amount of damage caused on children when their parents are too kid-focused.
I realised that growing up without a father had an effect in how my wife and I viewed the parenting gig and who should come first. We took the growth of our love for granted and assumed it did not consistent revival.