I know big happy families aren’t always happy. There may be times when tensions arise during family gatherings, or even ongoing conflict that affects your familial relationships. But what happens when it’s your family conflicting with your spouse – and you’re caught in the middle? Despite how much you love everyone involved, the answer to who comes first in marriage lies in that word, marriage. Your spouse has to come first over your family.
I’m not talking about your second-twice-removed cousin here; I’m talking about your spouse coming first before your father, your mother, and your brothers and sisters.
Forming A New Family
When you got married, you became your own family unit. It’s you and your spouse now. Many parents fail to “let go,” however, and believe that they still hold the same authority over your life even after you marry. But that’s not what God intended. He has said, definitively, that the person who comes first in marriage is the one that you are married to.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” —Ephesians 5:31
In this case, you’ve left home, and you’ve started a new home for the rest of your life. You and your spouse make the decisions concerning you and your household. No one else can make those decisions, and it’s important to create healthy boundaries that protect the life you two are building together.
Dealing With Family Conflict
So, what do you do when you’re in the dreaded pickle of your parents being upset at your spouse or wanting to have retain some control over your life? You choose your spouse, but you choose them with a God-honoring attitude. You do your best to make peace with your parents and siblings. You remain humble.
Though your hairs may raise a bit here and there at the accusations, just be still and know that He is God. Defend your spouse. Defend them humbly, and know that God brings justice. And then pray. I will always believe the order of God first, spouse second, children third, then parents, family, and believers.
“Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” —Colossians 3:13
Be Firm About Who Comes First In Your Marriage
Don’t forget that you don’t need to subject yourself to a life of walking on eggshells, always trying to please your parents or other immediate family. That’s not how godly relationships work or thrive. Do what you can to make peace, but always know your spouse comes first. Your children depend on a healthy marriage, a godly marriage, one that reflects His faithful love.
Biblical Perspective on Marriage Priorities
If your walk with the Lord has gifted you a spouse, you must relish in this blessing and treat this sacred covenant with the utmost care and attention. If you’re wondering who comes first in a marriage, the Bible clearly states that the only person who comes before your betrothed is God himself, but the next priority is your spouse.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” —Ephesians 5:25
And the same expectation is laid out for the wives.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” —Ephesians 5:22
This shows how the pact formed through marriage solidifies a mutual bond between a couple and further honors God with each person’s commitment to upholding love and respect for one another. It’s not that you don’t care for your family, but you do so once you’ve succeeded in addressing the needs of your spouse first. This should erase the question of “wife or family first?”
Balancing Marriage and Parenthood
Parenthood can be an interesting challenge for any couple, but if your immediate family becomes involved in your kids’ lives even from infancy, the expectations in raising them may need to be discussed. Every couple needs time alone, but the Bible reiterates the responsibility of the parents to raise their child in a Godly manner, and that’s regardless of if there’s outside influence or not.
Alternating parenting roles routinely and balancing your own personal relationship takes a lot of intentionality. Factoring in a child or even children means you’ll need to communicate effectively and create a routine of teamwork with the occasional support system that allows each person to remain balanced in their daily agenda. Raising offspring can obviously serve as a great way to strengthen your bond, but too much interference or unsolicited advice from family can disrupt your approach and confuse younger kids. It’s important to state boundaries in your parenting methods.
The Role of Extended Family
Extended family can be some of your children’s favorite people when growing up, but limiting their exposure and impact will help from conflating beliefs or altering priorities at a given time. And whether it’s in regards to your kids or otherwise, combatting outside critique or commentary from other family members is necessary when upholding your household values. These should be things you have a clear understanding of in your home that don’t need to be compromised.
A lot of harmonious boundaries can be achieved by learning about your spouse’s family over time, but having an open dialogue between the two of you is the more important understanding when considering the outside involvement. It can be easier if your families both come to the table as Christians. In the event there are secular or other interfaith members, however, it requires proper teaching and evaluation to determine which members can be trusted with lofty tasks such as childcare.
Self-Care in Marriage
Just like taking care of your children or family, maintaining an element of self-care is essential for many reasons. Mental and physical well-being should be a priority, so doing the things for yourself, like eating healthy, sleeping enough, and having time to relax, is crucial in getting through daily life. Making sure your spouse has this time and capability is not only helpful but essential. If you can tell they need a break and are able to actively step in and help, you won’t have to ask if they’re grateful because you already know the answer.
No one Googles, “Who comes first, wife or family?” if they’re practicing active care for their partner. If you can see signs of distress or fatigue, it’s never a bad time to step in. This can be a great time to consult family you trust for help as well, but the more your attentiveness to your spouse is on display in times of need, the outside opinion will never be able to question your relationship, thereby instilling even more trust over time.
Communication is Key
Being able to communicate as a couple is paramount, and whether you’re discussing your own interpersonal matters or dealing with family issues, you’ll always want to discuss the current events and come to a mutual understanding regarding whatever is going on. This joint effort shows the ability to work together and be honest with each other. Having open dialogue and being able to hash out things with conflict resolution is a strong skill to demonstrate to others doubting your relationship. Effectively, you can achieve independence as a couple when demonstrating strong teamwork.
Seeking External Guidance
It’s never a bad idea to have outside guidance when it comes to your marriage, and the Bible actually calls for consulting elders, either in your own family or through the church, such as a pastor or other reliable person. If you’re asking yourself, “Should my husband come before my family,” these may be a good resource to bring that type of question to because they’ll have the appropriate Biblical advice. Even when “Wife or family first?” isn’t a debate, it can still be good to seek the trusted word of someone wiser or with more life experience than you.