How to make your marriage work in front of the kids

Mother Daughter
“No mummy I never want to be like you!” Those were the words that kept me up all night 15 years ago. I remember that day like it was today. It was a day I had dreamt and yearned for many years but I never dreamt it this way. The day my only daughter saw her period for the first time I was so excited! It was so special to me because my sister (her favorite aunt) was visiting and so we both sat with her in her room to have “the talk”.

After I explained why she was bleeding and what it meant I said the words that would change my life forever without knowing it, “so now that you have gotten your period when you grow up you’ll become just like me looking after your own husband, family and …” before I could finish my sentence my daughter screamed “ No mummy!! I never want to be like you!” Startled my sister took control of the situation and quietly asked Grace what she meant but nothing on earth could have prepared me for what I heard next … “No aunty… I don’t want to be like mummy. I don’t want to always pretend like I agree with my husband or always put myself last to make my husband happy. I don’t want to get married just to become my husband’s echo! I want to always be my own person with my own voice and opinions – it’s not fair!!!”

I could have died. In fact, I think I almost did. I felt the blood drain from my face and my hands grow cold. God has always been so good to me. Thank God my sister was there, she dragged Grace out of the room and moment later came back to still find me seating on the floor staring blindly at nothing. I felt sick! I felt like a deep dark hole filled my womb. I felt barren, fruitless, unworthy.

“Is this what mama’s ‘be a good wife’ advice has done to me? The night I got married mama told me that a good wife never said no to her husband. We did not know any better. We had no reference to what marriage was meant to be like. Papa died when I was 8 and mama never remarried so when mama told me a good wife always says yes to her husband I believed her. I did not realize that what I thought was being a good wife to my husband was actually seen as being a weakling to my daughter. My heart ached.

Thank God that was 15 long years ago and I thank God that night I found the strength to put my foot down for the first time in my marriage. I confronted my husband and told him that if our family was to continue with me in it we needed to get marriage counseling! It worked. I’m now enjoying my marriage and my daughter is growing up as a fine young lady.

Here are a few things we learned in counseling about “How to make your marriage work in front of the kids”:

1. Don’t play ‘the victim’ to your kids: You are an adult. If you are not happy with your spouse put your ‘big-girl’ panties on and handle your issues with your husband like a grown woman! Don’t get the kids involved.
2. Buzz Words: Agree on a ‘cool-off’ word to act as a cue for arguments to be taken ‘off-line’ when the kids are in the room. It’s not cool for the kids to watch their parents fight or argue
3. Don’t berate Dad: Don’t criticize or berate your husband to the kids. This unsocial behavior only teaches children to disrespect authority.
4. Do-Over: Sometimes we all fall short of these rules and mess it all up in front of the kids. If this happens you need to work twice as hard on being loving in front of the kids to assure them that you are ‘friends again’. Try not to slip up too often
5. Parent as one: Don’t let your kids play you and your husband. Support each other and parent as a team. Let the children know that they can’t sidestep one of you to get their way with the other.
6. Shameless love: Don’t be afraid or shy to love each other in front of the kids. It’s healthy to show your kids you still love each other and find each other attractive. They may tease you about it but secretly it assures them and gives them the confidence that their home is still intact.
7. “We” not “I”: When talking to the kids say things like “we would like you to” or “Dad and I have decided”. It lets the children understand that you and hubby make decisions together
8. Family Traditions: Try and create family traditions that work for your family e.g. Family date night when you all spend time together or Family Holidays. These precious times create great memories that make a happy home.
9. Be a strong beautiful woman: Forget the age-old saying “women are seen not heard”. Learn to have your say in your home and with your husband with grace and strength. Men actually respect women who have an opinion and know how to communicate their thoughts in a mature way. (I should know…)
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