Blog 92. Parenting: Do You Know What Might Happen If You Don’t Communicate Your Parenting Expectations To Your Partner?
As a relationship therapist, I was often confronted with the aftermath of a couple’s inability and often unwillingness to communicate their parenting expectations – especially when they first sensed that their relationship might be getting serious.
Often this is because people fear that a relationship might end – forgetting that by not speaking up, they could be landing themselves in years of misery and discontent.
Consequently, couples often find themselves not only in the wrong relationship but arguing unnecessarily about each other’s parenting skills and so on – and sometimes these strong feelings can lead to vicious and even violent arguments.
Because before making a serious commitment to one another, couples usually forget or don’t realise the value of:
1) Discussing whether both partners actually want children and indeed how many.
2) Having that all important conversation about money, (as already discussed in previous blogs) and whether the couple will expect a mother to stay at home in order to look after the children or if she works, whether it would be necessary for her to continue working and building her career, and so on.
3) Discussing religion and what type of schools they might prefer their children to attend. These two issues can lead to very different personal approaches that can easily lead to varying contentious responses and division.
4) Learning to understand the value of studying and getting to know a partner’s family – and how they were parented. Why? Because, what a partner absorbs from their parents and family is usually how they will want to bring up their own children, give or take a few adjustments.
5) And last but not least, asking oneself whether your partner choice is indeed the right one and whether they will be the right choice for you and your children. If you have certain expectations, it’s rather silly to choose a partner that varies entirely from how you were brought up, because invariably this will lead to friction. No matter how much you love someone – love often flies straight out of the backdoor when money and indeed children issues become a problem.
It is therefore only sensible to ask the right questions even before you start getting too serious. This is why it’s so important to have an idea of who you are and what you want out of life. And if you are wanting children, then finding the right partner will be crucial – not only for you but also for your children.
Parenting is a complex issues and often two people have massively different values or ideas about how they want to bring up their children.
This is why a long-term commitment and indeed marriage – is not just about a pretty white dress. And it is certainly not about some fantasy prince or princess that comes along to kiss you, so that you can head off into the sunset and live happily ever after. That is a fantasy concept that belongs mostly in fairy tale stories. However, the only reason why ‘living happily ever after’ seems to work for some, is that usually their foundations were put in place – right from the beginning.
But if a couple lands up being confused or not sure about their relationship or parenting expectations – this can lead to the emergence of possible power games that often affect children too.
The Power Games:
Relationships are about power, control, sex and money (which I have written about previously).
If the balance within a relationship is not set up, and if parents are not able to operate equally or indeed as equal partners, power issues and even bullying can emerge. And if power issues are not sufficiently understood or worked through, then the relationship could end in tears and in the divorce courts. And this is not good for either parents, let alone their children.
And children are naturally skilled at picking up a couple’s weaknesses. Very soon children will put a wedge between any couple, if the couple are unable to stand firm in their decision making processes.
Achieving this however, requires patience and al lot of hard work. It requires self-awareness and confidence – as well as an an aptitude for not taking everything on board as an affront to one’s own beliefs or ways of doing things.
Sometimes a couple needs to learn to trust one another and sometimes wants and needs have to be put aside unless the issue is so serious that a discussion is required – albeit privately.
Learning to work respectfully together is a skill and by supporting one another, children will also feel safe and secure.
But this is often hard, especially when you suddenly hear, “But dad/mum said I could”. This can certainly be irritating and it can set off all sorts of arguments between both parents and a child or children.
Here are a few basic tips parents can use to build a respectful relationship:
1) Learn to stand back.
2) Constantly pointing out faults is not helpful. It will just push the other person away.
3) Rather, try to find space to help one grow.
4) Encourage and acknowledge your partners’ parenting skills even if you don’t agree with all the skills or decisions.
5) But most of all – learn to communicate respectfully.
6) Learn to negotiate.
These tips may seem easy enough to follow, until stress and daily stuff takes over and everything gets flung straight out of the window. Arguments begin, doors slam, voices are raised and all hell breaks loose.
This can create moments when things are said that when you reassess their impact, they are hard to take back.
But children need to see and experience this too.
Trying to protect kids from the realities of life isn’t always helpful. They need to see how adults argue and how they heal, negotiate and survive their arguments and relationship difficulties. They need to see how upsetting life can sometime be. They need to see the anger and tears. And sure they also need to see how parents make up, laugh, hug and work together as a team. Why? Because this is how they will learn.
And also, minor differences in parenting styles can also help a child in all areas – at school, with friends, later at work and with their own relationships, as this will help them realise that not everyone agrees with one another all the time.
And it will help them learn that how we deal with issues doesn’t have to be the end of a friendship or relationship, but that by negotiating, by communicating and so on, people can survive through thick and thin and often they can grow closer as a result.
When children witness this, it becomes their own relationship blueprint, which hopefully will stand them in good stead as they prepare for adult life.
And hopefully this will also help children make the right choices when they come to choose a partner for themselves. Fingers crossed.
© 2018 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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