This one is pretty personal and is for all the married couples out there. My husband and I are celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year. Ten years and five kids later, I feel blessed that I love my hubby more now than I did the day I said “I Do,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of arguments! I’m sure we can’t be the only ones!
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Thankfully, we don’t argue all that often and when we do, we do try not to argue in front of the kids. But oftentimes the disagreements we have involve how we are dealing with the kids (i.e., the supervision of piano practice, my husband’s penchant for napping on the weekends, and my being relegated to the “bad cop” role – you with me, moms?) so inevitably the kids are right there! My friends and I often chat about this, wondering whether it is okay at all. And I know we’re not alone here. A 2009 study found that on average, kids witness eight marital disputes a day (at least it seems that we couples are spending time together!).
In some ways, I actually think we’re getting better at fighting constructively when the kids are around. Why? We’ve come to realize that when we do argue in front of our children, we are teaching them by example on how to disagree, setting the standard for how one day they will fight with their own partners! Generations of fighters; what a lovely idea!
So with those future generations in mind, here are the five “Fighting Rules” we aspire to live by. We try our hardest to stick to them which, believe me, doesn’t always work! Read what works for us and comment below with your own marriage rules you live by!
1. Make It a Teachable Moment… and a Quick One
They say never go to bed angry, but if my hubby and I have a disagreement in front of our kids we try to resolve it as soon as possible and not let it go until the end of the day. Ideally, my kids see that we can fight constructively, reach a positive outcome and kiss and make up.
2. No Meanness or Attacks
We try to stay respectful and not yell. This means criticizing something that happened in a calm voice and not attacking the other person. Example: “Honey, I really wish the boys had done their science project rather than watch the Yankee game!” versus “You never help me with the hard work here!”
3. No Escalation
If we’re having a tiff about who forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning, we try to keep it contained to that specific issue and not to turn it into World War III about who bears more of the household responsibilities generally.
Better to table these biggies until we can talk one-on-one in a planning sort of mode. And even if we are slightly resentful at times – and who isn’t, come on – these issues we try to keep under wraps. And here’s a good one, no getting into anything at all on a Friday night when everyone is tired and worn out by the week, or a Sunday night when everyone is even more tired and worn out by a weekend with the kids. I have found that we have our best conversations on weekday nights when we’ve been off doing our thing and kiddies are in bed.
4. Explain Our Emotions
I believe strongly that it’s okay to get upset in front of your kids, whether it’s because of an argument with your spouse or something else. I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that life is always perfect and peachy, and then not knowing how to deal when it’s not! Also, I’m a crier – when I’m upset, it’s Niagara Falls… but when this happens, I do my best to try to explain why: “Mommy had a bad day. Mommy was disappointed in x, y, or z.” I actually think this can be good for kids and especially boys growing up. True to my own experience as well, since my own sister and I broke down repeatedly in front of our brothers growing up, and I think by result, each one is actually a sensitive dude and knows how to deal with women!
5. Say You’re Sorry, and Mean It
We’ve all gotten those begrudging apologies from our kids where they don’t really mean it, so I try to set a good example. I’ve always liked the quote: “A perfect marriage is one in which “I’m sorry” is said just often enough.” To me, it’s less about the words “I’m sorry” than it is about recognizing and acknowledging the other person’s feelings and admitting you were wrong. Then, presto, the fight ends.
So that’s it from me, but how about you all? Do you argue in front of the kids, and if so, how do you deal with your couple fighting? Constructive criticism and personal stories are more than welcome in the comments below!
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