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A Foundation that Handles the Hard Times: Part 3

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By Tammy M. Cardwell

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Most homeschoolers are fully aware of the importance of family; I would dare say it has a lot to do with why most of us homeschool. Unfortunately, in too many instances, homeschoolers are as likely as the next person to forget how vital the husband-wife relationship is to family health, and how much it takes to maintain that relationship.

Willard F. Harley, Jr., in His Needs Her Needs for Parents, recommends that husbands and wives spend fifteen hours a week together Ė communicating, interacting, maintaining and even building their relationships. This may seem a ridiculous amount of time to some, and perhaps completely unattainable to most busy parents, but I see his point. I have experienced, personally, the results of losing touch with your partner.

Young mothers often find themselves completely absorbed by their children and when those mothers homeschool the absorption can be even more pronounced. My husband and I hadnít been homeschooling many years before I woke up one day and realized that the man I was married to was a stranger. I had, quite unintentionally, let homeschooling and our children move too high up in the priority list. I still had God up there as #1, but my husband was no longer in his rightful place; it was shared by two boys and that thing we called homeschool.

Studies have shown that three things everyone desires are love, acceptance, and recognition. When I stopped giving my husband his fair share of these, he sought out companions who would. The companions met the need Iíd been failing to meet, and his relationships with them eventually became more important to him than his relationships with his immediate family. The damage was great, nearly irreparable, and even after I realized what was going on and started doing what I could to work towards making things right, the outlook was bleak. I faced seemingly endless and agonizing months when those few around us who knew what was happening had to have wondered if our marriage wasnít destined to fail completely. It did not, bless God, and we have a great marriage today. Our marriage is strong today specifically because we have learned from such mistakes. I wish Iíd taken time, in those early years, to read such books as His Needs Her Needs for Parents, and put into action the good advice those books can give. While not all published marriage and parenting advice is appropriate for every family, and we must follow Godís leading in all things, learning from other people and their experiences is much better than learning by trial and error on our own.

After God, your spouse must, absolutely must, come first, and he or she cannot be expected to share their spot with your children (or your church or your job or you business or...). One way you can help ensure this doesnít happen is to refuse to be one of those couples that never goes anywhere alone (read: without children). No matter how important family time is, it cannot, absolutely cannot, take the place of one-on-one time with your spouse. Once my husband and I got our mutual act together, understanding that marriage, like a prized rose bush, takes constant care, we made it a habit to have a date night at least every other week.

We went on a date night every week when time and finances permitted. Sometimes we splurged and had dinner out, but other times we talked over ice cream cones or drove thirty minutes into Houston (talking during that thirty-minute drive, of course) to our favorite bookstore or newsstand. We also tried to take at least a couple of weekend trips a year so we could take advantage of several hours of uninterrupted talk time in the car. Today, of course, getting that uninterrupted talk time requires silencing the cell phones.

Talking, truly spending time communicating, is essential to a healthy marriage, and todayís fast-paced, cell-phone-filled lifestyle makes such times seem unattainable, but attain them we must or we risk the most dangerous consequences, even the possibility of a spouse finding a soul mate elsewhere.

It is common, today, to see a husband and wife divorce after their children leave home. In most cases, the reason for divorce seems simply to be that the two have become strangers, that they donít love each other anymore. Through my own experiences, I have learned that this can be remedied if both parties are willing, and can be avoided if both parties invest in their relationship. Love is not merely some elusive emotional state that one falls into or out of. It is a choiceóa choice that requires action. At the lowest point in our marriage, I could have chosen not to love my husband any more, I could have walked out and no one but my children (and God, who certainly knew my share in the responsibility for our problems) would likely have blamed me. I chose to love my husband and to fight for what God had given me in him and our life together. Not surprisingly, the fight began on my knees, in prayer. Prayer is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools (and weapons) that we, as Christians, have available to us.

Pray for your spouse daily, continually lifting them up before the Father and reminding Him of all the great things Heís said about them, all He has promised them. Even if you have been facing challenges and have a hard time ďfeeling loveĒ for that person at first, you will find love growing as you invest time in praying specifically for them. (Of course, this holds true of pretty much anyone we take time to pray for.) Then ask Him what you need to do in order to strengthen your marriage, and to be Jesus to that person. I guarantee that making yourself available to your spouse will be one of the things He requires.

I made myself available to my husband in various ways. I learned to enjoy watching NASCAR races on TV. I learned to look forward to concerts my husband and sons asked me to go to. I even learned to go out to dinner with him as often as possible when he asked, no matter how tired or busy Iíd been, because my relationship with him is more important than my own exhaustion or desire to stay home.

Lest you think Iím the only one who has made changes through the years, let me say that we are both continually growing and there have been many times in our life together when he has made abrupt, astonishing changes seemingly overnight. I should note, also, that every one of these major changes was preceded by a major change in ME.

The best example of this type of occurrence happened before we ever started homeschooling. I was on a trip with friends who knew us well and felt that my husband was lacking in several areas. Of course, they felt this because I had been complaining to them. (And, naturally, when we complain weíre only sharing the bad, not the good.) Listening to them discuss him, though, made me see things a little differently, and in a single instant, between two breaths even, my whole attitude shifted. I remember exactly where I was standing in the hotel room when I was hit with a revelation. (Mind you, I was quite a bit younger in the Lord back then, so my language was less than ideal.) I thought to myself, ďYou know what? Yeah, Iím married to an S.O.B., but hey, if I have to live the rest of my life with him acting like this, I can!Ē I didnít say any of this aloud, of course. A few minutes later we were all out the door and the conversation was forgotten, BUT.

I came home to a different man, a man who made me the envy of every woman I knew by bringing me breakfast in bed every Saturday morning for months. I cannot help but wonder how long God had been waiting on me to stop bellyaching, to change my own attitudes towards my husband so that He could work changes in my husband. How long had I been holding things back by my criticizing every bad thing I saw instead of focusing on his positive traits and trusting God with the rest? Too long, Iím sure. Like I said, Iíve learned many things from my many mistakes. I also have to admit that I necessarily keep relearning certain lessons, because there are still many things I donít get quite right, but I continue to work at it.

A strong marriage makes a strong family, one that has what it takes to meet lifeís challenges and come out victorious. Likewise, a weak marriage weakens the family, leaving it open to attack. If you want a foundation that handles the hard times, put your marriage first by keeping your spouse in second place after God. With these first two priorities in their proper order, the rest fall into place much more easily.

Copyright ©  2005 Eclectic Homeschool Association

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