Q. My husband John and I seem to disagree about everything, including whether or not to hire a babysitter for our two kids. John says that date nights by ourselves would help our relationship, but I refuse to let someone else watch our children. Since we have become parents, the romance has gone out of our relationship, but with the constant bickering, I don’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything with my husband. What advice do you have for us?
A. I would recommend changing the way you’re thinking and behaving toward each other to a more loving and respectful way. Here are just a few ideas on why you need to change and hints about how to go about it:
First, it’s very important for children to see and experience parents who act in loving ways toward each other. Loving behavior between parents helps a child feel more secure. Your constant bickering might cause your children to fear you’ll divorce and to feel insecure. Additionally, you two are role models for your children as they learn how to treat others including their parents, playmates, significant adults in their lives and even their future spouses. Hugging each other and using pet names and terms of endearment sets a pleasant tone. Don’t feel like doing this? Try it anyway!
Secondly, what kind of happiness comes from being in control battles with your spouse? Sometimes you’ll lose a battle and you may even lose when you win. When people lose arguments about where or what to eat, or what to buy or not buy, they often feel hurt and/or angry. Some people pout or refuse to eat or talk to their spouse, which escalates the problem. Note: not eating or talking are additional ways of trying to control when feeling out of control of the situation. When you and your husband disagree, it may help to discuss or to write down the pros and cons for each choice. You might consider giving in on things that don’t really matter that much to you and ask your husband to do the same.
Thirdly, your children will grow up and leave home; the years of raising children will be behind you quicker than you can imagine now and you’ll have a good bit of time alone with your husband. If your relationship is loving and respectful with some give and take, the years without the children in your home will be enjoyable for both of you.
Some of the best parents have a loving relationship with each other and work hard at it. Rethink those date nights and work hard to find an acceptable sitter. Even a short time away from the children so you can have a one-on-one adult conversation will improve your relationship. If you just can’t bring yourself to hire a sitter to improve your relationship with your husband, at least plan some family evenings that are special for him as well as for the children.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to immediately react to John’s words or actions; take time to reflect on how a loving person would handle different situations. Remember, you and your husband are the major role models for your children in communication skills.
In this month of love and romance, I wish you more of both.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.
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