Recently, we came across suggestions, on a website called dynamom, that parents should avoid with their children. While we recognize that these are great parenting hints we thought most of them could be applied to a marriage relationship as well.
1. Not saying “I love you.” I used to obverse adolescents saying this to each other very early in a relationship, especially as they ended phone conversations or when they parted. I saw this in our children as they developed a relationship with the person they were to marry. We made a promise on our honeymoon to say those words everyday and as far as we know we have done so. Some might argue that saying it can become a rote thing with no meaning, but we think that never hearing it, which is a danger when not done frequently is more devastating to a relationship. Words convey a lot and being told that one is loved is essential to a lasting relationship.
2. Judging other parents. The bar isn’t set very high when we only measure ourselves by those who in our minds aren’t doing a good job at being loving parents. It’s the parents who constantly yell at their children, etc. We do the same as couples. We look at those who don’t do the things in their relationship that we think we are doing and make excuses when we see a couple who seem to be very good together. Have you ever said, “I’ll bet they are not like that at home.”? The bar isn’t high. Think of and speak of what you want in your relationship and then set about reaching that. Look to couples that challenge you in deepening your relationship not those who give you excuses for being lax.
3. Negative self-talk. We all have moments when we look in the mirror and say “I’m fat” or “I’m stupid.” While having your children hear this gives them the wrong message it can have equally an devastating effect on a marriage. Repeating messages like these to oneself eventually leads to the belief that they are true or that he or she is less than the other in the relationship.
4. Distraction City. It is impossible to go anywhere with out seeing everyone in a family on some kind of electronic device. People sit down at a table in a restaurant and instantly everyone pulls out a phone. We’ve seen this in couples out on a date night. Much of their time together is spent connected to someone other than their spouse. Perhaps a few guidelines for family as well as couples. Set aside a time slot each evening or several evenings a week when no is on electronics. Perhaps 7 to 9. Try doing some different things like having conversations on any number of topics, play a board game, take a walk. All will enhance a relationship.
5. Badmouthing people our kids love. Nothing is worse for children than having their parents badmouth one of their grandparents. We teach them to love and respect their grandparents and but diss them in the child’s presence. This also has effects on a marriage relationship if the people we love and respect are not loved and respected by our spouse. Think about the effect this might have on your relationship with each other.
6. Trying to control everything. This has been labeled as characteristic of parents – especially the baby boomer generation. Children are not allowed to experience any kind of defeat nor are they allowed to make any decision on their own. This is not uncommon in couples as well. One makes all the decisions, either by verbally insisting or by saying nothing. It doesn’t matter whether it is money, parenting, sex, or conversation. There is no discussion – one makes all the decisions. It leads to feelings of inequality, and we have observed in couples that one shuts down and merely goes along with whatever the other wants because if s/he doesn’t it results in a fight or increased periods of silence. Have real peace in your relationship not just quiet.
7. Photographing everything. We all see this in parenting. Absolutely everything must be photographed. With the advent of smart phones it is endemic. While this my apply less to a marriage relationship I sometimes wonder whether anything is ever just experienced because getting it recorded in pictures loses the spontaneity and the intimacy of the moment. I often wonder what happens to the hundreds even thousands of pictures that are taken. Does anyone actually look at them or do they merely become things we do to avoid entering into the moment?
8. Being the yes man or woman. We all know parents that give into the demands of their children, whether it is buying a little toy on every trip to the store or a food treat or even clothes or large toy. This sets up our children with a sense of entitlement and they can become demanding little tyrants. This can happen in a marriage as well when every little whim of the other is expected to be met. Anyone married for any length of time knows that this is not possible. We have to learn to meet our own needs and recognize that some times all our little desires, wants and whims aren’t going to be met. It we don’t teach our children these same things they will never be able to be in a loving adult relationship.
9. Being too comfortable. As a parent we often have to do things with our children that we may not be comfortable doing, such as engaging in sports activities or reading books. If we don’t, we may limit the development of their unique gifts and talents. A marriage relationship can be limited if one or both of us gets too comfortable as well. A relationship thrives and grows when we try new things. It gives us the opportunity to know each other in new ways and is a stimulus in getting us to focus on the other and new things that we might try together. This is important in every stage of a marriage relationship. Being couch potatoes or settled in isn’t good for the long term.
10. Faking quality time. Parents may think they are spending quality time with their children when in reality they are preoccupied with their jobs, electronics, odd jobs that need to be done. The same happens in a relationship. Couples can engage in parallel conversations. While it would appear that a conversation is happening, in reality each is carrying on a different conversation. Neither is listening to or engaged in what the other is saying. Couples may be in the same room, even watching the same TV program, and think they are spending quality time together when they could as easily be in separate rooms. Don’t convince yourselves that you are spending quality time together when you aren’t. Make a commitment to actually spend time together when each of you can focus on the other. It is essential to a relationship.
As the days warm up and plants come alive and grow again we too are provided with opportunities to feel alive, growing and thriving. It is a good time to think about this in your relationship. Relationships need attention and care. Make the time to do so.
Comments are appreciated.
Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.