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Secret to a Happy Marriage: Put Your Spouse First

By Mel Robbins | December 1, 2016

The E! reporter, Giuliana Rancic, said putting her husband first, and the baby second is the secret to her happy marriage. I couldn’t agree more. As you might suspect, a nuclear meltdown happened online as women who put their kids first came out on attack. I was invited to appear on Good Morning America to defend Giuliana.

If you watch the segment, you’ll meet these two female bloggers who basically say the kids always come first and then laugh about where their spouses fall on the list…. “If you asked me what the breakdown was I would say my children, my girlfriends, then my husband. But…don’t tell him that because he doesn’t know it.” And then they laugh hysterically like it’s all a big joke.
Marriage isn’t a joke. It’s something we work hard at and are tremendously proud of. I want it to last a lifetime, which is why I treat it accordingly.

I bet her husband‘s breakdown is the same: my children, my girlfriends and then my wife….but don’t tell her because she doesn’t know it because she’s too busy focusing on her kids, her friends and her self. Marriage isn’t a joke. If you put your spouse last; it’s a tragic, sad affair. My husband Chris and I have been together for 19 years. Like you, our lives are consumed by the logistics of running a household, managing careers and caring for our three kids and a dog. Like you, our lives are impossibly busy. Like you, we love our kids. Our marriage provides the foundation for everything that we’ve built together. It isn’t a joke. It’s something we work hard at and are tremendously proud of. I want it to last a lifetime, which is why I treat it accordingly. If you stop and think about it, it’s the way it should be. You should put your marriage first:

A strong marriage is the healthiest thing you can give your kids. Your kids feel safe and loved when they see two parents who work as a team, take interest in each other, make an effort, display both respect and affection and act like one another’s favorite, even after all these years.

If you put your spouse first, your marriage will last your lifetime. If you want your marriage to last your lifetime, give it the attention and effort it deserves. Your kids will live with you for just two short decades. Putting your marriage on cruise control for 20 years, while you focus on your kids is like falling asleep at the wheel—deadly. When your kids leave, your spouse is the one who’s left. If you’ve made them your last priority (and think it’s funny) they’d be dumb to stay with you.

Spouses aren’t roommates, they’re partners and lovers. When your kids become the center of your universe…your role as wife gets shelved. Slowly you start to feel like a taxi driver, lunch packer and homework checker. You and your spouse become so busy focusing on everything but each other that you drift apart. At first you just feel really busy, but then you start to feel like roommates. You settle into that routine assuming it’s a phase. And you’re right it is a phase:—it’s the beginning of the end. Suddenly the kids are gone—and you can’t remember why you married each other in the first place.

You don’t want to raise obnoxious kids: When you make kids the center of your universe, they turn into adults who think they are the center of the universe.

Don’t you want your kids to grow up and marry someone who puts them first? Of course you do! And, its your job to teach them what it looks like. Show them with your marriage first

Putting your marriage first is actually really easy. All you have to do is to find small ways make your spouse feel cherished. You already do this to your dog, just follow that philosophy: Treat your spouse like the dog, only better: greet them at the door, always be happy to see them (wag your tail), go for walks every day, reward good behavior several times a day with a treat, give lots of physical affection every day (pet the dog) and don’t hold grudges (you don’t punish a dog for weeks on end for pooping once in the house…so don’t be mad at your spouse for something they said last week).

Bring him/her coffee every morning.
Hug, hold hands, often.
Text/flirt throughout the day (reminders “just thinking about you xo”)
Make your bedroom a no kids zone—explain to the kids that it’s “your space.”
Say I love you, in front of the kids, daily.
Plan the week as a family, every Sunday to make logistics a minimum. You and your spouse should manage your family like it’s a team but you’re the star players 

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. A friend of mine calls it “steering the ship”—the family may all be on the same cruise liner—but you and your spouse drive it.

It’s simple stuff if you think about it. Honestly it’s just about your focus. Life is busy. Technology overwhelms us. When you throw in kids, pets, work, girlfriends, etc—you have to prioritize—you can not do it all. Declaring your spouse as your number one priority is the first step, from there it’s pretty simple. My mom and will be married 45 years in June. To this day, I remember when dad would come home, he’d hug mom first and the dog would start barking at their embrace because he was so jealous.

I remember that we’d have to wait to have dinner until he got home from work, no matter how late it was. Even at a young age, I knew that we weren’t waiting because they wanted us to all be together, it was because they wanted to be together. I also remember how he told her he loved her every day and kissed her before he left for work. They modeled a marriage that I wanted. I wanted to be the most important thing in my husband’s life, and vice versa. I never felt a lack of love, just the opposite—I was surrounded by it. I knew my dad loved me, but I knew he loved my mom most. And, that’s how it should be.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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