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Do Your Kids Think Your Marriage Is a Fairy Tale or a Nightmare?

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You never know what kids learn from your marriage. In fact, if you asked your child, “What do you think of marriage after watching me and your dad?” you’d probably get some interesting answers. When one of iMOM’s friends and favorite moms, Kirsten Watson, asked her daughter that question, she replied, “You have to wash a lot of dishes.” The conversation continued:

Kirsten: “Does marriage look like it’s fun?”
Daughter: “Yeah. Being married looks like it’s fun because you always have someone to be with.”
Kirsten: “So you think I want to be with Daddy all the time?”
Daughter (with a smirk): “No. You don’t.”

Check out these 4 ways we act in marriage and ask yourself what message you’re sending your kids as they watch you.

The Transactional Marriage

Sometimes we treat husbands how we treat the guy behind the counter at the deli. Here’s what I need. Here’s how I want it done. Here’s my payment. See ya next time. Sure, husbands and wives should help meet each other’s needs, but if it’s tit for tat, we rob our children of seeing what true sacrifice looks like. And we all know making marriage work requires a lot of giving even when there’s not as much receiving.

What kids learn from your marriage when they see you give with no expectation of receiving something in return is that love is an action and that marriage requires you to give 100 percent, not 50 percent.

The Separatist Marriage

I have a friend whose parents take separate vacations. Every time. Maybe that is how they keep peace in their marriage, but my husband and I spend so much time working that I think we owe it to our relationship to spend some (not all) downtime together too. Do you and your husband live separate lives under the same roof through separate bank accounts, free time, and even small things like watching television?

What kids learn from your marriage when too much is separate is that cooperation and compromise can take a back seat to your own desires.

The Faker Marriage

My husband and I got in a huge fight at dinner one night. One minute we were talking about ordering dessert and something snapped. As soon as the server returned, we zipped our lips, smiled, and asked for the check. I’m sure he could sense the tension. I’m not suggesting we spill our guts to the poor guy who just served us chips and guac, but how often do our kids see us present a life that we’re not actually living? Do they see us post bliss-filled comments on social media or say everything is great when it’s actually not?

When we pretend everything is perfect instead of being honest about our struggles, we teach our kids that happy marriages can’t have problems.

The Fairy Tale Marriage

Do your kids think your marriage is perfect? You never disagree. Never fight. They probably love it because no kid wants to see their mom and dad fight. But I think we have to let them see it anyway. No, not about certain topics like sex, financial struggles, or the kids—and we shouldn’t do it every day. But when our kids tell us to stop fighting, it’s because they’re afraid the fight will tear us apart. They need to see healthy conflict resolution and that moms and dads fight but stay together.

When we refuse to allow our kids to see conflict, we potentially can make them fear it. And no relationship, especially a marriage, is without conflict.

How do you try to set a good example for your kids through your marriage?

If you haven’t checked out the new podcast Why or Why Not With the Watsons, we highly recommend it! Kirsten and Benjamin Watson have seven kids and cover topics ranging from keeping the spark in your love story to how to talk to your kids about race. It’s a must-add to your podcast library!

ASK YOUR CHILD...

What do you think of marriage after watching me and your dad?

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