Tell us: Are you fighting all the time with your spouse? Find yourself wanting out but think it’s just too difficult so you stay? Unfortunately, this is quite the common situation. Many people who are unhappy in their marriages try to “stay together the kids” because they feel it’s the easiest option.
“They can feel it’s in the best interest for the children in terms of security, stability and good time with both parents,” says Australian relationships counsellor Fiona Bennett. “A significant number of people do believe that if they can work on it and get it to a healthy enough state in their relationship, that it is better for the children.”
But the truth is, staying in an unhappy marriage is doing more than than good for the kiddos. “Kids are really sensitive to changes to things like voice tone and parents’ stress levels,” says Dr O’Brien of The Quirky Kid Clinic says. “If parents are trying to pretend that they’re fine and just doing it for their kids, it’s like keeping a big secret from their child, like not telling them they’re adopted. That is not an honest family dynamic [and] could force them to question things later in life.”
So before it gets to that point, it’s important to be able to recognize these signs that might be doing harm to your children. Here are some of the most common marriage mistakes you might be making.
You can’t stop fighting with each other
Every couple argues. In fact, a little disagreement is normal and even healthy for a relationship. But when you’re full-on fighting—complete with yelling, screaming, and name-calling—in front of your kids, that’s when things can go sour. Experts say that they might start wondering and feeling guilty about whether they’re the reason you’re fighting. They might even take it to their future relationships and have a higher chance of being in an unsuccessful one. If you must argue, do it away from the kids, and think about seeing a counselor who can help you settle disagreements in a more productive manner.
While married couples should be a team, some couples find themselves competing with their spouse. This can especially hurt your kids in the long run if you’re not backing up your spouse on why disciplined your son, or the reason they took your daughter’s cell phone away. It’s improtant to always have each other’s back and not compete with each other in front of your kids, even if you disagree (talk about it later!)/ “You’re just teaching your children to become better manipulators ― and that kind of behavior carries on into adult lives when it’s seen as a strategy that gets results,” said therapist Marni Feuerman.
You’re not communicating
Having poor communication tactics can make your child grow up to avoid their issues or develop passive aggressive tendencies when they’re upset. It can also make them pessimistic when it comes to relationships when they’re older. “The foundation of a good relationship is to be able to talk to someone, about anything and everything,” says Dr. Suzana Flores, clinical psychologist. “The more you can talk to each other, the more likely you’ll trust each other and be able to confide in each other and know the other person won’t criticize you. Whether communicating offline or digitally, it is important to figure out how your partner wants to express endearments.”
You degrade your spouse
Calling each other names or making fun of something they do can be hurtful to the person you’re doing it to—but if you’re doing it in front of the kids, you might be inadvertently telling them that it’s okay to talk badly about their friends or loved ones. Instead of belittling each other, set the example of working out the problem together peacefully, which can show them that sometimes you have disagreements, but there’s ways to figure it out nicely.
You lie to each other
Imagine you grew up in a household where everyone was dishonest all the time. Chances are, you’d grow up thinking that it’s normal to lie—and that’s exactly what can happen if you go around being untruthful all the time. Even little white lies make it more likely that your child could grow up to think lying is totally fine to do.
Are you guilty of doing any of these things in front of your kids? How will you get yourself to stop?