Why a Good Marriage is Mission Critical for Children
Have you ever heard of a saying, “Do as I say, not as I do”?
However, we all know that children often do what we do and not what we say simply because they are observational learners. Recently, I observed that my children frequently use this phase, “what you call that”, and I realised that they have probably picked this up from me! Our children learn a lot from watching us. They learn through observing others and copying what they do. What our children see, hear, feel, and experience will influence how they think and behave in their interaction with others. For example, when parents have a calm and orderly discussion over marital disagreements, our children will adopt similar ways of managing disagreements. At the same time, it teaches them that no relationship is perfect, and it sometimes requires compromise to find the general agreement between the people involved.
Without a good marital relationship, disagreements may escalate into conflict, and without knowing how to communicate our differences, we can resort to yelling and name-calling. When this happens, our children may adopt similar ways of resolving differences. Additionally, our marital conflict has a spillover effect as it increases emotional insecurity, namely fear and distress in our children who may worry about the state of their parent’s marital relationships.
Research has shown that children who frequently experience marital conflict at home may exhibit difficulties in coping with stressful events and may demonstrate aggressive, antisocial, or depressive symptoms. Younger children may sometimes think they are the cause of parental conflict, resulting in self-doubt or low self-esteem.
What contributes to a good marital relationship?
Before we learn how to model how to relate with our spouse, it will be useful to consider what contributes to a good marital relationship. We can assess the quality of our marital relationship from these ten core scales identified by Prepare and Enrich, an evidence-based marriage enrichment programme. Do a quick marriage self-check today to identify what are your strengths and growth areas in your marital relationship.
1. Communication – able to share feelings and understand each other
2. Conflict resolution – able to discuss and resolve differences
3. Partners style and habits – appreciating each other’s personality and habits
4. Financial management – ability to agree on budget and financial matters
5. Leisure activities – have a good balance of activities together and apart
6. Sexuality and affection – comfortable to discuss sexual issues and affections
7. Family and friends – feel good about our relationships with relatives and friends
8. Relationship roles – agree on shared decision-making and responsibilities
9. Children and Parenting – agree on issues related to having children and raising children
10. Spiritual beliefs – hold similar religious values and beliefs
Marital satisfaction can vary depending on one’s family’s life cycle. A couple will experience varying seasons of highs and lows across the life span of their marriage. Transitions can be experienced negatively when a couple experiences exhaustion and lack time for themselves. It is vital for couples to be aware of transitions as it has the potential to add stress to the couple’s relationship and contribute to a decline in marital satisfaction.
What happens when we model a good relationship?
When we have a good marital relationship, it improves our quality of life and that of our children’s. According to an 80-year study by Harvard, “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.” How happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. However, a good marriage does not just happen. We need to nurture it and create an environment for it to flourish.
If parents have a good relationship, there is a lower tendency for our disagreements to escalate into acrimonious conflicts. We can model how to communicate while navigating the minefield of differences in personality and beliefs. We can turn little irritations into new insights about our spouse, we can manage our expectations, and work hard at retaining the intimacy in our relationship. A stable and secure marriage will provide a model that children can aspire towards when they grow up and have children of their own.
If cars and air conditioners need servicing, and musical instruments require regular tune ups, why don’t we invest a little time to strengthen our marriage so that we can have that happily-ever-after ending?
Fei Yue Marriage Enrichment Programmes are endorsed and funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and are informed by research. To find out more, visit https://www.family-central.sg/courses/pe-mep/ or register your interest with us at http://go.fycs.org/MEP
Written by: Teo Si Rui, Intern and Poh Ee-Lyn, Senior Social Worker, Fei Yue Community Services