Spouse Contradicts Partner in Front of Kids

Father:  “Jennifer, you are kicking my feet under the table. Please take another chair.”

Jennifer:  “I don’t want to.”

Mother:  “Why should she have to move?”

Father:  “Fine. Then I’m moving – I don’t have to sit here and be kicked.”

Parents have a powerful biological urge to protect their children. From anyone. Including their spouse. However, cialis parents need to differentiate between those times that they must protect their child and those times that they must keep their mouths shut! If a spouse is abusing a child (physically or psychologically harming the child to the point that Family Services would intervene if they knew about it) then of course, unhealthy a partner must intervene to put an end to the mistreatment.

However, if the spouse is simply using a parenting strategy that the other spouse doesn’t approve of, doesn’t like or doesn’t think is the best way to go, then it is crucial NOT TO INTERVENE.  When parents intervene over these kinds of non-issues, true psychological harm can occur to the child. This is the very opposite of the goal of the intervening parent. The intervener is desperately trying to arrange the very best parenting experience for his or her child. Yet, the intervention itself has many harmful effects. Let’s look at the dialogue above (and let’s make the assumption that this kind of dialogue occurs regularly in this family) to see what the child is learning from the short conversation between her mother and father:

  • Jennifer learns that women treat their husbands disrespectfully.
  • Jennifer learns that she can be rude to her father and both parents will tolerate it.
  • Jennifer learns that men are passive and weak.
  • Jennifer learns how to have a bad marriage.
  • Jennifer does not learn how husbands and wives communicate well.
  • Jennifer feels responsible for causing her parents to fight.

If Jennifer’s mom had just said something like, “Don’t speak to your dad like that. If he asked you to move, then please move right now” Jennifer would have learned the following:

  • Parents support & respect each other
  • A child needs to be respectful to her parents
  • Parents work together as a team.
  • Grown men and women are effective

In other words, mom would have helped her daughter so much more by supporting her husband even though she didn’t approve of his request. His parenting behavior wasn’t abusive – it just wasn’t to her standard. This is the area in which this mom needs to change her strategy in order to truly protect her daughter.

Healthy Communication in Marriage

Your kids learn about love in two ways: how you treat them and how you treat your spouse. We show kids that we love them by using the 80-20 Rule in daily communication (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for full instructions as to how to use this rule in parenting to establish love and healthy discipline). We show our spouse that we love him or her by  following the 95-5 Rule. Our kids learn that this is how love looks, sounds and feels in grownup relationships. Select your actions from the categories below in the suggested ratios. Your marriage will immediately improve. Your children will relax and do better in every aspect of their functioning in the short-term and for the rest of their lives.

Living the 95-5 Rule
How much negativity to you want from your spouse each day? Most people say “zero.” That’s the 100-0 Rule: all good-feeling communication and no bad-feeling communication. However, we do have to say things that feel (slightly) bad sometimes, like instructions, directions, requests and so on. Mild bad-feeling communications like these knock out 20 of your good-feeling investments. Truly bad-feeling communications (see below) can knock out hundreds, thousands or millions of your good-feeling investments. Too many truly bad-feeling communications destroy a relationship.

Even when if you feel resentful, hurt, displeased, dissatisfied , angry or otherwise negative toward your spouse today, you can use the 95-5 Rule (96% of your communication must come from the “feels good” category and 5% can come from the “feels bad” category). You don’t have to feel any love right now in order to use this rule. However, if you use the rule consistency, not only will you begin to feel more loving, but everyone in the family will become more loving too.

Communication That Feels Good: (use these for 95% of your communication with your partner)

  • Smiling
  • Using a pleasant tone of voice
  • Joking
  • Listening (attentively)
  • Showing appreciation (“Thank you!”)
  • Showing interest  (“What happened at your meeting today?”)
  • Offering sympathy or understanding ( “Oh, that’s too bad.”)
  • Naming feelings (“I guess you felt upset when he said that.”)
  • Nurturing (“Would you like a nice hot cup of tea?”)
  • Acts of kindness (“I cleaned your dish for you.”)
  • Giving positive feedback (compliments, praise, acknowledgement)
  • Using positive labels (“You’re so thoughtful.”)
  • Using positive words (“The weather is fantastic.”)
  • Being in your own good, up-beat mood
  • Agreeing
  • Using affectionate terms (endearments, pet names, words of love)
  • Affectionate touch (when it is wanted)
  • Physical intimacy (when it is wanted)
  • Giving gifts, treats
  • Offering help, assistance or advice
  • Giving unsolicited, assistance or advice help (when it is wanted)
  • “News, weather and sports” (small talk about the events of the day or interesting topics)
  • Greetings and salutations (“Have a nice day.”)
  • Forgiving (“I know you didn’t mean to break my favourite dish…”)
  • Compromising, being flexible

Communication That Feels Bad: (many of these should never be used; the remainder cased for up to 5% of your communication with your partner)

  • Frowning, looking unpleasant
  • Unpleasant tone of voice, snarling, mumbling
  • Showing lack of interest
  • Disagreeing
  • Your own bad mood or poorly managed stress
  • Making requests
  • Giving instructions (unless requested)
  • Making negative comments (“This house is falling apart.”)
  • Using negative labels (“You are being rude.”)
  • Verbal abuse (Insults, put-downs, sarcasm, , mocking, swearing)
  • Giving negative feedback (criticism, correction, complaints, judgment, lectures)
  • Any show of anger or displeasure (raised voice, slammed door, hanging up phone, walking out)
  • Threats
  • Ignoring (withdrawal, stonewalling, sulking, lack of attention, neglecting)
  • Acts of unkindness
  • Interrogating
  • Challenging
  • Embarrassing or humiliating spouse
  • Rigidity, inflexibility
  • Directing, insisting, controlling, forcing, steamrolling

Parenting After Divorce

Mothers and fathers often disagree on matters pertaining to parenting. It happens when the parents are operating within the context of an intact family home and it also happens when parents have gone their separate ways through separation or divorce. However, dosage unlike their married counterparts, order divorced couples lack the trust and friendliness that is  at the foundation of marriage.

Power Plays
Let’s take an example. Nine year old Liam is terrific at karate. He’s been active in this sport for several years already and has won competitions and prizes along the way. The recently divorced parents differ on their view of this activity. Mom thinks karate is fantastic and encourages their son to practice frequently and reach for the top. Dad thinks that Liam should put his energy into league sports (as he himself did at that age): hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball and so on. In order to encourage Liam in this direction, Dad tells him that “karate is for sissies; only weirdo’s do it.” Liam, not wanting to be a sissy or a weirdo,tells Mom that he wants to quite his lessons and do team sports.

Mom is furious. She thinks Dad is playing “team sports” with her, trying his hardest to win Liam over to his side. “If he was really thinking about Liam’s welfare, he’d let our son continue doing what he’s good at. Why does he have to make Liam feel bad for doing something that he clearly loves?” For his part, Dad claims sincere best interests for his son’s welfare. “Boys have to be on teams,” he says. “I don’t want my kid being a social misfit. He’s gonna need that karate just to beat up the kids who make fun of him.”

Working Together
As previously mentioned this sort of dispute can happen just as easily within marriage as without. How would happily married folks solve the dilemma?

First of all, there would probably be a conversation between the partners. Ideally, Mom would express her view and Dad would listen and ask lots of questions about it. Then Dad would express his view and Mom would listen and ask lots of questions about it. This “listening and questioning” technique would likely uncover some common ground, such as wanting their child to be successful, happy, accepted, busy, productive and so on. Because the conversation would be mutually respectful, good will would prevail. The good will would allow for some sort of reasonable compromise. “Why don’t we continue to let him do karate, but cut down his lessons once or twice a week, and sign him up for basketball on the other nights. He could try both activities and either pursue both indefinitely or choose his own favorite.”

The very best thing for divorced families to do is to imitate the processes found in happy intact homes. The parents don’t have to love each other in order to conduct respectful conversations for the wellbeing of their kids. They just have to care enough about their kids to do it.

The Divorced Child
When one or both parties cannot or will not communicate respectfully, it is the child who is at risk. Let’s say that in our current example, neither parent is willing to change their point of view. Mom is the one who has been taking Liam to karate – should she continue doing so or stop?

Mom needs to ask herself which action on her part will contribute most to her son’s mental health. If she battles it out with Dad because she so firmly believes that karate is the best choice of leisure activity, then Liam suffers from witnessing yet more parental conflict. Moreover, if he sees that Mom is vehemently pro-karate while Dad is vehemently anti-karate, he will be torn down the middle, wanting Mom’s approval, wanting Dad’s approval and knowing that he cannot have both. In addition, both parents will be modeling a strong case for stubborn behavior, something that they will not be happy to see in Liam later on. Taking the issue to court would be costly and traumatic to the family and by the time it was settled, Liam would probably be an adult! In this scenario, Mom may choose to lose the karate battle for the sake of her child’s wellbeing. Now that Liam feels self-conscious about karate, she can empathize with his feelings using emotional coaching: “It makes sense that you wouldn’t want to do a sport that’s for sissies Liam. If you feel you’ve had enough of karate for now and want to try something different, that’s fine. It’s good to have variety and try different things.” In this way, Liam’s passion for karate is sacrificed for the sake of his overall mental health and development. He gets to feel good about himself and safe in his little divorced world. When he gets a little older, something may rekindle his interest in karate and he may decide to pursue it at that time. Whether this happens or not, however, his mom will have done the very best for him by reducing conflict and divided loyalties.

Divorced parenting involves many such sacrifices. The big picture must always take priority over the particular small issue. This requires tremendous maturity and self-control on the part of divorced parents. It hurts to feel cornered, trapped and powerless in one’s parenting. Despite the pain, wise divorced parents put their child’s needs FIRST. They do what’s best for the child. Supportive counseling can help divorced parents work through their own feelings of frustration, anger and loss that inevitably occur during parenting conflicts.

How to Deal with an Angry Spouse

We’re human and we sometimes get mad. Anger is a feeling. It is not a behavior. Behaviors are what people do, find actions that they take. When you are mad, what do you do? Do you pout? Do you shout? Do you grumble and mumble? Do you withdraw or do you attack? We all have our ways.

Expressed anger often leads to behaviors that are destructive on every level: personally, interpersonally and spiritually. Working on ourselves to reduce the amount of time we are triggered into an angry emotional state can be helpful; obviously, the less we feel anger, the less we’ll have to control our behavior. Sometimes this work can consist of self-reflection, personal development through classes or counselling or even reading books on anger management. Sometimes relaxation and stress-management counseling will help lower our anger thermostats. Sometimes psychotherapy or medication is needed in order not to be living too close to the boiling point. However, whether or not we manage to reduce our angry feelings, it is ESSENTIAL that we learn to eliminate our angry behaviors.

The Angry Spouse
Some people marry a person who turns out to have a problem with anger. Sometimes the anger is evident even in the dating period, but it is misinterpreted as being tolerable or normal. For instance, people who grow up with angry parents don’t always recognize anger as a toxic trait in a spouse-to-be. In fact, it seems rather familiar to them in a way that makes them feel like they’re at home. This is one of the great costs of angry parenting—it causes children to be at significant risk for being comfortable with angry people and therefore choosing such a person to be a spouse. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifetime of marital pain or to the pain of divorce.

Sometimes the anger is not noticeable during the dating period, but rather is well hidden. It comes out only after the wedding, sometimes within weeks and sometimes within months. Unfortunately, marital partners do not always understand the implications of an angry outburst on the part of their spouse. Often, they think it is a freak accident, something out of character that has occurred once or twice and will never occur again. Usually, they can’t foresee what this anger will look like a couple of years down the line or what it’s effects will be on the children yet to be born.

However, there is a large body of research that informs us as to the progression and effects of anger in family life. According to the literature, angry behaviors often tend to increase over time. They don’t tend to just disappear on their own. Spouses who put up with angry behavior by remaining silent or by voicing disapproval without mentioning any real consequences, send a message loud and clear: “Go ahead and be aggressive. I’ll tolerate it.” The result is that angry behavior not only persists — it can sometimes actually worsen over time. This is true of both angry men and angry women; both genders can be guilty of escalating abusive behavior. Yelling becomes swearing. Swearing becomes stamping and slamming. Stamping and slamming becomes throwing things, followed by punching and kicking holes in the walls. Next comes assault. So many people have followed this well-worn path that it is now totally predictable by law enforcement agencies, family service agencies and mental health professionals. Spouses who don’t stop small signs of aggression when they first appear will have a much larger symptoms of violence to address in the end. Unfortunately, by that time, there may be children around who then must endure the trauma of living with aggression in the marriage. In addition, women should know that pregnancy itself is a condition that is statistically linked to a higher incidence of aggressive behavior in male partners. Therefore, the time to put a halt to any inappropriate expression of anger is long before the first pregnancy. Men need to understand that female aggression, while not always as dangerous as male aggression, can indeed lead to physical injury (sometimes serious injury or even death) and always leads to psychological injury; it hurts deeply to be so disrespected and so badly treated by someone who is supposed to be your life partner and best friend. Children are equally scarred by witnessing male or female physical and/or verbal violence.

Ending Inappropriate Expression of Anger
How does one stop one’s spouse from expressing anger inappropriately? Apply the 2X-Rule: on the very first occasion of disrespectful treatment, address the issue clearly using Step One. (If physical violence of any kind has occurred, skip this first step and go straight to step two below.)  Step one might sound something like this: “I don’t want ugly communications to be part of my marriage and my life. We can do better and if we do better, we’ll protect and nurture our love. If we don’t do better, we might lose one of the most important things we have in our lives: our affection for each other.” The next time disrespect is communicated, repeat the same message as in Step One and add a warning.  Step Two might sound something like: “This has already happened one time too many. If it happens again, I’m going to speak to “so and so” and see if he/she can refer us to a counselor.” “So and so” can be a priest or rabbi, a family doctor or another therapist. It should not be a relative (who will, upon hearing of mistreatment, never forgive your partner long after you have forgiven him or her!). It should not be a friend either (who may be unskilled and end up simply escorting you to divorce court). This step of exposing mistreatment, however, is crucial. As soon as an abusive partner realizes that his or her behavior will be exposed outside the home, healing begins to occur. No one wants outsiders to see such an unattractive picture of them. Always let an angry spouse know that others will know. Do this even if the behavior you are concerned about is verbal disrespect. Stopping such behavior in its tracks protects your marriage and allows love to flourish.

If physical aggression is occurring, make it clear to your partner that you cannot live together in the same house until that behavior is permanently rectified. Ask your doctor for a referral for your spouse to an official anger management program. Consider separating physically until the partner has a graduation certificate and you feel confident that he or she understands that you will not live with this in the marriage. Your partner can control him or herself and will only “lose control” to the extent that you permit it. The only people who truly cannot control the expression of their anger are people with severe mental illness and these people should generally be locked up away from society since they are a danger to everyone. Spouses who are only aggressive at home are very much in control of their behavior. That’s why they only scream, insult, hit or throw things but they never take a weapon and actually use it in a fatal way! They are, in fact, totally in control.

Removing inappropriate expressions of anger in your home is only the first step to building a healthy relationship. Taking classes and counseling can help build good anger management and communication skills that will safeguard love and nurture a wholesome family atmosphere. Although it is best to stop inappropriate anger before it gets a foothold, it is never too late. Healing and growth occurs throughout the lifetime.

New Life with a New Baby

Now that there is a baby in the picture, your life will never be the same. The freedom and carefree days of youth are behind and the days of responsibility have taken their place. No matter how eager one has been to start a family or how mature or ready one is for this happy time, there will still be many challenging adjustments. Understanding and accepting the challenges of new parenting can make the adjustment to parenthood easier and less stressful.

Sleep, Mood and Functioning
Part of what makes new parenthood difficult is sleep deprivation and/or interruption. A baby needs 24 hour care; it does not “shut down” for the night – at least not at first. Parents may have their sleep interrupted every couple of hours. What is the result of this on mood and functioning? Sleep research indicates that insufficient or poor quality sleep can lower mood, increase irritability and lead to making more errors. Bleary-eyed parents have increased feelings of stress along with their exhaustion. While this is all so normal, it is not so pleasant.

Some couples find helpful solutions for this sleep crunch. For instance, in some homes, only the mother handles night-time parenting while the father gets uninterrupted sleep. The mother then takes one or more naps in the daytime while Dad is at work. This can work out well as long as the baby is a good daytime sleeper and Mom is willing to use daytime hours for sleeping or as long as their is a good babysitter available and Mom is willing to use daytime hours for sleeping. Some moms seem to think that they should get all their errands and household tasks done while a baby sleeps. This is fine as long as the mother has slept well in the evening; it is not fine if she only had a few hours of nightime sleep or constantly interrupted sleep.

Some couples hire a baby nurse for the evening care of the infant for a few weeks after birth. Of course, this doesn’t work well if the mother wants to nurse the infant. Some couples supplement nursing with bottle-feeding during the night so that Mom and Dad can give each other relief as one sleeps and the other does baby care.

Any system is fine as long as both mother and father end up having a decent amount of rest. Realistically, sleep will not look much like pre-baby sleep for weeks, often months and sometimes years after a baby is born. However, minimizing sleep loss is a reasonable goal.

Endless Responsibility
Another change that occurs is that a young couple cannot as easily and spontaneously go out and have fun. A babysitter must be arranged or the baby and all its paraphernalia (diaper bag, stroller, car seat and so on) must be packed. This slows things down, sometimes to a halt. It is important not to allow the baby to make a parent housebound. This can increase isolation and depressed mood. Although it is necessary to plan better and take longer, being active is better for everyone’s mental health.

New Marital Challenges
Division of labor normally has to be renegotiated after the birth of a baby. Finding a respectful way to divide tasks is essential. Husband and wife have to reduce self-centered ways of functioning and be prepared to give to each other and their baby. Both mothers and fathers have a lot to learn in the first year of childcare. They must be supportive of each other as this learning occurs and trust each other’s love for their child. When the marital adjustment to life with a baby doesn’t go smoothly, accessing professional help early can prevent suffering and marital trauma (unhappy periods that haunt the rest of the marriage). Usually a professional counselor can help young couples find healthy ways to take care of themselves, each other and their infant.

Coming Out Happier and Stronger
Parenthood can enhance a marriage when it is done consciously with a focus on increasing love all around. Reading parenting books, joining online communities, taking parenting classes and so on can help provide more options than one would have thought of on one’s own. Other people have gone down this road before – tap their collective wisdom to make your own parenting journey as healthy and happy as it can be.