Remember How It All Began

married couple kissing child who is between them
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The child-centered home is easy to spot. The parents spend most of the day meeting needs, entertaining, coordinating activities and doing anything else they deem necessary to ensure their children's success. Driven by a vague sense of guilt, these parents often walk on eggshells around their kids. We call it "perma-guilt," a nagging inner voice constantly telling parents that they should play with the kids every time they ask. They may even skip a date that has been on the calendar for weeks if the kids mount a strong enough resistance. Heaven forbid Mom and Dad go on a weekend getaway by themselves.

The child-centered home leaves little room for nurturing a marriage. It creates a vacuum of intimacy, turning great parents into lousy lovers.

You might know something of the kid-centered home if you feel like a cook, maid and taxi driver, or you run your home like a hotel. You might be a great parent but a lousy lover if your children sleep in your bed more than you do, or if you think you don't even need a spouse to have a good marriage. If your idea of a date night is watching your kids on the Chick-fil-A playground, then perhaps it's time to invest a little more in your marriage.

God wants you to delight in your spouse. This is as important for your kids as it is for your marriage. Few things prepare your children for success more than growing up with a mom and dad who thoroughly enjoy each other. It gives your children a deep sense of security to know that the two most important people in their lives are madly in love with one another. They need you and your spouse to be great parents and great lovers.

But remember, there is more to becoming a great lover than just having great sex. A great lover knows how to play hard, laugh more and touch often.

Play hard

When you were a kid, play came naturally. As you grew up, you most likely drifted away from play and moved toward responsibility. Have duty and responsibility trumped fun in your marriage? The key is to balance play with duty and responsibility.

Keep a date night reserved for playtime every week. And schedule a weekend getaway at least once a year. If you are strapped for cash, book a local hotel for two nights, then drop the kids off at Grandma's or at a friend's house. Revisit some of the places you frequented on your first dates. Reminisce with your spouse about your favorite restaurants, past vacations, honeymoon spot, and so on. Play was easy when you were dating and first married. Rekindle your marriage with some of that fun.

Laugh more

Your marriage could also benefit from a little more laughter to reduce stress and create a bond with the one you love. Proverbs 17:22 teaches us that "a joyful heart is good medicine." Nineteenth-century preacher Henry Ward Beecher said, "A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs — jolted by every pebble in the road. Good humor makes all things tolerable."

Make it part of your mission in life to laugh with your spouse. Surprise your spouse by breaking into a dance or belting out a song with no warning. Anything that takes you out of your comfort zone will usually do the trick. Not taking yourself so seriously is the first step toward bringing a dose of laughter into your marriage.

Have you ever noticed that spontaneous laughter is contagious? You walk into a room where people are laughing, and it immediately brings a smile to your face, even though you don't have a clue what started it. That is the power of laughter.

Touch often

Adding meaningful touch to play and laughter is the final spark that reignites a marriage lost to the kid-centered home. Your spouse needs to be touched at least 12 times a day. Don't stand there and go, "1-2-3-4-5 . . ." These touches are not to be given all at once. Spread them out from morning to night. Think through the variety of touches available to you, such as nonsexual touches, hugs, hand-holding and kisses.

Nonsexual touching includes a hand on the shoulder as you say, "Thank you for dinner" or "I can't wait to get back home tonight." It can also be a gentle touch on the small of the back, a soft pat as you walk by or your hand on the leg while sitting on the couch.

Can you remember the last time you and your spouse hugged for more than 30 seconds? A midday hug communicates to your lover that things are good and you can relax together. It also can communicate that you are not in a rush and you have nowhere else you'd rather be.

And don't forget about holding hands. The next time you're in the car or watching a movie together, reach for your lover's hand. It's a strong nonverbal way to say, "I love you" and speaks volumes to the kids about your commitment.

Or how about a lengthy, passionate kiss with your spouse . . . outside the bedroom. Kisses can sometimes feel like meal prayers — a bit rushed, obligatory and lacking in relationship. Slow down and share a smooch like it could be your last. Surprise your lover tonight and plant one on him or her. If your kids are in the room during this kissing scene, all the better.

Taking back your life and marriage from the kid-centered home is one of the most fulfilling endeavors you can undertake and one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Resolve today to invite more play, laughter and touch into your relationship. You can fully enjoy the person you married and chose to have kids with. You can be a great parent . . . and a great lover!

Adapted from Great Parents, Lousy Lovers by Dr. Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham. Copyright © 2010 by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers.
This article first appeared in the March/April 2011 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine.
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Copyright © 2010 by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. From the Focus on the Family website at

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