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Important But Not Urgent

January 01, 2015

For a great many couples with children, it isn’t the spouse who’s most valued — it’s the kids. At least within the middle and upper-middle-class, today’s couples tend to place kids at the top of the priority ladder, with the partner relationship landing in second or even third place (behind career). Many of us pay lip service to the importance of our marriage, but the great amounts of time, energy, and financial resources we devote to the youngsters betray those words.

Author Stephen Coveyi wrote that we all have priorities that are "important but not urgent" and priorities that are "urgent but not important." Our children’s needs seem urgent — chauffeuring to school or practice, bringing them the bag lunch they forgot at home, drilling them on concepts the night before a test — and we end up confusing what seems urgent with what’s actually important. In fact, so much of what our children ask and want of us, and so much of what we do for them, is not important — it’s optional. But on the treadmill of modern parenting, we rarely stop and ask ourselves, “How important is this? What’s truly at stake here?”

What is most important to kids’ welfare? Parents maintaining a strong and healthy marriage; it trumps most everything else. Children secure in the knowledge that their parents are solid with one another enjoy freedom to think about their studies, their hobbies, their friendships. They’re free to daydream of bright futures, to hone aspirations of the road ahead. But when the marital connection is fraught, when tension or alienation between parents is a spoken (or unspoken) dimension of home life, kids worry about the grown-ups, wondering what they can do to help, or worse, what they’ve done to contribute to the trouble. By contrast, a solid marital relationship serves as the sturdy foundation from which kids can best face life’s challenges. But solid marriage takes time and effort — it means making the relationship the highest priority.

To raise healthy kids, put your marriage first and your children second.
Because our marriages are important but not urgent, we neglect to feed and water them. 
Often they die slowly and quietly, and we don’t even realize it until it’s too late.ii

References & Citations

i Covey, Stephen R. et al. First Things First. (Simon and Schuster: New York), 1994.

ii Alphonse, Lylah M. Overview of an interview with author and family coach David Code, found at