You’ve just celebrated your 10th wedding anniversary. Congratulations! Many couples don’t make it this far, so you must have learned some degree of communication skills to get you to this point. You are to be commended.
Just about the time you’re feeling pretty good about life–you have a career, your children have arrived and they are growing, adding so much joy to your life–you discover that this is where the problems with this decade usually begin. (If you don’t have any children and desire them, please know that this can also be a very challenging part of this decade. Seeing your friends’ family growing only adds to your pain. We suggest you seek help from others who have faced a similar struggle so you can avoid feeling left out).
No matter how many children you have they demand attention. If you have lots of them it simply multiplies the pressure. We can stretch ourselves too thin during this decade trying to please everyone, saying yes to far too many activities, allowing our kids to be involved in multiple extracurricular activities, leaving no time for us to focus on ourselves or our relationship.
Tom and I had three children in four years. By the time we hit our 10th anniversary they were ages 3, 5 and 7, and I had just begun homeschooling. We were very involved in our local church as well, since we had helped start it four years prior.
Life was good. But had Tom not been intentional in keeping our relationship primary, I could have easily found fulfillment in everything else. Sadly, many couples do this and don’t even realize it because children demand it, and after all they are important, right? They are important, but not to the neglect of your marriage. Your relationship to your spouse will last long after your children are grown and gone–we’ll talk about that in the next decade! So no matter how demanding our children are, we have to set parameters around our marriage and keep it primary above all else.
Challenge of Raising Teens
From year 10 to year 20 much change occurs primarily in the parenting aspect of the family. By our 20th anniversary we had three teenagers a total game changer for us. What had worked in parenting when they were younger no longer worked. They challenged the reasons behind the rules that had long been established. It caused tension and disappointment–tension because we weren’t sure what was the right way to handle things, and disappointment because what we had done didn’t seem to be working.
We sought lots of counsel from our pastor and his wife.
They were a few years ahead of us and shared some things that were extremely helpful. One I remember was that adolescents are”adults with less sense”. 🙂 What they learned when they were little needed to be relearned and understood as a teen. It felt like they were challenging our long established family rules, but in reality they wanted to know the ‘why’ behind it. This was an important part of them growing up and owning responsibility for themselves. But it was hard! It felt like they were being disrespectful. It was challenging not to take their questions personally. Many times I did, and sadly the conflict between our children and me escalated. Tom often played referee trying to help bring peace and understanding back to our home. This caused my love and respect for him to grow. I loved him not only as my husband, but for the way he cared for all of us through the rough years.
Our pastor also shared that it’s during these pre-teen years when a change takes place in regards to raising sons. I couldn’t teach our son how to be a man. He needed more of Tom’s attention, so we shifted roles. Tom would be primarily responsible for his training, and I would become our son’s cheerleader, encouraging him to do what his dad was requiring of him. It worked quite well, and I no longer felt like my son and I were bumping heads.
Raising teens requires lots of long conversations.
Most times these talks would take place late at night when we were half asleep. I’m not sure why, but our kids would talk best after 11p. Needless to say, we had to spend many of our date nights just recounting our current struggles with our kids and trying to find the best solution. It was a full-time job for both of us times three!
This is why during this decade so many couples call it quits. The pressure can mount for even strong marriages. If your marriage was struggling before this season, it will be even harder to endure.
The best advice we can give you?
Seek out real people to help you. In this day and age Pinterest/Facebook/blogs are always ready to give advice, but nothing…nothing…can replace the encouragement received by talking face to face with another couple who have gone through what you’re dealing with. You’ll need someone’s shoulder on which to cry. You’ll need prayer support. You’ll need the strength that God provides as you humble yourself and express your need.
I don’t know where Tom and I would be today if it weren’t for the influence and wisdom of the friends God has blessed us with all these years. Life, Marriage and Family wasn’t meant to be lived out independently of others–we need help. Seek it out intentionally for the good of your marriage and the survival of your children. 🙂