In my home, there are many rules. My children may not remember (let alone abide by) all of them. But there is one that is of utmost importance to me and my husband. And to make sure our kids don't forget it, my husband asks our kids - almost daily - who he loves most. In unison, they all proclaim, "Mom!"

This is not just something that is said. My children see this every day as I'm the first one my husband greets with a warm embrace after a long day at work - more affection than their little eyes can take. They see this when my husband supports my hobbies and ideas. And they see it when he respects my role as a woman, wife and mother.

Of course, this effort needs to go both ways. If I want a strong, fulfilling marriage, I need to show my husband the love and respect he indefinitely deserves in return.

But to have happy and successful marriages, we must put God first - even before our spouses. The family is God's ultimate design, his greatest creation. If we want to have the kind of marriages we are destined for, we must make God our highest priority. Marriages can't withstand the inevitable storms of life if we don't nurture them by following the principles God has given us.

You may argue that the same could be said of children, that we should put our children before our spouses - or at least rank them equally. But a marriage that does not have a stable foundation creates maladjusted children who suffer through their parents' issues - or worse, divorce. Marriage is the establishment that brings about divine children. Children are not the establishment that bring about a divine marriage.

The first step in creating a godly marriage is cleaving to your husband or wife. When I was a newlywed, amidst one of my first marital arguments, the first place I turned to vent was my parents. Huge mistake. Parents are great for advice and unconditional love, but they are not to interfere with the intimate relationship of your marriage. Once you make your vows, you immediately cross the bridge from solely honoring your parents to primarily honoring your spouse.

Many may think of these principles completely differently. Obviously, children (especially in their younger years) have greater physical demands, and capable adults must meet needs for food, shelter and other immediate obligations. But as these happy and healthy children mature, their greatest need is a happy and healthy marriage between their parents - a strong family bond in which to take refuge when trials and tribulations come their way.

Believe it or not, it's healthy and even necessary for your children to know that they come second to your spouse. And it's vital for them to know that both you and your spouse base your relationship on promises you've made with God. One of the highest representations of the image of God is a husband and wife serving each other.

God, spouse, children - in that order. Period.

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