Many parents run from conference to conference, and read book after book, looking for the secret to successful parenting. The first step to raising a family in a God-honoring way, however, is plainly stated in the early chapters of Genesis.

I find it interesting that the first human institution God created was marriage. Its importance is clear in the words of Genesis 1:27, where we see that the relationship between a man and woman actually reflects the image of God. In Genesis 2:18 God declared it was “not good” for man to be alone, and in Genesis 2:24 He calls for a husband and wife to be “one flesh”—a physical, emotional, and spiritual union.

That’s why I emphasize at marriage conferences that the marriage relationship should be paramount in the home, even over parenting. If you are a parent, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a healthy, happy, and stable relationship with your spouse.

The challenge, of course, is that it’s very easy to drift into isolation after you are married. Often a husband and wife begin drifting apart so slowly that they hardly recognize it. Then, after a few years of poor communication, they realize that their love life has grown stale. That’s why many successful-looking marriages aren’t much more than two successful people independently doing their own thing—they aren’t friends and life-partners. And when that happens, the children suffer.

Here are two keys for battling the drift toward staleness and isolation in your marriage:

First, seek God by regularly praying together as a couple. Shortly after we were married in 1972, Barbara and I began praying every day together. I believe this one spiritual discipline has done more for our marriage and family than any other thing we have done. Why? Because it’s tough to pray with someone you’re ticked off at! We have found that we either resolve the problem and pray, or go to sleep angry. So we seek to build bridges of understanding between us and forgive one another before praying.

Second, spend time together to build intimacy and romance into your relationship. When you were dating and first considering marriage, you probably developed many creative ways to woo and attract each other. But after your children arrived, did your romance begin to fizzle?

You may be thinking, “How can you plan romance? It’s supposed to be spontaneous!” Sometimes that is true. But it’s hard to be spontaneous when you have children. Many couples attending our Weekend to Remember conferences say they haven’t been on a date in over a year. Even more shocking is the fact that some haven’t been away alone together overnight since their honeymoon!

How long has it been for you? A great way to avoid or overcome staleness is to get away to spend some time together. Your kids will thank you for it.

Dennis Rainey is the President and CEO of FamilyLife. Dennis can be heard daily as co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program FamilyLife Today. Dennis and Barbara have been married since 1972 and love laughing with their six children and seventeen grandchildren.

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