“5 Reasons Steadfast Marriages Build Healthy and Happy Kids” originally appeared on The Good Men Project and was reprinted with permission.
It may seem obvious, but all-too often we isolate our marriage issues, believing they’re only impacting us. But there’s something greater at stake. The health and happiness of our children hangs in the balance.
My wife and I were born to fight. We are both first children with lion personalities and extremely driven to succeed. There’s rarely a time that we’ve been completely defeated by the trials and storms of life. Even when we’re battered, and exhausted, we pick ourselves up and keep moving forward.
In the past, our driven personalities and fighter mentality have both translated into our marriage. By this, I mean we can fight with the best of ’em! Knock-down, drag-out fighting if you will. Many times, our desire to be right or win came at the expense of our children watching their mom and dad have it out. Tough words to type, but very true.
Awhile ago, however, we were having a conversation about our children and some of the huge tantrums we had witnessed from them lately, when we came to a difficult conclusion. The meltdowns were a direct result of our careless and, often, endless fighting in front of them. When our frustrations would get the best of us, we developed marital tunnel-vision. We would forget there was a world around us, with other human beings, particularly our children, who were watching us unravel.
We suffered from two problems:
The Isolation Problem
Which says: There’s no one else here or affected by this conflict, but us.
We became so fixated on our frustration with one another that we saw ourselves as isolated from the world.
In our marriages, we get so accustomed to one another, so comfortable, that we stop considering how our fighting, our marital interaction, affects other people, especially our children. After many years, affection goes dormant, adoration turns into tolerance, friendship looks more like a business arrangement, and there isn’t a trace of connectivity. As married people, we think that these are our problems, only affecting us, and we have to deal with them on our own. Isolation.
But our kids have front row seats to our problems. As much as we’d like to believe we’re good at hiding them, our children can see the broken parts of our marriage. They’re not isolated from them, and neither are we.
The “Me First” Problem
Which says: My agenda, my angle, my way, is all that I care about.
How often are fights driven by self-centeredness? I’ll answer my own question … all the time. That’s at the very heart of a fight. For many years, this was true for us. Even if a person does nothing wrong and is angry at his or her spouse because of a bad choice they made, that choice was made out of selfishness.
It’s a “Me-First,” attitude and it kills marriage health. We zero in on our issue, our frustration, the point we want to make, to such a degree that we see nothing outside of our own agenda. It’s all about us and getting our way. For most, especially those of us who are first children, it’s about winning.
Two problems, two battles. We’ve been down this road in the past, and it always led to a dead end. Worst than that, it left our children battered and broken.
So we’ve concluded, after 16 years of marriage, that the health of our marriage directly impacts the health of our children. The facts are right before us. Same is true in your house. You see the results of the broken parts of your marriage play out in your children’s lives. If your marriage is on the rocks, your children will display the effects. However, if your marriage is steadfast; if you intentionally invest in your marriage, respect one another, show affection to one another, your children will be healthier and happier as a result.
There are 5 reasons why this is true:
1. It’s a Lighthouse
A healthy marriage is a lighthouse on the high-seas of life. When the wind kicks up, the waves are towering, and the outlook is bleak, your children have you and your spouse as a lighthouse to guide them.
2. It’s a Portrait
Your children will hold your marriage up as a portrait of timeless commitment if your commitment is strong and weathers the toughest storms.
3. It’s a Future-shaper
A strong marriage that is driven by commitment and promise shapes the future for your children. It shapes their future relationships, their commitment level, and their emotional stability.
4. It’s a Blueprint
If you want to know the kind of marriage your children will have some day, take a look at your own. Study the contents of your marriage to find the contents of theirs someday. The health of your marriage serves as a blueprint for theirs.
5. It’s Hope
There’s no greater hope for the here and now, nor tomorrow, than a steadfast marriage. Very much like a lighthouse, your marriage can serve as one of the greatest forms of hope on earth for your children.
Do not confuse these five principles with perfection. This is not about having the perfect marriage. This is about humility and servanthood. Choose, in humility, to spend everyday working to make your marriage steadfast. Become a servant of your spouse every single day you’re blessed to be married to them.
You will succeed if you do. And your children will be all the better for it!
More from The Good Men Project:
- 6 ways to save your struggling relationship
- 3 sure-fire ways to build a successful marriage
- 10 things every man should do to have a better relationship