January 28, 2014

on showing love in front of your kids.

This recent article on the Huff Post Parents site has been making its rounds on social media and part of it really struck a cord with me. Well, number 4 in particular. 
"4. Put down your child's other parent. If you never show affection and love to your partner/spouse in front of your child, the child does not develop a barometer for what love is or what it looks like. If you are always putting your spouse down and rejecting him/her, threatening divorce, you create a chronic state of anxiety for your child. If you are already divorced and you remain cold, distant, bitter, angry and blaming of your ex-spouse, you are sending the subtle message to your child that your ex-spouse is the cause of the divorce and you need to be the preferred parent. This is parent alienation."
There are so many parts of this statement that resonate with me and have in some way, formed my view on love and relationships.

If you never show affection and love to your partner/spouse in front of your child, the child does not develop a barometer for what love is or what it looks like. 

I'm a child of divorce. Well, let me re-phrase, I'm a child who grew up with parents in an unhappy marriage. They didn't actually divorce until I was 18. Now, I'm not saying my parents did a horrible job at raising me, but I think they would agree that they did not have the kind of relationship that provided a good model for me.  I don't recall a single time in my childhood where I saw my parents hug or kiss in front of me. Ever. I'm sure they did every now and then, but it wasn't enough for me to remember. This doesn't mean I don't know what love looks like. 

Now, I may at times have difficulty expressing my love and affection for my husband in a physical way, i.e. we're not the hand holding/lots of PDA couple. I don't know why I'm like this, maybe it does have something to do with the amount of physical affection I grew up seeing, and now that I know what love looks like, it's difficult for me to connect my emotions to a physical show of affection. I'm much more comfortable expressing my love verbally, or I guess not more comfortable, but it's something that comes naturally for me. This also doesn't mean I don't enjoy physical displays of love and affection. I enjoy being hugged and kissed on, I crave that from my husband however many times, I'm just not sure how to process it. 

One thing I did learn from my parents' marriage is how I want mine to be different. I learned how I want to argue with my husband (without yelling). I learned that children can hear your arguments even if you think they cant, and that they always know what is going on. As an only child of parents who argued a lot, I learned exactly how I wanted to be different and I make efforts in my own marriage to avoid what caused me stress when I was younger.

Although it may seem like children of divorce or conflicted marriages would be in some way emotionally damaged (and who knows, maybe I'm all kinds of messed up), I think we carry a certain strength, resilience and a little bit of knowledge about the realness of love and marriage. We aren't under the illusion that things will be perfect. If anything, we've gained some first hand life lessons that our parents inadvertently taught us. Important lessons that will help us form the rules we'll use to guide ourselves in our own marriages. 

So on days my husband is feeling extra lovey and I just really don't feel like being hugged all day, I think about what I want my boys to see. I think about how I want them to see their mom and dad and squeeze my husband a little bit tighter. I want them to see a physical reassurance that everything is ok. I want them to remember us showing each other love. 

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