What we learn from our parents’ marriages

“What we lean from our parents’ marriages” is the name of an article in June 2009 edition of Redbook magazine.  It is essentially about that…what couples, through interview with Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Happy Families, have learned from studying their parents’ marriages.  Yeah, I know…Redbook is not The American Journal of Family and Marriage but it is one of the magazines in my waiting room and the article has good principles in it.  I thought it was so good, I copied it and had it available in my waiting room as a handout for anyone interested.

Anyway, below are the principles the 9 couples and Dr. Haltzman outlined in the article.

1. “Marriage takes alot of work.”  I hear this over and over in my practice.  It is really not the work of living together that is so bad…the laundry, the toilets, the running.  But rather, what is so hard and time-consuming is the communication required in a good marriage.  Both people must: talk (About what, you ask….typically everything.); you must be patient while listening to your partner; be able to control your impulses to interrupt; be able to tolerate your feelings (from what your partners say)/thoughts (going on in your own head in response to what your partner is sayiing) while you are listening; ask for clarification for terms and phrases used that you are not 100% sure about; respond using a tone that is not provocative or (passive)aggressive; AND you must then negotiate a solution to what ever is being discussed….anything from how far the clothes-hamper is from the wall to how often we have sex!  Marriage is alot of work!!!

2. “Your parent’s marriage is not your marriage.” It is the FEAR of being like your parents (in their not-so-great ways) that is the real culprit here.  It is fear that keeps us from looking at issues.  My experience in my office is that the fear you have in looking at the issue is not nearly as bad as what you thought or… feared.

3. “Speak kindly to each other.” It is critical that, no matter what, you talk with each other with respect.  I didn’t know that when I was first married.  I’m not proud to say that it took me time to learn that but I did learn it.  It is something I address with couples on a daily basis.

4. “Speak intimately to each other.” What we are talking about here is being vulnerable with your partner in conversation.  If you are vulnerable with them, they will be with you.

5. “Show your children your love.” This is the greatest gift you can give your kids.  Aside from it giving your children a solid base to grow from, it also shows) them how powerful love and affection is(…as a force through the tough times, what adult love looks like, that adults show their loved one their affectionate, sensitive and vulnerable side.  It gives them a model they can use when they are in their own relationships.

6. “Show your children your independence.” So often I see couples that either do EVERYTHING together or, more often, do NOTHING together.  It is critically important you have your own interests and time (by yourself) in a relationship.  It helps you remember who you are in a relationship, separate from your lover (A real problem for most women.) and again, it models for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like.  It also shows them one more way you respect your partner and his/her needs.

7. “Keep playing/laughing”. There is just SO much serious stuff couples have to deal with in a relationship….See #1 above.

8. “Share the work” Guys……Guys….Guys, do you know what she complains about so often in my office when you are not there…?

9. “Put your marriage BEFORE your kids and put your partner on a pedestal…occasionally.” I like both of these.  You know, on airlines, in the preflight instructions when they talk about…..”parents put your oxygen mask on before you put it on your child”…well, the same applies here.  If mom and dad don’t stay connected, everyone goes down, everyone is effected.  Secondly, yeah, I believe it is good to occasionally put your partner first…occasionally ladies…only occasionally.  Guys…an observation…we, as a group in American society, are socialized to put ourself first…seriously.  So, if you can’t recall the last time you truely put her first, did something for her that she truely loved and that you were not expecting anything in return (spelled S.E.X.), then you are not doing that enough.  Put her first…more often.

More later.

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