The recent statement by "E! News" host Guiliana Rancic that she put her marriage before her child set off a firestorm of controversy. A TodayShow.com poll showed that, out of 8,000 surveyed, 47 percent put their marriage first and 53 percent put their children first.
"Once children enter into the picture, the message from the culture is that your children should come first," said Gena Ellis, a parenting educator at First Things First. "However, research actually shows that putting your marriage first benefits children. A child-centered marriage is the most at risk for distress."
In response to criticism, Rancic released this follow-up statement, "Your relationship is the first example your child learns from, and we will do everything we can to show our child how much we love, respect and are devoted to one another."
"Rancic is right on target," said Ellis. "When couples place priority on keeping their marriage healthy and strong, children feel a sense of security. [Putting] kids in front of everything, including themselves, is a recipe for disaster. If your marriage is strong, your whole family will be strong; your life will be more peaceful; you'll be a better parent, and you'll have a lot more fun!"
Ellis offers these helpful tips for taking care of your marriage.
*Time together is a must. It might be early in the morning or in the evening after you have put the children to bed or -- even better -- a regularly scheduled date night. This is the hardest part because the tyranny of the urgent typically reigns. Some parents have formed a co-op where they take turns taking care of each other's children in order to allow for couple time. Staying connected is critical.
* Ditch the guilt. Parents often express guilt about taking time out for themselves. You cannot pass on what you do not possess. If you are emotionally spent, it is more challenging to nurture your marriage and your children.
* Choose your battles. It is easy to fight over silly things that truly will not matter 24 hours from now. Before you gear up for battle, ask yourself: Is really a big deal? If the answer is "no," let it go.
* Look for the good and overlook the bad. When you are tired and stressed, it is easy to focus on your spouse's shortcomings. Train your mind to look for the good.
* Say it out loud. Life often gets so crazy that you might think, "She sure looks pretty in that outfit," or "I love the way he plays with our children," but those thoughts never come out of your mouth. Think about how you feel when you receive a compliment. They don't cost a dime. The goal is to make more positive deposits into your marriage relationship.
A healthy, vibrant marriage is the foundation for a strong family.
Contact Julie Baumgardner at firstname.lastname@example.org.