Making Your Husband a Priority
About the Guest
Are you sacrificing your marriage on the altar of good parenting? Wife and mother of seven Heidi St. John talks about the importance of nurturing your marriage through the child-rearing years. Heidi recalls the romance erosion that happened in her own marriage, and remembers the pivotal day when her husband, Jay, told her he missed her. Heidi reminds mothers not to neglect their marriages and to set aside time each day to reconnect with their spouses.
Are you sacrificing your marriage on the altar of good parenting?
Making Your Husband a Priority
Bob: You want to do something really wonderful for your kids today? Get a babysitter and go on a date, as husband and wife. Here’s Heidi St. John.
Heidi: I use the analogy all the time because my husband and I fly frequently. They’ll say, “If the oxygen mask falls from the ceiling, secure it on your face before assisting a younger child.” That’s because, if something happens to the grown-up, the child’s a goner anyway. So I tell moms, “It’s the same thing. Breathe oxygen into your marriage before you go to nurture your children because, if your marriage fails, your children are going to suffer by default! They are going to suffer by default.” I think if moms can get a vision for what God is doing in their marriage—because it’s generations, ahead, that we’re looking at—that makes a difference. That makes an impact.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. You know how important it is to nurture your kids; right? What about nurturing your marriage? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Okay, I’m going to ask you an embarrassing question; okay?
Dennis: That’s never stopped you in the past. [Laughter] Why would you ask me if it’s okay?
Bob: You’ve been married for four decades; right?
Dennis: That’s correct.
Bob: Four decades. Which was the most romantic decade of your marriage?
Dennis: The current one.
Bob: Okay, good. That’s a good answer. Here’s a second question. Which was the least romantic decade of your marriage? Did you have one where it was kind of a little sketchy—a little slow? Decade one: zero to ten years? Decade two—?
Dennis: You know—I’m trying to remember whether it was when we raised teenagers or toddlers.
Dennis: Both had their stress points.
Bob: Had some challenges?
Dennis: I’m going to go for teenagers. I’m voting on teenagers.
Bob: You’re basically saying, “No kids in the home, it worked out okay—on either end. Add kids to the equation—”
Dennis: No, no, no. I didn’t say that. The first ten years of our lives—we had six kids in ten years—so, not quite all six in the first decade—but close. So, we—
Bob: Okay, so, something was working there.
Dennis: There was romance. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, for those of you who need a little romance, we have an expert with us, here, in the studio. Heidi St. John joins us on FamilyLife Today. Heidi, welcome to the broadcast.
Heidi: Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Dennis: Heidi has been a homeschool mom for a number of years and the wife of Jay since 1989. They have seven children. She’s written a book about romance. It’s called The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance. Here’s what I want you to talk to—just right out of the gate. We’re not just talking to homeschool moms, now. We’re talking to all busy moms.
Heidi: That’s right, absolutely.
Dennis: Where is the battle occurring when it comes to romance?
Heidi: From what I’m seeing, I think the battle is being waged on the parenting home front because you have kids. You go from dating—it’s kind of what you were just saying. You go from being newlyweds—you’re enjoying life—and all of a sudden, you have a baby in your home and, then, they turn into toddlers.
I think you’re right about the teenage gig because they actually know what’s going on. Jay is always like, “Man, [indecipherable] every time the door clicks.” The kids are like, “Hey! We know what you’re doing in there.” They’re on to you; right? And then, even at home, you’re never alone. So, I think it is parenting. Moms tend to sacrifice their marriage on the altar of good parenting, thinking that they need to focus on their kids, while they’re nurturing their children.
Bob: Hang on! Say that again. Moms tend to what?
Heidi: They tend to sacrifice their marriages on the altar of good parenting. What we’re trying to do is bring it back around and say, “Hey, when you’re raising children at home, there has never been a more important time to focus on your marriage. Nurture your marriage through the child-raising years.” In particular, I wrote about—through the homeschooled years—but you’re absolutely right. Any mom, with children at home—we need to focus on our marriages.
Dennis: A number of years ago, we used to have an arena event called Rekindling the Romance®. I’ll never forget a quote that came out of one of the attendees, who came to one of those events. We had anywhere from ten to 15 thousand people attending these things. One woman wrote—she said, “First, it was our romance that gave us our children. Then, our children took our romance.”
Dennis: That can happen in a marriage. It can become child-centric. We can allow the relationship to revolve around the children and not invest in our marriage.
Bob: Did you experience this romance erosion, as a couple, after your first child was born?
Heidi: You know, I don’t think it was so much after the first child—I think, after the second one. My husband was a pastor. He spent 17 years in full-time pastorate. I think it was a mixture of the children coming quickly and, then, responsibilities at the church kind of taking priority. I wrote about it in the book. At one point—I think we only had four children at the time—my husband and I went out for breakfast.
He said, “I miss you. I miss you.” I said, “What are you talking about? What do you mean you miss me? I’m a virtual prisoner in our home! I’m there when you come home from work. I’m crock pot and curriculum from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed.” He said, “That’s what I mean. I just miss you. We don’t dream together anymore. We’re not talking about our future. We’re talking about what’s going on at the church. We’re talking about what’s happening with the kids, but we’re not dreaming together anymore.”
It was a tremendous wake-up call for me because I come from a family of divorce. My parents are divorced. Many of my siblings are divorced. My grandparents, on my father’s side, are divorced. I remember hearing similar conversations. It was like this little echo that I heard in my head—of a conversation that my parents had around the dinner table—when I was a kid. Just recognizing that your marriages don’t fall apart overnight—they erode, over time. So, that was a wake-up call for us.
Dennis: What Jay did was—he got real.
Heidi: That’s right.
Dennis: He got real with you. You write about, in your book, how you think there’s a lot of pretending that occurs, within the Christian community.
Heidi: Yes, because we want to look good; right? We want to look good. If there’s one place it’s not safe to be real, it’s in the church. It’s in the Christian community because, heaven forbid, we should say, “We’re struggling in our marriages;” or, “We’re dealing with pornography, in our home;” or, “We haven’t had a date in three years;” and, “I don’t know how to talk to my husband anymore,” because, then, somebody could come up to you and say, “Well, aren’t you reading your Bible? Aren’t you involved in a women’s Bible study?”
We skip over what’s really happening, and we go straight to the guilt factor. Rather than dig into it, a lot of moms will just gloss over it and will pretend like everything is all right until it’s too late to bridge the gap between the husband and the wife. We’re trying to encourage moms, “Get real! Start talking about it.”
Dennis: Okay, so back to the breakfast. Jay says, “I miss you.” You go, “Hey, I’ve been here!”
Heidi: Right, yes.
Dennis: “I’m physically present.”
Heidi: Yes, that’s right; that’s right.
Dennis: But he, ultimately, got your attention.
Heidi: He got my attention in the way that he did it. I love my husband so much because he’s so tender with me. He could see—you know—moms are guilt magnets; right? It generally doesn’t take a whole lot to heap a bunch of guilt on a mom. He just said, “This isn’t me saying I don’t love you. This is me saying I want to get back what we had. I want to get back to that place where we’re enjoying our time together again.”
He sort of—I call it the vortex. In the book, I call it the homeschool vortex; but it could be a parenting vortex. It could be any kind of a vortex. I had, literally, fallen in—to the point I couldn’t see out anymore. For me, my life had become all about making sure dinner was on the table, making sure that the kids were in bed at a decent hour, and homeschooling, and all those things; but I was neglecting our marriage. Frankly, it gave me an opportunity to say to him, “Listen, while we’re on the topic, the road goes both ways. I miss you, too. You’re going to work at 8:00 in the morning. You’re coming home for lunch, real quick. Then, you go back to the church. Then, you come home for a quick bite to eat. Then, you go back to the church.”
At that point, we made a covenant, between the two of us, that we would be committed to nurturing our marriage—no matter what—so our kids know that, “Dad—in my life—your father is the priority relationship. If I have to choose, I’m going to choose him.” They know that, and it sets the tone in our home.
Bob: I remember hearing a speaker, years ago, who was talking about this issue of the priority relationship. He said, “I have told my boys” he said, ‘If we were out on a lake together’ and he said—
Bob: ‘If the boat flipped over,’ he said, ‘I want you to know what I would do.’ He said, ‘First thing I’d do is I’d get that boat upright. Then, I’d get your mom; and I would get her in the boat.’ He said, ‘Then, I would dry her off. Then, I’d see if she needed some lemonade.’ He said, ‘I’d make sure she was okay,’ and he said, ‘Then, I’d look back in the water. If you were still flailing, I’d come in after you.’
He said, “They were laughing when I was telling them this—it wasn’t—” but he said, “I wanted them to understand, ‘Where you fit into the....’” Kids aren’t threatened by that. That doesn’t cause them to fear or feel insecure. It causes them to feel more secure when they know, “We come after Mom and Dad’s relationship.”
Heidi: That’s absolutely right. All you have to do is look around and see the devastating impact that divorce has on families. I use the analogy all the time because my husband and I fly frequently. They’ll say, “If the oxygen mask falls from the ceiling, secure it on your face before assisting a younger child.” That’s because if something happens to the grown-up, the child’s a goner anyway.
I tell moms, “It’s the same thing! Breathe oxygen into your marriage before you go to nurture your children because, if your marriage fails, your children are going to suffer by default! They are going to suffer by default.” I think, if moms can get a vision for what God’s doing in their marriage—because it’s so much bigger than what we see right now—it is generations, ahead, that we’re looking at—that makes a difference. That makes an impact.
Dennis: Let’s talk about how you nurture and you bring that oxygen that nourishes the marriage relationship. For Barbara and me—this is back to your question, Bob, of, “How did we maintain a sense of romance, in the midst of raising six kids?” We had a standing date night on Sunday night. We didn’t hit five out of five or four out of four in a month, but we’d hit three out of four or four out of five or three out of five. If we didn’t go—if we missed say, three in a row, our kids would come to us and say, “Hey, you and Mom—you need to go on a date.”
Bob: The waitress at the restaurant started worrying about you, too, when you weren’t showing up.
Dennis: Yes, we went to the same—we were in a horrible rut. [Laughter] This waitress was from Bosnia. If we didn’t show for a few weeks, she’d go, “I was concerned about you guys. What happened to you?” So, for you and Jay, how did you begin to build into your marriage relationship? I’m not talking about both of you. I’m talking about, “What did you do, as a mom?”
Heidi: Boy, I tell you, I redirected my focus. That was the first thing I did. I just started making Jay a priority. We’ve had these conversations about, “I’m too tired when I go to bed at night.” He wants to be intimate; and I’m just like, “Listen, if one more person asks me for one more thing, I’m going to come unhinged!” That’s what I told him, “You want to see me lose it? Just ask me for one more thing tonight, and that’s what’s going to happen!” He’d be like, “Alrighty, then! I wonder what’s on television.”
Dennis: There are a few men, right now, nodding their heads. “I’ve heard that!”
Bob: “Been there; heard that.”
Dennis: “I’ve heard that lecture before.”
Heidi: Right. There’s a few moms going, “Preach it, sister!” That’s the reality, when you’re home with little people, all day long. They’re tugging at you, and they want something every five minutes. When the kids go to bed, you’re thinking, “Hallelujah! I’m going to try to recharge my batteries.”
Dennis: Okay, I want to remind you the question was, “How did you nourish your relationship?” because it wasn’t saying, “No,” to him.
Heidi: No. What happened was—I had to redirect my thinking. This was the pattern of thinking that I was in— so, in the course of the day, when I found myself getting tired, and I knew, “Jay’s going to come home; and I’m not going to have anything left for him—maybe, not even a conversation,” — that’s when I would start to go, “It’s time for the kids to have a nap. Maybe, I need to be done with homeschooling for the day. Maybe, we need to take a walk.” I was putting a little bit more energy into making sure I wasn’t absolutely flat-out spent when he came home. That was the first thing that I did—was just start paying more attention to what I was doing, as a wife, throughout my day.
Bob: But Heidi, there are moms who are saying, “My kids won’t let me do that. They are always there, always asking, always demanding. If I neglect them, what kind of mom will I be?”
Heidi: Wow. It’s not neglect, though; see? I think that’s where we’re missing it. It’s not neglect. It’s training the children. For me—this is funny—my mom—there were seven children in my family. Mom used to put the kids to bed at 7:00. I remember asking her, “Why are the kids going to bed at 7:00? They’re not even tired.” She’d be like, “I don’t care if the kids aren’t tired. I’m tired of the kids.” Really, that’s kind of what sort of—I realized, “I’ve got to have something left for my husband, at the end of the day.”
We started having a regular date night. I started making time, throughout the day, to be thinking about him. I started calling him at work to say, “How are you doing? I’m excited we’re going to go out tonight.” The first couple of times that we tried to go out—because he was a pastor, we didn’t really have a babysitting budget—I was afraid to leave the kids. I think Savannah, our oldest, would have been maybe 11, at the time.
Jay was like, “I really want to go out.” Well, we’re like, “Where are we going to go?” We started renting movies and sitting the kids down, in front of movies. I would make dinner upstairs. It was time for us to reconnect—to say, “Hey! How was your day?” —and really mean it, instead of glossing over what was happening. Our kids got used to seeing the two of us take time for each other. That’s been huge for us, over the years.
I think you’re right. It’s not four out of four or five out of five, but it’s definitely keeping your finger on the pulse of your relationship. I think, for us, that was crucial because I hadn’t been doing that. I hadn’t been nurturing that and listening. We do it with our kids by default; but we don’t do it, necessarily, by default, with our marriages. I was a lot more in tune with how Jay was doing, and he was a lot more in tune with how I was doing. It was a conversation that we began to have.
Dennis: One of the things that Barbara did—just back to what you were talking about—about getting some space and some personal time because every mom needs that. She would teach the kids how to entertain themselves by reading a book, by having a Quiet Time—just a time to not be entertained with some kind of video, some kind of something—just a time for the soul to be able to think and to not constantly be stimulated.
I think a lot of parents today almost kind of wince at hearing us talk about this—feeling like they’re under compulsion and under guilt to have to do this with their kids. I think this generation of young families is into all kinds of comparison with their friends, and neighbors, and all. It’s a trap.
Heidi: It is a trap. That’s right.
Dennis: It really is a trap. You have to find a way to invest in your life and your marriage. I’m not talking about being neglectful of your children, either.
Heidi: I think it’s creating habits. They’re watching you; right? Whatever bad habits they see me develop with Jay, they’re likely to take those into their own marriages. I love what Barbara was doing with your kids. We’ve done kind of a similar thing in our house, especially when the older ones were younger. We did something called Quiet Time. They didn’t need a nap anymore, but I needed a break. So, from 2:00 to 3:00, every day, everybody had—it was Quiet Time. It was quiet in our house. The toddler would be sleeping, the baby would be taking her nap, but the older kids went to separate places in the house because, if they were together, then, it wasn’t quiet.
I said, “You can take a nap if you want to. You can write a letter. You could read a book. Here’s a stack of stuff from the library, but I don’t want to see or hear from you until 3:00.” It was wonderful. We did that for probably four years, straight. It was a wonderful time because I had a chance to kind of recharge, and the kids learned to be quiet.
Bob: What did you do from 2:00 to 3:00, while the kids were in their rooms?
Heidi: I love to write. For me, I did a lot of journaling. In fact, I just released a journal for moms. I love journaling. For me, it was a way to just reflect and to pour out my heart, onto paper. I did a lot of writing. I’ll be honest—sometimes, I would take a nap. [Laughter] Sometimes, I needed to take a shower. That was my time for me. It really—it was pivotal for me, at home, in learning how to manage my days. I think the key is just finding out how to manage your days and listen to the Spirit.
I love what you said about not comparing yourself to other people because I might look at Susie Homemaker, down the street, who seems like she’s got it all together, all the time, and her kitchen’s never dirty, and her kids never cry, and no one ever whines or back-talks. But I’m not living with her. I’m just seeing a perceived image of what her life is like. Then, I take that on myself, instead of going to the Lord, and to my husband, and saying, “Hey, what does it look like for our family? What do we need to do?”
Dennis: Yes, “What do we need?”
Bob: Let me ask you about that time with the Lord because, in the midst of all you have going on, where do you carve that out and how do you make that happen? How much of a priority is that?
Heidi: Oh, I love that question! Like I told you, I’m a guilt magnet. I think a lot of moms are. Part of it is comparison. I used to have a lot of Quiet Time. Then, the kids came along; and I couldn’t do it anymore. I remember one morning—the Northwest is gorgeous in the spring—and I had gone out at 4:00 in the morning because I couldn’t sleep. I had just so much on my mind. I felt so far from the Lord.
I watched the sun come up, over Mount St. Helens. I thought the Lord was saying, “I’ve been here. You’re saying that you can’t have Quiet Time with me anymore because of your kids, but I love your kids! I gave your kids to you. Enjoy Me, with your kids.” The Lord was saying, “Show your kids what it looks like to spend time with Me. I’m not distracted by your seven-year-old playing Legos on the floor. I don’t care if the baby’s crying. I’m good with it—so show your kids what it means to spend time with Me.”
What I started doing was going back to what I had done when they were little, or even before I had kids, and just reading a passage, every day, with the kids. I gave the older kids just a steno pad. I gave the younger ones something to color on. I said, “Hey, Mom’s going to read, from a children’s Bible.” That’s what we did. We started in Genesis. We went all the way through it.
I’m telling you, God spoke to my kids. I felt like, for me, at that point, it was the Lord saying, “There’s no such thing as Quiet Time in your life right now. I get it, and I’m okay with it. Let’s look at a new kind of Quiet Time. Let’s do it with your kids.” That’s what we did, and it became, and still is—that’s what we do, almost every day, with our kids—is just sit down, even for just 10 minutes, and we do it together—rather than me trying to carve out time alone because you can’t always do that.
Dennis: It seems like an oxymoron to say you’re going to have a Quiet Time with your kids.
Heidi: That’s right, yes!
Dennis: But I like the picture of that because of what you’ve just described—of God giving us children. There’s a season. “Okay, this season is different.”
Heidi: It’s noisy!
Dennis: It is noisy. It’s full of activity. Can you see God, in the midst of the season, and can you make sure, in the midst of that, that you not only don’t miss God, but you don’t miss your spouse. As I was preparing for our interview and our time together, I thought of Romans, Chapter 12, verse 9. It says, very simply, “Let love be genuine.”
We talked about Christians can be pretenders. They can pretend everything’s okay.
There are some listeners, right now, who are pretending their marriage is not only okay, it’s great! They know it’s in the tank—they are in trouble.
We didn’t get a chance to talk about this, Heidi; but one of the things that Barbara and I built into our marriage, all the way through raising our kids, was a getaway. We would have a two- or three-night getaway from the kids, a couple of times a year. I’m convinced—for these young couples, today, raising families—one of the best things they can do for their kids is to get away from their kids and go to a Weekend to Remember®.
Bob: Hang on. Barbara did not feel like that was a great idea, with kids at home.
Dennis: She didn’t, initially. She didn’t, initially; but I’m going to tell you something. At the end of the second day, she was starting to decompress. She was starting to feel the aliveness of a real relationship with me—back to, “Let love be genuine.” She didn’t have to be convinced of needing to get away after we had done two or three of these things because she experienced the benefits of it.
Bob: And you’re talking about either a personal retreat—but you started to mention the Weekend to Remember—the weekend that we put together, for couples.
Dennis: I don’t know of a better weekend, for couples, to get away because it’s biblical, it’s practical, and you’re going to come out on Sunday afternoon—when it’s done, after lunch—you’re going to come out with a lexicon—like a dictionary of common words that you both understand what they mean about how to build your marriage, how to make your family go the distance, and how to be raising your kids, off the same song sheet.
I think a lot of families today are struggling because the husband has a song sheet and his wife has a different one. It’s just symbolic of their marriage. They’re not together. They’re not singing off the same song sheet. So, how, in the world, could you have harmony?
Bob: We have a couple dozen of the Weekends to Remember happening this month, in cities, all across the country. If folks have never been, they really need to get away to one of these fun, romantic weekends away, where, together, you get coached, and you get refreshed. You get a great weekend experience, as husband and wife, at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
In fact, my son and his new wife—they’ve been married for about four or five months now—they’re going to a Weekend to Remember,this month, in Colorado. If you’d like to find out if there’s a Weekend to Remember happening in a city near where you live, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. Click on the link, there, for the Weekend to Remember. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link for the Weekend to Remember.
You’ll also find information about Heidi St. John’s book, The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to order a copy of the book, or call to request it at 1-800-FL-TODAY: 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
It’s interesting that we’re talking about busyness and being overwhelmed. Of course, this is the time of year when that starts to kick in for us, as families, as we head toward Thanksgiving, and then toward Christmas. Life just gets busy, and relationships can take a back seat to busyness in the midst of this season. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to address this subject, as we head into this season of the year, so that we can keep our focus on what ought to be the most important things we’re doing throughout our lives.
That’s what we’re here for, at FamilyLife Today. We want to provide practical, biblical help for marriages and families so that every home can become a godly home. That’s our goal, and that’s the mission that we’re committed to. We want to thank those of you who share that mission with us and who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your partnership. We’re grateful for your donations. That’s what keeps us on the air, keeps our website up and running, keeps all that we’re doing, here, at FamilyLife Today, going on. Your support makes it all possible.
This week, if you can make a donation to support us, we’d like to send you a couple of CDs—a conversation we had with author and speaker, Shaunti Feldhahn, who wrote a book called For Women Only. It’s a book about what men think, what’s important to men, understanding what’s going on in the mind and the heart of your husband. If you’d like to receive the CDs, go online and make a donation at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Fill out the online donation form. We’ll send you the CDs as our thank-you gift; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone. Again, we’re happy to send you the CDs. Just request them when you call. Ask for the CDs, For Women Only; and we’ll get them out to you.
And be sure to join us back here again tomorrow. Heidi St. John is going to be here again. We’re going to continue to talk about how you make your marriage relationship a priority, with everything else you have going on, around the house. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back again tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
Copyright © 2012 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.