Once you are married, you must reprioritize every relationship in your life to be subordinate to the unique and exclusive relationship with your spouse. If you fail to transition the relational priority to your spouse and instead maintain it with your initial family, longstanding friendships, or vocational connections, your marriage will experience significant trouble. This shift doesn’t mean that you end all other relationships, but you must reprioritize them.
Many couples never experience the unique type of intimacy that marriage promises due to another relationship being in an unhealthy position.
The relationship might even be a good one, but, if it remains in the wrong position, it becomes a detriment to the marriage. Your spouse must become the first go-to in all major situations or prepare for a jealous distrust to infest your relationship.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.Genesis 2:24
What makes this challenging for a couple, especially at first, is that your family has hopefully been your go-to in times of need. Whether it was emotional support, recreational activity, sounding board, wise advice, nursing support, or automotive issues, you most likely went to your family as your first line of defense. When seeking your family’s support has been your default for your entire life up to this point, it is a seismic shift to transfer that responsibility to your new roommate of which you are unsure if he or she is ready and capable to handle your unexpected issues.
If you call your dad to address your flat tire before alerting your spouse, it can cause a rise in insecurity. If your mom knows how to take you by the side and point you in a different direction, only to inform your spouse later, you have a power struggle on your hands. If your default call on a bad day at work is still your sibling, that robs your marriage of learning how to care for one another.
Once again, it’s not about detachment, but it is about intimacy. The healthiest position you can have with your family is if they take a backseat to your spouse. The same is true for any other friend or associate. Connect with others. Draw strength from others. Lean on others. But do not do any of those things to the exclusion of your spouse.
If you continually workaround relying on your spouse, do not be surprised if you feel like a necessary connection is missing.
One way to ensure this reprioritizing can happen is by getting ahead of all other relationships. Many engaged and newlywed couples experience unnecessary conflict because one is surprised by an outside question before it has become a point of conversation within the relationship. Your other relationships will learn to corner you with a suggestion or a question when you are unaccompanied by your spouse and the conflict increases. If you are unable to have a loving backbone to help others see the order of relationships, you will experience a marriage that continually tells your spouse to take the backseat to other relationships.
Your decisions as a couple must be communicated as singular directions to protect against outside division.
If you can beat the rush from others’ expectations, ensure that you never communicate to others that you would do a certain something but your spouse wouldn’t like it. Even if you think the reaction of your spouse is unverified, you present it as a joint decision of which you approve and agree.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.