We become our parents. We may hate to admit it, but if we wait long enough, we will become them. When I was a teenager, my mom would ask me to wash the dishes. I would do it, but when I was hanging up my sponge, she would inform me I wasn't finished yet because I hadn't wiped down the counters.
As I would grab the sponge again and scrub the yellow tile, I'd mutter under my breath, "She told me to do the dishes. Dishes are dishes. Counters are counters. If she wanted me to wipe the counters, she should have told me. When I'm grown, I'll never expect my children to wipe down the counters if I ask them to wash the dishes."
Cut to twenty-five years later. I come home, see the dishes done, and yell out, "Who washed the dishes but didn't wipe down the counters?!" Holy smokes, I've become my mother!
We all do this in one form or another. The trick is to learn how to use it to our benefit. As a parent, we want our children to grow up and create strong, balanced and loving relationships with their partners. Well, a lot of their future relationship success is dependent upon the relationship to which we expose them as their parents. Remember, they grow up to be us. Might as well model healthy relationship skills.
Let your children see you display affection openly with one another. It's okay to smooch in front of the kids. Give your spouse a hug. Tell him you love him. Cuddle on the sofa. Sneak up and tickle her at the kitchen sink.
Younger children will want to jump in the hug-a-thon or the tickle fight. Your teens may roll their eyes and tell you "to get a room," but both will feel secure within the family structure while learning how to "flirt" with their own spouse one day.
Schedule Play dates
It's important for parents to have regular date nights. That means leaving the kids with the babysitter, friends, or family while the two of you have some adult alone time.
Some children will balk if it's something new for the family, but it's crucial for them to see that Mommy and Daddy need play dates together, too. Prepare them by telling them early in the week that you'll be having a date. They will remember this and make it a point to set aside dates of their own when they are old enough.
I've heard parents say they never fight in front of the kids. If fighting consists of throwing blows, insults, or profanity, then by all means keep it behind closed doors. If it can be civil, disagreeing in front of your children shows them that loving couples don't have to be on the same page to still get along.
Simon Presland wrote an article called "How to Fight Fair in Marriage," and one line that struck a chord with me was, "Confront to heal, not to win." The goal of your confrontation is to make the relationship better, not to be victorious and prove you are correct. Children will take this to their own relationships, understanding that disagreements are normal and don't need to be hurtful.
Knowing that our children will one day be "us" places a lot of responsibility on our parental shoulders. But, if we work on our relationships with our partners we're actually helping our children with their relationships.