There have been easy seasons and hard seasons in our marriage – richer and poorer, sickness and health, tons of kid challenges, and even the deep suffering of losing a child.

All of this adds up to the need to focus on our marriage as adoptive and foster parents. This is a unique parenting experience, filled with many questions and challenges. It can be lonely too.

So what are the solutions? Here are my six marriage tips:

1. My spouse is more important than our children.

Russ has to take first place in my heart and life. I need to make time for him, think of him, listen to him, and connect. We had each other before we had our kids, and we want to have each other after they are grown.

2. Love my neighbor as myself.

Russ is the closest ” neighbor” I have – so close he sleeps next to me each night. I can love him more than myself in big ways, like encouraging him to trek Machu Picchu with some of our big kids. I can also love him more than myself in tiny ways that make a difference, such as offering to pick up a child when he was planning on it, making a favorite meal, or even being the one to get out of bed to take care of a child’s need.

3. Give each other breaks.

Parenting kids with unique needs is exhausting. Getting away together is fantastic, but not always possible. Be sure to give each other breaks, even if it’s only an evening or a Saturday. When Russ has the kids and I can do something restful or fun, it restores energy and joy. Russ needs breaks too and I try to make opportunities for him to get the time he needs.

4. Have at-home dates.

Put younger kids to bed and instruct the older ones to give you some space. Order take-out, cook a special meal, or get your favorite ice cream to enjoy together. Watch a movie, read aloud, play a game, choose a special show you only watch together. If you can leave the house, but not go too far, walk around the block several times in the evening, or try early in the morning with coffee cups in hand. You can check on the kids after each lap.

5. Don’t hesitate to see a counselor.

A good marriage counselor can help you through some of the complex stress of parenting kids from “hard places.” Ask your friends if they can recommend someone. Your church may even have a pastor or someone on staff who can help and support you.

6. Pray for each other and your marriage.

I am more committed than ever to praying for our marriage. What a tragedy it would be if our obedience to God in adopting and loving children who needed families became the very thing that broke our marriages. This is a battle that cannot be seen with our eyes, but we know it is waged against us.

Pray hard. Pray without ceasing. Hold one another up when you’re weary. Ask God to give you his eyes for your spouse.

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