Secret to a Happy Marriage: Put Your Spouse First

Secret To A Happy Marriage Put Your Spouse First 1024x683

The E! reporter, Giuliana Rancic, said putting her husband first, and the baby second is the secret to her happy marriage. I couldn’t agree more. As you might suspect, a nuclear meltdown happened online as women who put their kids first came out on attack. I was invited to appear on Good Morning America to defend Giuliana.

If you watch the segment, you’ll meet these two female bloggers who basically say the kids always come first and then laugh about where their spouses fall on the list…. “If you asked me what the breakdown was I would say my children, my girlfriends, then my husband. But…don’t tell him that because he doesn’t know it.”  And then they laugh hysterically like it’s all a big joke.

Marriage isn’t a joke. It’s something we work hard at and are tremendously proud of. I want it to last a lifetime, which is why I treat it accordingly.

I bet her husband‘s breakdown is the same: my children, my girlfriends and then my wife….but don’t tell her because she doesn’t know it because she’s too busy focusing on her kids, her friends and her self. Marriage isn’t a joke. If you put your spouse last; it’s a tragic, sad affair. My husband Chris and I have been together for 19 years. Like you, our lives are consumed by the logistics of running a household, managing careers and caring for our three kids and a dog. Like you, our lives are impossibly busy. Like you, we love our kids. Our marriage provides the foundation for everything that we’ve built together. It isn’t a joke. It’s something we work hard at and are tremendously proud of.  I want it to last a lifetime, which is why I treat it accordingly. If you stop and think about it, it’s the way it should be. You should put your marriage first:

Related: 8 Traits of Healthy Relationships

  • A strong marriage is the healthiest thing you can give your kids. Your kids feel safe and loved when they see two parents who work as a team, take interest in each other, make an effort, display both respect and affection and act like one another’s favorite, even after all these years.
  • If you put your spouse first, your marriage will last your lifetime. If you want your marriage to last your lifetime, give it the attention and effort it deserves. Your kids will live with you for just two short decades. Putting your marriage on cruise control for 20 years, while you focus on your kids is like falling asleep at the wheel—deadly. When your kids leave, your spouse is the one who’s left. If you’ve made them your last priority (and think it’s funny) they’d be dumb to stay with you.
  • Spouses aren’t roommates, they’re partners and lovers. When your kids become the center of your universe…your role as wife gets shelved. Slowly you start to feel like a taxi driver, lunch packer and homework checker. You and your spouse become so busy focusing on everything but each other that you drift apart. At first you just feel really busy, but then you start to feel like roommates. You settle into that routine assuming it’s a phase. And you’re right it is a phase:—it’s the beginning of the end. Suddenly the kids are gone—and you can’t remember why you married each other in the first place.
  • You don’t want to raise obnoxious kids: When you make kids the center of your universe, they turn into adults who think they are the center of the universe.
  • Don’t you want your kids to grow up and marry someone who puts them first? Of course you do! And, its your job to teach them what it looks like. Show them with your marriage first

Related: 3 Essentials of Happy and Healthy Relationships

Putting your marriage first is actually really easy. All you have to do is to find small ways make your spouse feel cherished. You already do this to your dog, just follow that philosophy: Treat your spouse like the dog, only better: greet them at the door, always be happy to see them (wag your tail), go for walks every day, reward good behavior several times a day with a treat, give lots of physical affection every day (pet the dog) and don’t hold grudges (you don’t punish a dog for weeks on end for pooping once in the house…so don’t be mad at your spouse for something they said last week).

  • Bring him/her coffee every morning.
  • Hug, hold hands, often.
  • Text/flirt throughout the day (reminders “just thinking about you xo”)
  • Make your bedroom a no kids zone—explain to the kids that it’s “your space.”
  • Say I love you, in front of the kids, daily.
  • Plan the week as a family, every Sunday to make logistics a minimum. You and your spouse should manage your family like it’s a team but you’re the star players. A friend of mine calls it “steering the ship”—the family may all be on the same cruise liner—but you and your spouse drive it.

It’s simple stuff if you think about it. Honestly it’s just about your focus. Life is busy. Technology overwhelms us. When you throw in kids, pets, work, girlfriends, etc—you have to prioritize—you cannot do it all. Declaring your spouse as your number one priority is the first step, from there it’s pretty simple. My mom and dad will be married 45 years in June. To this day, I remember when dad would come home, he’d hug mom first and the dog would start barking at their embrace because he was so jealous.

I remember that we’d have to wait to have dinner until he got home from work, no matter how late it was. Even at a young age, I knew that we weren’t waiting because they wanted us to all be together, it was because they wanted to be together. I also remember how he told her he loved her every day and kissed her before he left for work. They modeled a marriage that I wanted. I wanted to be the most important thing in my husband’s life, and vice versa. I never felt a lack of love, just the opposite—I was surrounded by it.  I knew my dad loved me, but I knew he loved my mom most. And, that’s how it should be.

Related: 20 Inspiring Quotes About Love

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Mel Robbins is a contributing editor to SUCCESS magazine, best-selling author, CNN commentator, creator of the “5 Second Rule” and the busiest female motivational speaker in the world. To find out more, visit her website: To follow her on Twitter:

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  1. Alicia Shortt on March 18, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Actually it’s Yahweh (God)first ,spouse second and then children.
    Praise Yahshua (Jesus)for family!

    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    King James Version (KJV)
    Praise Yahshua for truth!

    • VStanton on September 22, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you! Totally correct :)

  2. Melissa Giordano on April 18, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Do people want to have a relationship with your children and future grandchildren? I\\’ll tell you something NO one should come before the kids both husband a wife should be putting the needs of the baby child first. children need more love and attention than anyone, they were born into this world helpless by your choice. Please do not bring life into this world to let it suffer. The saying in order to be in your childrens lives tomorrow you must be there today. Make memories with your babies. I know many people that have grown up and refuse to even see their mother\\’s face because mom put a new boyfriend or a new husband above their existing kids.

    • VStanton on September 22, 2019 at 4:36 pm

      Thank you! Totally correct :)

  3. How To Know If Your Marriage Isn\'t Working on June 5, 2019 at 8:41 am

    Awesome blog! I like it a lot! Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Nisreen.M on June 28, 2019 at 10:01 pm

      What a great blog ! It\\’s an eye opener for those who put their husband last in the list. Kudos to Mel Robbins !

  4. Anonymous on June 14, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    May I ask just one simple question?

    If putting your marriage first does not mean neglecting your children, then how does putting your children first mean neglecting your spouse ??

    This is a question which most of you fail to answer.
    Because you have no answer.
    Because you haven’t thought things out properly. Because you never do.
    And then make glorious fools out of yourselves.

    There should be NO FAVORITISM IN FAMILY.

    Sometimes your husband gets put first, sometimes your children.
    One day, your husband gets attention, and on another, your kids.
    Its as simple as it gets. Putting your husband first/loving him more is just as stupid as constantly putting your kids first.

    And also, I would like to point out, that I have seen MANY marriages in which the kids are put first and they are long-term and extremely happy (my own parents marriage for example, and many more)

    And I would like to add that the children who grew up in these marriages aren’t exactly obnoxious, and definitely not self-entitled (for example me)

    What was most interesting in this article was the last part, where your mom starved you just so that your dad could eat with her, all in the name of ”romance”

    This is not only stupid, but also immature. Eating late has bad effects on your health. FACT. And this is true ESPECIALLY for a child.
    Don’t believe me ? Go google it yourself.
    Please, don’t try to pull off stunts like this, you’ll have to cancel all those date nights to take care of a sick child (if you care about him/her that is).

    Ps: The last statement in the parenthesis was a

    • VStanton on September 22, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      Thank you! Totally correct :)

    • Anonymous on September 27, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      While I am sitting here crying as my daughter spitefully chooses to not let me bath her or doesn’t listen when she needs to tidy up etc. and it becomes a fight and my husband comes in and fights with me and does not discipline her and she gets her way and I am left feeling worthless for being a mother. He always chooses her side when she in in the wrong, how is that not destroying not just our marriage but also our child’s view of how things should be. He puts her first and I don’t know how to live like this. How can you think that this is healthy??? Everyone who thinks putting their child above their spouse will probably end up divorced and that is not what I want, but a child that is allowed to do whatever they want, without discipline is also not something I would want for my daughter. Wish me and my husband could be a loving team and help me to raise a responsible loving daughter who respects her elders and not treat me like she is being allowed to do now…

  5. Anonymous on June 17, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Why is my post not appearing?

  6. VStanton on September 22, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    If this method works for you, then great. I never hope to meet you or your kids. As a journalist, your duty is to understand your audience is the world. Not just your own. Our kids are the future. My kid will be one to inherit the earth, not the person who helped in creating her. She will be the next scientist, doctor, politician, whatever she decides. I have the duty to support and enrich that, and to support the attributes that will see improvements in the future. Self-center yourself, and you have kids that resent their parents and life, and end up in trouble. I have a really hard time understanding this “submissive” behavior in your article. No person should have to submit or over-reach for love. It’s either there or not. Stop making up nonsense to make yourself feel better, or earn a paycheck.

  7. Sophia Bella on November 28, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    infidelity in marriage is never a thing of joy, i was battling with infections in marriage , painful right. i’m not so ashamed to say this because i’ll like this to serve as an eye opener to other young couples out there. my ex-husband was a university lecturer and was always involved with extra marital affairs. i found my self in and out of hospitals treating myself of STDs , i had to get an ethical hacker in [email protected] . c o m to help me clone his phone and social media platforms in Whatsapp and Facebook messenger . i was able to gather several proofs from his phone, you can also reach him via Call or text on +1(617) 402-2260 if you have similar issue , His services are affordable .

  8. Family Law on November 29, 2019 at 6:16 am

    This is a great blog post. It’s so true – there are so many things that go into making a marriage work. Your article is great – and really hits on the foundation and building blocks of a relationship. I really enjoyed reading this post!

  9. Anonymous on December 1, 2019 at 7:37 am

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  10. Eli Brandon on February 9, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    It’s quite simple really when you think about it as th article explains children will grow up and leave the home nowhere does the article state you should neglect your children. A marriage comes first because that’s what helped bring the child in the first place

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