Have you ever yelled at your husband in front of your kids and then felt guilty? If you are like me, you probably have. You also probably believe that you should feel guilty.
It is a common myth we find ourselves believing. Society seems to demand perfection in all aspects of our lives.
To be a “good” wife, we must do “x, y and z.”
To be a “good” parent, we must do “x, y and z,” and never do “a, b or c.”
It is hard to live up to the expectations of being perfect.
But, imperfection inspires growth and change!
If we only model perfection for our children and let them grow up believing that arguing and conflict is to be avoided, they will lack the ability to work through disagreements with their spouse, friend or co-worker. They may adopt an “all or nothing” expectation of relationships. When one relationship faces conflict, they may believe the relationship is broken and cannot be fixed. They discontinue that relationship and go on searching for that “perfect” relationship which doesn’t exist. This can lead to a lifetime of unhappiness and contentment.
You see, conflict, anger and fighting are parts of our lives. It is OK and even beneficial to let your kids see their parents fighting. You can’t shield your children from your marital conflicts and make them believe their parents are in a fairytale relationship. You are setting them up for failure in their own future relationships.
You may be thinking, “How is letting your children witness arguments going to make them unsuccessful in their future relationships?”
At one of my mom’s group meetings several years ago, we had a marriage counselor speak. She started off her presentation by asking a few questions.
“Do you think there is a ‘right’ way to fight and argue?”
“Which of the following couples do you think handles conflict most effectively?”
They argue loudly and often one or the other storms off into another room.
They calmly sit on the sofa to discuss their own perspectives about the conflict. After hearing each other out, they decide on a way to compromise.
It can be both or neither.
“I forgot to finish Couple A’s story. You see the spouse that stormed off took some time to calm down and gather his thoughts. He then came back to his spouse, apologized for storming off and listened to his wife’s perspective. They found a compromise that they both felt good about.
In Couple B’s story, even after they heard each other out, the wife was not happy with the compromise, but she decided to ‘give in’ in order to avoid more conflict and arguing.”
The manner in which a couple resolves conflict – whether in a heated interchange or a calm discussion – does not reflect or determine how effectively they resolve conflict.
You can have couples that have feisty arguments, but who successfully resolve conflict. However, if during these heated arguments spouses call each other names, make demeaning comments or get physical, the conflict will not be resolved and the relationship damaged. It can even affect someone’s self-esteem.
Conversely, there can be couples that argue through calm discussion and one spouse decides to “give in” for the sake of “keeping the peace.” Over time, the spouse that “gives in” will build up resentment and hurt because they don’t feel that their happiness is of any value to their spouse.
What else can your children learn from witnessing their parents fighting?
1. How to love
You want to teach your children that love is a choice, not a feeling. To love is to serve and when you truly love someone, you love him/her for their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Relationships, like many things in life, are not perfect
If you expect perfection, then you will spend your whole life searching for – but never find – that perfect relationship.
3. Be open-minded to other people’s ideas and perspectives
Life is not black and white. We each have different life experiences and this often shapes our perspectives.
4. Not everybody sees the world or feels about issues the same way you do
We are uniquely made. Two people can experience the same thing and come away with totally different perspectives, lessons or even memories.
5. Conflict can strengthen and deepen relationships
At the root of many conflicts is miscommunication. You may act in a way that you think is respectable but not realize your tone of voice.
6. Conflict (when successfully resolved) helps you grow as a person
Conflict often reveals our shortcomings and the areas in our lives that we need to work on. The lessons we learn change behaviors that are hurtful or offensive to others.
7. How to deal with conflict and fight fair – no name calling
I think this one is self-explanatory.
8. You can disagree with someone but still love them and respect them as a person
Every conflict you face has the potential to grow your relationship. Often, we grow as individuals as well.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Ali Chovanec’s website. It has been modified and republished here with permission.