When things are in alignment, everything runs smoothly. But when one piece of the puzzle is missing— or one moving part of an engine is out of place— the whole system becomes compromised.
My husband and I hit rock bottom in our marriage before we recognized that our priorities were way out of alignment.
Perhaps you feel this in your own marriage right now. Maybe you have no idea how to bring things back into balance. We pray you learn from our broken story.
Meet the Valencias
In 2011, our world crumbled. At that point— 10 years and three children into our marriage— we’d never deeply evaluated priorities in our marriage.
We’d always tried to put God first in our lives and assumed our priorities were in correct order. Things shifted so subtly that we didn’t see the cracks until everything fell apart.
Lines were crossed, vows broken, and an affair was now between us.
Our world crumbled when the truth of the affair came out. Gut-wrenching pain, separation, and divorce proceedings followed. Our marriage was in a hopeless place.
By a miracle from God alone, we found ourselves on the hard road to reconciliation. We learned to name the things that matter. And we committed ourselves to going after them— because we knew our marriage depended on it.
What are priorities and what should they be?
Priorities, simply put, are what you place as most important in your life. You can say something is important in your life, but your life will reflect what you truly prioritize. Where you spend your time and money will quickly reveal your true priorities.
Ideally, your top 3 priorities would be:
- Kids (if you’re a parent)
After that would be work, extended family, friends and yourself. All of these things matter; you just don’t want them to take precedence over the big 3!
Priority 1: God
Almost everyone likes to think they place God first. It sounds so simple: “Yes, God is first in my life.”
Honestly, this can be easy to say and difficult to live out. Your life will reflect whether or not this is true. We thought we had placed God first and done all the “right things,” but the truth came out one small step in the wrong direction at a time.
What does it look like to prioritize God?
Stop and think.
If you don’t spend time with Him, seek Him, read His word, or surrender to His will in your life— is He truly your top priority? Or do you treat Him like a magic genie that you want to appear when you need something, and expect Him to go back into the bottle when your wish is granted? Do you choose not to “bother” Him with the daily burdens of life and instead only come to Him when it’s too much for you to carry?
That is not the relationship that Jesus wants with you! He wants to walk in a daily relationship with you. He wants to hear from you in the mundane, the painful, the joys, and the sorrows.
The most important way you can develop this in your life is to spend time with Him.
Develop the daily discipline of getting into God’s Word and He will transform you! God’s word is living and effective (Hebrews 4:12) and He has given you direct access to Him. Why wouldn’t you go to the Author and Finisher? He is before all things and by Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).
One thing we know: if God isn’t your number one priority, then all the rest is sinking sand. Storms will come! Inevitably life will be overwhelming and hard. If you don’t have a solid foundation then you will crumble under the weight of this world (Matthew 7:24-27).
Priority 2: Your spouse
Your spouse is the second most important thing in your life after God. Never more important because your spouse cannot sustain, satisfy or fulfill you like only God can. And yet your spouse is more important than your children, work, friends, and even self.
Why is your spouse number two?
Your spouse is meant to remain secondary to your relationship with Jesus because it is meant to model Christ’s love for the church. We are His bride and He loves us so much that He laid down His life for us. This is an example that requires lifelong pursuit. We are called to love our spouse like Jesus loves us.
Jesus also called us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and your closest neighbor is your spouse.
Dying to self
This means that you must die to yourself. This isn’t about getting your way, or being fair, or not feeling in love anymore. This is about a covenant relationship you’ve made before God to love your spouse.
This means to love in spite of! Marriage is not a contract that says, “If you don’t do your part, I don’t have to do mine.” No— a covenant says “I will do my part no matter what you do.”
That sounds intense because it is. After all, this is how God loves us! We are called to love like Him, and He loves us despite our failures, fears, and setbacks. Love your spouse well. Choose to do the right thing even if they don’t.
Keep God first and your spouse second and you will love and honor one another as God intended— and that makes a beautiful, fun, intimate, and supportive marriage.
To those with unbelieving spouses
If your husband or wife doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus, you may feel like this is an elusive dream. Maybe you’re the only one committed to improving your marriage.
Remember the power of prayer! God is working even when you don’t see it and He is the God who can do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
In the hard moments, remember that you are representing Jesus just by being born again. Be the hands and feet of Jesus in loving and serving your spouse. Ask Him to do what you cannot (1 Peter 3:1).
He sees you and loves you, friend. He sees and loves your spouse, too.
Priority 3: Kids
The most common shift we see in priorities happens after kids enter the family. Kids often rank above everything else, including the marriage that made them! Why is this?
It’s easy to justify your kids coming first because they require so much time— especially when they’re little.
We found ourselves struggling here. After we had our third child, we felt vastly outnumbered. We put our marriage on the back burner because our kids’ needs seemed to override the needs of our marriage. When we look back now, we see the ripple effect caused by our neglect. It opened a door that should have stayed shut, a door that led where we could not have fathomed.
We understand that you want the very best for your children— but think of the example you’re setting for them, even at a small age, by placing them too high on the priority list.
Prepare them well
When you look back on your own life, do you wish your parents would have prepared you for marriage more? Do you wish they would have been a better example so you wouldn’t have to be figuring out so much now?
We’ve worked with a lot of couples and— unfortunately— most didn’t have good marriage role models. As a result, many have adopted what the world says about marriage vs. what God says.
Prepare your children now for their most important earthly relationship. Show them from a young age HOW to be married well. Break the generational curses, misconceptions, and ungodly principles that define most marriages.
How? Place your spouse as number two in your life and your kids as number three.
It may not always be the amount of time that you can dedicate to your spouse over your children, but it can be in actions, words, and honor.
- Are you going to back up your spouse when it comes to disciplining your kids?
- Are you going to stop and kiss your spouse first when you see each other?
- Are you going to talk to your kids about how much you love your spouse instead of critiquing the things they have or haven’t done?
What you say and what you do in this area matters! And it matters no matter what age your children are. They are watching and they will model the behavior they see.
Priorities matter! Take a good look at yourself and your marriage. Ask God to reveal if there’s anything in your life that needs to be shifted. Take action.
We pray you learn from our very broken road so you don’t have to walk a similar path. Learn from our mistakes and save yourselves the heartache.
There is hope. Especially in those things that seem like they could never be repaired, redeemed, or forgiven. God is moving. Cling to Him above all else and know that He will sustain you through it all.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?