My third and final blog on health marriages that promote healthy kids is focused on arguments. I believe that children need to see their parents have healthy arguments.
I remember when a friend of mine got married in her early 20’s. Her parents had a beautiful picture perfect marriage, she could proudly say that she had never seen them fight. She knew they had arguments and disagreements, but this was all done behind closed doors. When her parents came out from behind those doors all she ever saw was two people who were happy and in love, all arguing had ceased. When this friend got married and began to have arguments with her new spouse that lasted hours or even days at a time, she thought her marriage was over, doomed for divorce. She’d made a mistake. “My parents never fought like this” she’d say. Sure they did, but they just kept it hidden from her. It left her with an unreal expectation. Like a young child, she suddenly equated a big fight to divorce.
When my now 17 year old first saw Matt and I get in a big argument that lasted a period of time, I remember her asking if we were getting a divorce. She was probably in the 2nd or 3rd grade. It was the 1st time it had connected with her that we were really fighting. We promised her then that divorce would never be a word in our vocabulary. We would never get a divorce. Now fast forward to just a few months ago, when Matt and I were particularly annoyed with one another. I was heading out one night to get away for the evening, needing a break. My now third grader had the same concern, were we getting a divorce? It was actually my 17 year old that talked to her and assured her that her parents would never divorce. I would be totally lying if I said that I hadn’t thought, on more than one occasion, sometimes divorce would be a lot easier. And it would. But then I’d miss all the really spectacular times after we’ve gone through those hard moments. Because marriage is only stronger, when you fight for the commitment that you made, and through the hard stuff. And that’s only heading into our 19th year. I wonder how much more we’ll see or understand about commitment and love, and fighting through, when our marriage has lasted 40 or 50 years.
Kids need to see healthy disagreement in marriage in order to know how to navigate their own disagreements. To realize that part of loving someone and passion is to argue. Because the very nature of an argument means you still care, feelings have been hurt. It’s when the arguments stop that things are the scariest. Likewise, our kids need tho see us reconcile. Without that, they are missing the biggest part, that the most beautiful thing about a disagreement is when two people can agree to bend and compromise their own will for their beloved.
Now of course, like anything, healthy boundaries are key. Name calling, physical assault, and shaming are not healthy arguments. Have our kids seen us bring arguments to unhealthy places in our house, regretfully yes. I personally have sadly let my tongue be a fiery sward on more than one occasion. My neighbor across the street, I fear, still thinks I’m a tarrettes patient because of one of my not so fablouse moments.
I’ve said before, I love Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect. One thing it has taught Matt and I in our marriage, is the need to jump off of an argument when we’re in the midst of it, and remember that our spouse is a good person, who intends good. The second I can see my husband as someone who is good, who has the best intentions in his heart, I can get past a moment when he doesn’t handle himself so well, and still see him as A good husband who had a bad moment. He likewise can do the same. I hope we are teaching our children this lesson, as they watch us interact.
Hopefully, as I continue to learn to have healthy disagreements with my spouse, I am teaching my children a valuable lesson. That passionate people will disagree. That reconciliation is the end game. And that there’s no such thing as winning an argument if you wound your spouse in the process.