Marriage is the foundation of the family, and when a marriage is strong, it can have a positive impact on the entire family unit. Couples sometimes ask which relationships should take priority and I would argue that the marriage of the parents needs to be the top of the list for the health of all of the other relationships. When a couple prioritizes their relationship and works to strengthen it, it can have a ripple effect throughout the family, leading to improved relationships, better communication, and a more harmonious household. Not convinced? Let me spell out some ways that working on your marriage can improve your whole family.
A Healthy Marriage Increases the Sense of Security for the Children
Children need boundaries, and they also need stable adults in charge of the household. When the permanency and health of your relationship looks questionable to your kids, it creates fear and uncertainty. If a child is worrying about whether you will get a divorce, or even whether their actions will add to strain they observe in your relationship, it is likely to create anxiety and may spark behavioral reactions in that child.
When parents have a strong, healthy relationship, it can provide a sense of stability and security for children. Children thrive in a household where they feel loved and secure, and when parents prioritize their relationship and work to strengthen it, it can help create a more stable and supportive environment for children to grow and develop. Attachment research has also shown that there are profound impacts on individuals based on the sense of security they grow up with regarding family relationships.
Children Learn from Your Example
Parents present more effectively as a united front when they are focusing energy on the health of their relationship as well. Parenting becomes much easier when both individuals work as a team and provide consistent messages to their kids, which also provides a greater sense of boundaries and stability. A child who knows one parent will always say yes while the other says no, may unconsciously experience uncertainty about the stability of their parents’ relationship or even have fears about their impact. (ie: Dad said yes, but I worry because the last time he agreed, mom got mad at him and I don’t want to feel responsible for more arguments between them.)
When a couple is communicating effectively and resolving conflicts in a healthy way, it sets a positive example for children. Children learn from the behavior and actions of their parents, and when they see their parents resolving conflicts in a calm and respectful way, it can help them develop positive communication skills and conflict resolution strategies that they can use in their own relationships.
The dynamics of your relationship are likely to be repeated by your children, so make sure you are being intentional about your interactions. If parents deal with conflict by yelling, or avoiding, or being passive aggressive with each other, this may show up in your kids relationships too. Good news though, if you model respectful listening to your partner, apologizing, and validating each other’s feelings in conflict, your kids will likely repeat this too!
A Healthy Marriage Reduces Stress and Improves Interactions Throughout the Home
Working on your marriage can help to reduce stress and tension in the household. When a couple is experiencing difficulties in their relationship, it can lead to tension and conflict that can impact the entire family. By working to strengthen the marriage and improve communication, it can create a more harmonious environment for everyone. Did you grow up in a home where there was a lot of disagreement, grumbling, or side-eyes between your parents—think about how that felt for you as a kid. Children are great observers and they see and hear more than we always like. Working on your relationship will help those day to day interactions to be healthier and more peaceful for everyone.
When a couple is focused on their relationship and working to improve it, it can also lead to more quality time spent together as a family. When a marriage is struggling, it can be easy to get caught up in individual problems and neglect the family as a whole. However, by prioritizing the marriage and making time for each other, it can lead to more feelings of connectedness and natural desire to spend more time together. Go figure, when you feel more bonded and close, you desire more connection. More quality time as a family naturally follows when the parent relationship is strong and that can help to strengthen family bonds and create positive memories that will last a lifetime.
Prioritizing your marriage can have a positive impact on your entire family. If you are experiencing difficulties in your marriage, consider seeking the help of a qualified couples therapist who can help you work through your issues and strengthen your relationship for the benefit of your whole family.
April 2023, Jenny Beall, Counselor, Threads of Hope Counseling