There I am sitting in a Marriage and Family Class during Sunday School.

I could hardly stand it… I was steaming inside.



The instructor with enthusiasm instructed the class Your number one priority in life is your spouse.” He followed this by methodically inviting several couples in attendance to share examples of why that statement was True.” Of course the class members shared stories supporting the believe that their spouse was the number one priority even more important than themselves. The class wanted me to believe A HAPPY LIFE was dependent on me being Selfless in my marriage and always placing my wife, Karla’s needs and wants,  – above my own.”

By now sitting there – I couldn’t even think straight. (Hot Cognition we call it.) Over all my years of counseling people accepting this belief has caused so many problems, it’s not even funny. 🙁  Nevertheless, I felt driven to silence. I had already disrupted the class with an earlier statement. As hard as it was I kept my mouth shut-respecting the teacher and the class-believing the message being sent was very misunderstood!

I’m guessing most in the class HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD THE MESSAGE to say something like:

There are many activities that require attention in our lives including work, church calling, children,  marriage etc. If you are going to be HAPPY  from ALL these demands – you need to select your spouse FIRST! 

In addition, this message carries with it the assumption that it is true for EVERYONE, REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES, and is to be followed NOW!!!  (If you want to be happy.)

Here is what I’ve seen resulting when people believe this message:
  • people who are single or divorced feel guilty because they don’t have a spouse and therefore can’t achieve the number one priority it takes to be happy;
  • married people who have always placed their spouse first despite personal needs and inadequate self-care are often depressed and discouraged; and
  • those married to someone with special circumstances (e.g. mental illness, addiction, narcissistic etc.) have placed their spouse first and they’re not happy and the marriage is getting worse plus they become depressed and discouraged. The “special needs spouse” is “leading the family.”


Sure I understand that if I am married there are occasions when placing the desires of my wife above my own is essential to a successful marriage. For example, after listening to the Saturday Greenhouse Show Karla gets plenty of ideas for our yard. Catching the grass in a bag and removing it from the lawn is just one. Well after years of mowing the lawn -mulching and leaving the clippings- I changed because it was important to her. (For sure not because it was what I desired.)

I get it. Give-and-take in a relationship usually builds healthy successful relationships (with my wife, with my kids, with my boss etc) and as a result I will likely be happier. Marriage is incredibly important “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” (The Family A Proclamation To The World).

Achieving balance and maintaining the right priorities from time to time have been a struggle for all of us.  We need priorities. Our priorities determine what we seek in life. They give us direction on how to live our lives. What am I suppose to do on Saturday afternoon when there are several demands on my time and all these demands are GOOD? – But I can only do ONE. 
Direction from SCRIPTURE

“But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God (not spouse) with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the FIRST and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–39).

Direction from PROPHETS

When we put God FIRST, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities. We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Great Commandment—Love the Lord,” Ensign, May 1988)


“Now, the most important principle I can share: Anchor your life in Jesus Christ your redeemer. Make your Eternal Father and his Beloved Son the most important priority in your life, more important than life itself, more important than a beloved companion or children or anyone on earth. Make their will your central desire. Then ALL that you need for happiness will come to you.   (Richard G. Scott  The Power of Correct Principles” Ensign, May 1993)

ETERNAL PRINCIPLE There can only be one “FIRST” priority.

Whenever you or I become so preoccupied with another person (including our spouse) or activity  that we neglect our personal relationship with Our Heavenly Father we have failed in our eternal pursuit. 

“… if we do not choose the kingdom of God first, it will make little difference in the long run what we have chosen instead of it.” (Focus and Priorities, Dallin H. Oaks April 2001)

The message of placing Your personal relationship with God FIRST is directed at EVERYONE, REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES, and it should be worked on NOW!!
Eternal principles work that way.


Ponder what your life has been like this past week.
Do something this week that reflects God is First in your life.

Thanks for listening… I needed to get that off my chest…. again.

dr rick
dr rick’s blog index

Other similar blogs:
Not Enough of Me
My Spouse Is NOT My #1 Priority
Easy as 1,2,3…Unless an Angel tells you otherwise
The Gift – Between God And I


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