The next time you need a little excitement at your house, try this: Kiss your spouse in front of your kids. I don’t mean the I’m-running-out-the-door-and-I’m-already-late kiss that we often give. I mean a meaningful kiss. Doesn’t need to be racy. Just deliberate.
My kids react violently: “AWWW… Stop! My eyes, my eyes!” and they scamper away at top speed. But I’ve also noticed a funny thing. After the excitement dies down, the younger ones will often say “Do it again!” Probably because they enjoy the group dynamic of all of us laughing together, but they request an encore nevertheless.
When you’re ready to step up your game, let them catch you slow-dancing in the living room. They may not recognize it as dancing since it’s such a far cry from the dancing they are familiar with, but let them see it anyway. “Ewwww! What in the world is that? You guys are so old! Somebody gouge my eyes out!”
They’ll really flip when they see you get dressed up for a night out together. Without them. “You’re going where? To do what? Well what are we supposed to do? You’re just gonna leave us here??”
We, of course, get a laugh when our kids begin all the theatrics. Better than that, our kids have no idea that we’re waging a crusade for marriage.
We want them to know with certainty that marriage isn’t a spectator sport. It doesn’t just happen, and love alone isn’t enough to sustain it. It demands effort on days that you don’t have effort to give and an understanding that there may be days you don’t even like each other. It functions best when it’s nurtured and will likely die if it isn’t.
We were fortunate when we were newly married to hear a seasoned couple share these lessons, and the stories stuck with us. When we hit the rough spots in marriage, we at least had the knowledge that we weren’t the only ones. Ironically, if we could all sit together and share stories, we’d probably find more similarities than differences.
The points I’m making are many, not the least of which is this: set your children up for success in marriage. Prepare them for the effort and selflessness marriage requires. Teach them that love isn’t a feeling that you feel, but a choice that you make. Don’t believe me? Try to conjure up the one incident that would cause you to stop loving your child. Just one…. Anything…
Can’t do it? That’s because we love our children unconditionally. No strings attached. If they committed a crime, we’d be angry, but we’d visit them in jail. If they betrayed us, we’d be hurt, but we’d work to forgive. Now imagine your spouse committed the same offenses…
Choose to love your spouse unconditionally. Choose to work at your marriage, whether you feel like it or not.
Kiss your husband, dance with your wife, and torment your kids with a regular date night. When your marriage is healthy, your family will thrive. Your kids will see what a real marriage looks like instead of the nonsensical versions Hollywood parades before them. Get your spouse in on the deal, and have fun with it. It may feel strange at first, but you’ll be glad you did.
The theatrics will be Oscar-worthy, and the payoff will be immeasurable.