What Message is Your Marriage Giving Your Kids?

“I want to model a healthy, happy relationship to my kids.”

This is one of the things almost every woman tells me when I ask her why creating change in her marriage is so important to her.

It’s something we all relate and aspire to.

We want to be positive role models for our children.

Our kids learn about relationships first and foremost by what they experience in their own homes.

It’s not so much what you say and what you tell them.

It’s more about who you are being in your relationship.

And who you are being in your life.

Are you being the person you want your children to aspire to in their own future relationships?

Or are you modelling the opposite of what you want for your children?

Here are some questions to help you decide:

Do you communicate with your husband without it dissolving into conflict?

Do you listen to your partner so that they feel heard?

Do you treat your partner with respect?

Do you behave towards him in a loving and compassionate way?

What About You?

How do you treat yourself in your relationship – and in your relationship with YOU?

Do you treat yourself with respect and  command it from your husband and others?

Do you treat yourself in a loving and compassionate way?

Do you have healthy boundaries in place that you are willing to uphold for yourself?

Do you ask for what you want and make requests in a direct and straightforward way?

Do you feel comfortable saying No when you mean No?

Do you know who you are and take a stand for things that are important to you, even when others don’t share your views?

Do you meet your own emotional needs, or do you look to your husband and other people for that?

Are you tolerating behaviour in your marriage that you find unacceptable?

Do you have your own interests, goals and dreams that you are actively pursuing, that are separate from your relationship and your kids?

In essence, do you take responsibility for your own happiness?

In a Nutshell

How would you sum up the message your marriage is currently giving to your kids? In one sentence? Write it down. This is your current reality.

Is this the message you want your children to have?

If no, what would you like them to learn by observing you in your relationship? Again, sum it up in one sentence and write it down. This is your aspirational goal.

Now assess how big the gap is between the two places.

But, I Hear You Say, It Takes Two…!

I agree that it takes two people to model what a healthy, loving relationship between them looks like.

And I am a great believer in not focusing on those things that are outside of our control (ie other people’s behaviour).

I also know that we unconsciously train other people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves and what we allow in our lives.

And it is this that translates to give a clear message to our children.

And these things are within our control.

Closing the Gap

Is the gap between your current reality and your aspirational goal bigger than you’d like? If yes, what to do?

Here are three Top Tips to help you begin closing the gap:

(1) Go back to the sentence you wrote about your current reality. Re-read it. What does it tell you? Your answer will be very revealing. What can you learn from this about what you don’t want?

Write down the top three things you want to eliminate or change.

(2) Next, re-read the sentence you wrote as your aspirational goal. What do you want instead?

For example, you may have written something like: “I want my kids to know what a healthy, happy, loving, mutually respectful relationship looks like.”

Write down three things that will take you towards your goal. For example: 1) I want to be treated respectfully at all times 2) I want to find a way to communicate how I really feel 3) I want to take time for myself and the things that are important to me.

(3) Now take one of your three sub-goals and break it down further. Write down three small steps you can take that are within your control.

For example:

  • I am choosing to start respecting and valuing my own time and not allow other people to be a drain on my time and energy
  • I will choose to calmly leave the room if  my husband or anybody else starts to shout or behave in an angry or aggressive way towards me
  • I will choose to show respect for myself by making time for myself and what’s important to me every day, whether that’s 30 minutes to read my book, going for a walk in nature, relaxing in the bath, learning a new skill or practicing a new hobby etc.

What three things will you put on your list? I’d love to know in the comments below!

Want More Clarity?

Would you like to achieve more clarity on the changes you’d like to see in your marriage that will allow you to be the role model you aspire to be for your children? If so I am offering a limited number of FREE, 30 minute Clarity Breakthrough Sessions over the summer. You can find out more and book a session here.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Great article!! I’m not married but I resonate a lot with this with past relationships I’ve had. I remember having that shift in mindset in realizing that I train people how to treat me by what i’m willing to put up with and the relationships got better (either by gaining more respect or ending for the better) and it’s made me a happier person.

    • Thanks for commenting Aimelie! Yes, that realisation that we unconsciously train other people how to treat us is a big one isn’t it? And the fact that it’s completely within our control!

  2. This is POWERFUL stuff, Julie! This sentence really stuck with me:
    “Are you being the person you want your children to aspire to in their own future relationships?”
    I’ve changed a lot of my behaviors to try to be a more positive role model for my daughter, but I never really thought about extending it to my relationship before now. Thanks for the eye-opener!

    • Thanks for your comment Lacy, I’m glad you found it helpful. Our children are constantly learning from us and much of what they learn isn’t in what we tell them. It’s more from who we are ‘being’ in our lives and relationships.

      The relationship they witness between their parents becomes the model they take forward into their own lives. Powerful stuff indeed!

      As you say it’s an eye-opener, and it can only be a good thing for all of us parents to be more aware of what we are modelling to our kids.

  3. Thoughtfully written, and wonderful that you include your top tips to practice right now. The perspective shift and determining what we really want is so very important, realizing it is a choice within our power is priceless.

    • Thank you for your feedback Shana, it’s much appreciated.

      I agree, realising that so many of these things are within our control, and that we have the power of choice, is indeed priceless.

  4. This really resonated with me!
    I try really hard not to have spats in front of my stepson, and on those occasions when they ‘slip out’, I always feel really bad! One thing I try and do is make sure he understands it’s not serious, and that we’ve resolved our differences!
    I love your thoughts on taking care of ourselves irrespective of what our partners are up to.
    Great post, thanks!

    • Thanks for commenting Marsha. Sometimes it’s inevitable that our spats will be played out in front of our kids and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s important for children to understand that it’s normal for their parents to have disagreements sometimes.

      What’s equally important, as you said, is to reassure them and explain that it’s just part of the process of resolving our differences!

  5. Thank you for sharing such valuable information. Even though I am not married now, it’s never to early to learn how to have a good relationship. The biggest take away for me was: “I also know that we unconsciously train other people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves and what we allow in our lives.”

  6. Thanks for your comment Holly, you are very welcome. You’re right, this information isn’t just for women who are struggling in their marriages, it’s for anyone who wants to have a better relationship now or in the future.

    And yes, the realisation that we unconsciously train other people how to treat us is a biggie isn’t it!

  7. I read this several days ago and have given it so much thought since then. I can honestly say, with a fair amount of shame, that as I thought about it I realized that I didn’t like the message my marriage is giving my kids. I’m making a concerted effort to change this, following your tips and generally being more mindful. I’m still working on the goals, but what is sticking out for me is that I am responsible for my reactions. I can choose to react negatively, positively, or neutrally (or anywhere on that scale, I suppose), but the choice is mine. No one is “making me feel” a certain way. This has really helped in changing the tone of many of my interactions with my husband for the better in just the last few days. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  8. Hi Andrea, thank you for your very honest comment. I’m sure most of us can relate to, at times, not being the role models to our kids that we aspire to be. So often it’s because we’re just not aware of the message we’re unconsciously sending out. Having that awareness is the first and most important step in making the changes we want.

    Taking responsibility for our own reactions to other people’s behaviour is huge because it puts us back in control. As you say, realising that no one is “making me feel” a certain way is a big part of this mindset shift.

    I’m so pleased this post has had a positive impact on the tone of your interactions with your husband. And I can tell you are committed to implementing these ideas further for the benefit of you, your relationship and your whole family – fantastic!

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