There are so many rules to marriage, to raising kids and to keeping the family unit healthy that sometimes it’s these well-meaning rules that weigh a person down and make them feel like abject failures for not always doing the right thing – per the rule book.
We’ve heard all the rules, from never going to bed angry with your spouse (please! I think we’ve all gone to bed looking at the sleepy lump beside us wondering what on earth we married) and to never (ever!) fight in front of our kids. I have a problem with these two in particular. We’re human, and our spouses are going to tick us off, and vice versa. To have a disagreement at 9 p.m. and have kissed and made up by bedtime is a bit much, unless it’s an episode of the Cosby’s. Real life doesn’t work like that. This isn’t to say it’s a good idea to go to bed while considering the suffocation possibilities of our pillow, but going to bed a little pissed off is okay, once in a while. It’s not a sign of your marriage’s ultimate demise down the line. Marriages don’t happen overnight and nor does problem solving within it.
And what about our kids? Do we always present the happy couple to them, or is it okay to hash out a disagreement over dinner? Well, the answer depends on what you call a fight. Yelling, screaming, name-calling and accusations are never good in general, and certainly not in front of children. Children are enormous guilt carriers and will assume they are to blame. They will probably think they did something to cause the fight or to anger their parents and can even go to bed terrified of an impending divorce. Serious disagreements need to be kept to isolated areas (go for a walk or wait until the children are out of the home) or keep dirty laundry in the therapist's office. As parents, we have no right to drag our children into our messes.
But the debates and the disagreements over politics, school boards and other less personal topics? Debating in a smart, respectful manner in the presence of our kids can actually be healthy, especially with kids over the age of six. The fair "fight" can be a good fight.