Wifey Wednesday: Are You Modelling a Good Marriage for Your Kids?

Are You Modeling a Good Marriage for Your Kids?

It’s Wednesday, when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment or link up a marriage post of your own in the linky below! Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: Are you modeling a good marriage for your kids?

We’ve been talking this week about raising kids to make good decisions. On Monday we talked about how to help kids understand it’s better to wait to date, and yesterday my 16-year-old shared her thoughts on why she’s not dating in high school. Tomorrow my 19-year-old will chime in, answering “why do teenagers rebel?” (and what we can do to make that less likely).

But all of this really comes down to the relationships that you model with your kids. It’s great to teach them things, but it’s so much better to show them. When you model a great marriage, they will want to have what you have. They’re far less likely to look for shortcuts.

Now modeling a great marriage means that you have to actually have a good marriage! You can’t just fake it. But remember that a good marriage is not a perfect marriage. It’s okay if kids see that you’re still working some things through, as long as they also see that you’re doing it in a healthy way. And what is it that you want kids to see?

In a Good Marriage, Spouses are Affectionate Towards Each Other

Kids need to know you actually like each other! It’s so important for them to see you physically touch. It helps them understand more about sexuality, and it helps them feel secure, that your marriage is okay. The majority of women who write to me who have sexual issues in their marriage will say something like, “In our house sex was never talked about and I never saw my mom or dad touch or kiss each other.” It was something that was so distant that it felt like it was wrong.

Affection is a wonderful thing. Now some of us are huggers and some of us aren’t. Some of us can easily give our husband a quick kiss in front of people and some of us would be mortified. Obviously we all have different comfort levels. But I do think it’s very important, even if you’re not a touchy person, to let your kids see you hold hands. Let them see you caress his shoulder or put your hand on his leg when he’s driving. Let them see you put your head on his shoulder if you’re sitting on the couch together. Even let them see you kiss! It helps them feel really secure, but perhaps more importantly, it helps them see that marriage is fun! If the only people they ever see being affectionate are those who aren’t married, what are they going to learn? Marriage is where love goes to die. 

In a Good Marriage, Spouses Fight, but Resolve Conflict

Keith and I have had our share of fights in front of the kids. We’ve snapped at each other. I’ve retreated into silence or short answers at times. I’m not proud of those moments, but they happen. And we’ve always tried to make sure that if they see us mad, they also see us apologizing and working it out.

Often when parents are mad they say nothing because they don’t want the kids to know. But kids sense the tension and they sense the silence, even if you haven’t said anything to them. And when kids know there’s trouble, but they don’t know what that trouble is, they often assume it’s worse than it is.

I’m not advocating yelling in front of the kids, or calling names, or airing all your dirty laundry. But if something happens right then and there, and you start snapping, kids see it. That’s not wonderful. But what is wonderful is if they can also see you resolve it.

Everybody has tension; if you can show them how to get around that tension, how to apologize, and how to forgive and move on you will have taught them something really important indeed.

Bonus points if you can also let them see you praying together, especially about problems. If you get angry and apologize, and then you take each other hands and say a quick prayer of repentance and blessing on the other person, that speaks volumes. I know not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I can’t stress the importance enough of modeling a strong spiritual life and faith to your kids.

Spouses in a Good Marriage Value Each Other’s Opinions

Kids need to see that marriage is a partnership where you respect each other, and where you honour each other by checking in before you make a decision. If your child asks for something like a cell phone, you listen to their reasons and talk to them about it, and then say, “let me check with Daddy and we’ll talk to you together.”

If you’re trying to make up your mind about whether to switch jobs or whether to sign the kids up for sports, they need to see that you consult your husband and that you make that decision together.

And likewise, before he does something big, they should see him talk to you.

We know a couple who genuinely love each other, but where the mom is often exasperated because the dad does things on a whim. He arrives home one day and announces, “I bought a cottage.” And soon it was, “I bought a boat.” Now, they had the money, so this didn’t endanger their financial position, but that was a big decision for him to make that affected the whole family. And she was not pleased.

Talk to each other about big decisions. Even dream together! And the best way to do that is just to check in with each other everyday. Have one time of day when you always talk–maybe you sit on the couch for 15 minutes before dinner to catch up. Maybe you have a cup of tea after dinner and catch up. Maybe you take a walk after dinner together. Do it regularly, and let the kids see it. And if you are talking like this and sharing what’s on your mind, it’s far less likely that one of you will make a major decision without consulting the spouse!

Dreaming together

Spouses in a Good Marriage Praise Each Other

When I empty the dishwasher I get on the phone. I don’t like doing just one thing, so that’s often my time to phone my best friend, or my mom, and talk.

But here’s the thing about being on the phone: kids hear you. Even when you’re not talking to them. So when your kids hear you talk about your husband, what do they hear you say? Do you complain, or do you build him up? Yes, we all need times to talk to a trusted mentor about problems, but those should be the exceptions, and they should be private conversations. In general, let your children hear you saying good things about their dad and honouring him.

And let them hear you praise him, too! When we eat dinner together, Keith always says, “That was an amazing dinner, Sheila.” My daughter rolls her eyes, because he’s so predictable, but he means it, and she hears it. I make it a point of praising my husband in front of our kids, too. Let your kids hear you say nice things about each other!

In a Good Marriage, Spouses Share One Whole Life, not Two Separate Lives

Do your kids see you do things together? Or do they see you sitting on separate screens at night and living separate lives? Many couples live as roommates, not as lovers, or even best friends. Find things to do together! Let your kids see that you know how to keep love alive and that you genuinely have interests you enjoy. When they see that marriage is something that is fun, where you have a constant companion, it makes marriage look very attractive.

Sex is Part of a Good Marriage!

The most mortifying thing many parents can imagine is the teenagers catching you having sex.

But honestly, that’s not really that bad. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but secretly your kids want to know that you still have fun and you still want to be with each other–though they’d rather not hear any specifics.

I think we err too much on the side of “we can never do anything whatsoever at all if there’s a chance they’ll know what we’re doing”, and not enough on the side of, “it’s our house, and if they don’t want to hear it, they can go to their rooms and shut the door.” It’s a great comfort to kids to know that their parents still have fun, even if they don’t want to picture it. I know it’s awkward when kids are teens, but you can still nurture a good sex life with teens in the house!

If you’re affectionate; if you praise each other; if you resolve conflict; if you have fun with each other, what will you be teaching your kids? You’ll be showing them, marriage is fun! Marriage is worth it. Marriage is work, but it’s wonderful having someone who loves you.

So don’t worry too much about keeping absolutely everything private. Let them see you living out your marriage, because one day, you want them to start living out a good marriage of their own, too.

Gross Parents

I can think of a ton of other things that go into setting the example of a good marriage–showing a united front; complimenting each other; praying together; worshiping together. But I didn’t want the list to become too long! So talk to your husband about these points, and ask: are we modeling a good marriage to the kids? Or are we trying to keep too many things behind closed doors? Now pick ONE aspect that you really want to be deliberate about modeling to your children. And then do it together!

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up a marriage post in the linky below! Each week I try to feature two Wifey Wednesday contributions on my Facebook Page. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like yours if I didn’t feature it; I try to feature posts that fit in well with what I’ve been talking about lately. And I try to feature different bloggers! So keep linking up, and maybe I’ll send you a ton of traffic this week!

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  1. Thank you so much for this post! It was very encouraging in so many aspects! Especially since so often we are told never to let your children see you fight, argue, disagree, discuss heatedly, etc. I love that you acknowledge what I have long thought but seemed to not be accepted as the ideal (the ideal being a picture perfect marriage) … that disagreements are going to happen but we want to show our children that even though they do… that we make up, that we forgive, that we still love each other and that we can move forward. I greatly appreciate your wisdom! Thank you! and many blessings to you!
    MommySue recently posted…Keeping FocusMy Profile

    • You’re so welcome! And I think showing kids that life is messy but that we work through the mess is so important. Absolutely!

    • I learned from the book Nurtureshock (excellent book, by the way), that it’s not so bad to fight in front of your kids. What’s bad is if you do the conflict resolution behind closed doors. It’s good to let your kids see your disagreements and also how you resolve them. It can make children insecure if they know their parents are fighting (kids can sense these things) but then never know if their parents made up or how they did. Just my two thoughts. Really enjoyed the blog post!

  2. I don’t have any kids yet, but your first point gave me a lot to think about! I’ve been married for less than a year, and sex has been the hardest thing about it to get used to for me. It’s physically very uncomfortable. I know I’m not the most relaxed person in general, but your comment about women writing in and mentioning their parents not being very physically affectionate towards each other really jumped out at me, because that’s pretty much my story too. I never considered that this might be a factor.

    • Hi, Becky! Thanks so much for commenting, and I’m glad God may be showing you the root of some of your issues! I had the same problem when I was married for a few years, so you are absolutely not alone. I’ve written about it before, too, and this post may be helpful. I’ll pray that God helps you to experience marriage in all its wonderful fullness!

  3. Sheila- I was just commenting on this very topic yesterday at another blog. Modelling marriage to our children is so important and it’s sad to know that many parents aren’t making themselves aware to that fact (that would be me also a few years ago). However, if the Holy Spirit is truly active in our lives it will be a God-driven desire to share both the ups and downs of marriage to our children – helping dispel any falacies they may have about a marriage relationship as well as to show how amazing God-ordained love is.
    Shannon recently posted…Wednesday: Praise-Worthy WordsMy Profile

    • Absolutely! I think what our kids need to see is us being real, and God working in our lives, not an idealized version of anything.

  4. Loved this! Our boys used to say to us that they were happy we loved each other but did we HAVE to be all lovey dovey all the time!! LOL Both are married now and they both said to us before they got married that they pray they have a marriage like ours, it was encouraging to hear that from them. AND both have thanked us for modeling a godly marriage for them to pattern after. :-)
    sharon recently posted…This is Marriage. A Covenant.My Profile

  5. The entire post is chock full of excellent advice but this morsel (let your children hear you saying good things about their dad and honoring him) stood out to me. I hear so many women bad mouth their husbands not only in front of the kids but also in front of friends and anyone who will listen. I cannot be in the room with a woman who chooses to behave this way. It literally grates my nerves and makes my blood boil. Its ugly behavior that has no place in a marriage.
    Yvonne Chase recently posted…Act Like A Wife If You Want To Be A WifeMy Profile

    • Me, too! And I also believe you think about the things you talk about. Talk about the good stuff and you’ll notice it more!

  6. Wonderful post as also Ms. Sheila. I think most of them are doable,but the sex part i will really have to think again. I would like to say, I believe on of the greatest way to show your children that your love their father is to learn his love language. What makes your husband happy, do that and your children will follow.

    Peace to you.

  7. Great post, Sheila! My husband, his parents, and his grandmother had a very interesting conversation the other day. I don’t remember exactly how the subject was brought up, but it turned into a very beneficial, eye-opening conversation for all of us that none of us ever though in a million years that we would partake in. And amazingly enough, no one ran out of the room feeling awkward. haha. Some of this response is from your post today, some is from the last couple days (and this week) about helping your kids made good decisions.

    Basically, somehow my husband and I brought up how we wish that sex was discussed more when we were younger. His parents were very surprised at some of the things we were saying such as: all we heard about sex growing up is how it is bad….until your married (no further explanation), most everything we learned about sex was from tv and from school, we never saw our parents kiss or hold hands, we assumed our parents no longer had sex, etc.

    My husband and I are in our mid 20’s. We have been married for about 4.5 years. All (and by all, I literally mean ALL of our married friend our age (like 10-15 of us), all have pretty much the exact same experience growing up when it comes to what we learned about sex and how. So, from this conversation with our family the other day, we learned that this seems to be a very generation thing (especially in Christian circles).

    Our grandparents generation knew what a great gift sex was supposed to be in marriage, when they were dating that was what they were looking forward to. On their wedding day, it was a sense of pride that they made it there, sill pure. They looked forward to taking this great journey together. (Granted my husband’s grandparents got married very young, which was normal in that day in age—they had to mature much faster than we do today because circumstances were different). She did mention that they never openly talked about sex and stuff like that with their children. They assumed that by early teen years they understood the subtle hints and innuendos. We told her that while they may understand that what you said was about that, they will just kinda laugh and go on not really understanding because they haven’t been there before. Its easy to forget that you didn’t fully understand stuff like that until you have participated.

    Our parents generation, seems to have not been fully prepared for sex in marriage either. While they knew that sex in marriage was a good thing, they didn’t understand fully how it worked. Maybe that’s not the way it was for everyone, but for my in-laws when they got to where they were going after their wedding and then was like “now what?” They had no idea what they were doing. With their children(us), they admitted that they didn’t quite know how to “compete” with the TV and thought we were learning what we needed to in health class. They also admitted to not talking about it a lot and using scare tactics.

    Now, our generation (remember we all seem to have the same exact same experience in our group of friends) grew up as the first generation that really had a lot of access to TV, especially cable. All we ever heard from our parents was “You know that’s wrong until you are married” when a (pretty mild compared to today) sex scene came on a tv show we were watching. While we knew it was wrong (parents said, Bible says,etc.) no one ever told us why. Besides the pregnancy and std lesson at school, we were never told of other consequences or that waiting was worth it. On TV and from school we learned that sex is fun and great, even (especially) before marriage. TV also put things in our mind that sex was fun before marriage but after marriage its not so fun. It did not help that we never saw our parents kiss or hold hands. Even now, I’m not entirely sure that my parents still participate in fun bedroom activities, which makes me sad. Also, something that was a little difficult to get across to my FIL, was that we knew exactly what to do–how it works, we just didn’t understand the social, emotional aspects.

    All that being said, we all agree now that we are a little older and married (and some of us made mistakes we wish we wouldn’t have), that while we would have thought it would have been awkward at the time, if our parents (or parents friends) have told us about how worth it was to wait until marriage, how you will not regret it one bit to have waited to go through that journey for the first time with your spouse, instead of just trying to scare us into not having sex before marriage, it would have been so much more beneficial. Rules with no logical reasons, I will admit, are not that effective and can be more of a push in the wrong direction. But rules, where the reasons are explained, I think are something that teenagers can understand. Will there be some that go the other direction just because they can, sure, but for a lot of us, a little explanation would have made a lot of sense and gone a lot further.

    Sorry that got long…I don’t event know if it all makes sense–it certainly didn’t all have something to do with today’s post…but we learned a lot from this conversation the other day and hope that when our children get older (we are expecting our first right now), that we can put all that information together and be good parents that help our children out rather than hinder in this area.

    Also, I will add, that Good Girls Guide to Great Sex was a huge help to me and other ladies in my generation who went through the above experiences. I have tried to buy it for all of my friends getting married because I wish it would have had it before.

    • I’m so glad I read your comment, Castle! What an interesting discussion that must have been (good for all of you!) I look forward to relaying it to my husband later for further discussion.
      Kendra Burrows recently posted…What Kind of Parents…?My Profile

    • Castle, thank you so much for sharing your story! So interesting. (And I’m so glad you find the book helpful! Thanks for buying it for all your friends getting married; it’s great for married women, but my dream is to get every woman who is about to get married to read it so they can start marriage well!)

      I think you’re right about the TV/cable thing being such a game changer for this generation. It’s taken the mystery out of sex, but it hasn’t given us any sense of the sacredness at all. And so when you combine that with your parents’ message of “don’t do it”, you just don’t get the full picture at all.

      A great reminder to us as parents!

  8. I love this Sheila! I just want to leave a quick comment on that last bit, about linking up to wifey Wednesday and receiving tonnes of traffic to the blog! You highlighted my post on your Facebook page on Wednesday last week and my traffic blew up! 10,000 clicks/views from Facebook on that post alone in about 24 hours! And hundreds of social media shares and tones of new subscribers and followers! It’s awesome what you do and I am so grateful. Thanks highlighting and being a blessing and encouragement to other bloggers.
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…Unclothed & Unashamed: Pursuing God’s Best for Your Life & MarriageMy Profile

  9. I just wanted to leave a comment on your opinion of allowing the kids to know the parents still have sex by way of not keeping quiet, etc. I could not disagree more. You say that kids want to know their parents still have sex. Honestly, I don’t think they do. I only left home a couple of years ago, I never found it comforting when I was aware of my parents having sex or when things were said to me about their sex life (never anything inappropriate, just allusions towards the fact that they still have a sex life). In fact I found it very uncomfortable and disturbing. Children–no matter their age–don’t want to know about their parents sex life, particularly while they are still in the home. They want to know their parents are happy and have fun together. They don’t need more details than that to feel secure that their parents have a strong marriage.

    Also, I really feel like the attitude of “it’s our house, if they don’t like it they can go to their rooms” is quite disrespectful. I think it’s important for all members of a home to be aware of one another and when they are doing something that makes others uncomfortable. I’m sure many on here will disagree with me, and that’s fine, but not making an effort to ensure your children feel comfortable in their own home while you’re having sex, that just doesn’t seem okay to me.

    • Hi Charlotte,

      Thanks for your comment! I guess what I’d say is this: I talk to so many women who basically stop having sex when the kids are teens because of the fear that the kids will hear. That’s really dangerous to a marriage. The truth is that teens stay up late, so they tend to be awake during the times that parents would tend to be making love. If we say, “I can’t make love because of the CHANCE that they will hear”, then your sex life can dry up.

      I’m not talking about being deliberately loud–and I think all parents should be quiet if possible–but we have to realize and come to terms with the fact that once kids are teens, they might hear some squeaking or figure it out. And that needs to be okay, because if it’s not, then we’ll tend to shy away from sex entirely.

      I also think it’s perfectly legitimate to say to kids, “you can be in your rooms after 10 p.m.” It IS your house, and if this is something that is important to you that will make you feel more comfortable with your husband, then we should be doing that.

      Again, I’m not saying that we’re deliberately loud. I’m just saying that too many people use the fear of being caught by teenagers as a reason to stop everything all together. And that is honestly worse. We need to come to terms that they just may know what we are doing, and that really needs to be okay.

      • unmowngrass says:

        If I can reply to this, although I was a little bit older, I’ve basically been on the other side of it, and it really wasn’t that bad at all. My stepdad used to work away on the rigs in the North Sea (we’re British), so he’d be away for 2 or 3 weeks at a time, and then home for the same. It really didn’t take too long to figure out, “ok, on the night he gets home, it’s time to turn the tv up as soon as they’re going up the stairs…” 😉

  10. I have a question for Sheila:

    How does one model a good marriage to children when your husband calls you an idiot, stupid woman etc and treats you like garbage? How does one model a good marriage to children when the husband is spending all his spare time on the sofa watching teen porn, sport and asking what’s for dinner and to hurry up with it because he is hungry?

    • Elena, I’m so sorry that your husband treats you that way!

      But you can still model great behaviour by drawing some boundaries and not putting up with behaviour from him that is wrong. If he’s watching teen porn, you can unplug the television and call the police (it is, after all, illegal to have underage porn). If he is asking for dinner, you can serve everyone at the table and not serve him at all unless he comes to the table. You can tell him that if he calls you names, you will leave the room and will not be making his meals until he apologizes. You can draw healthy boundaries so that the kids see what these things are.

      I’d recommend getting a hold of the book Boundaries in Marriage, which talks about how to do this. But you can still model good behaviour to the kids by showing them that you do not have to put up with abusive language or being treated poorly.

      I hope that helps!

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.


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