Every couple has their struggles… and there may be times when these struggles become overwhelming. Fighting and arguing with each other, and engaging in power struggles can be stressful for both the partners. It is probably important that you each get your points across, and feel that your partner really gets what you mean. If there are underlying issues, or if mental health challenges are a factor, getting at the issues can take some time.
In the midst of these difficult times, the house can become, at the very least, tense. I have also worked with families where they used loud voices, and even violence. The family is a system, in that each individual impacts the others. The struggles might be subtle between you and your partner, but the others witness tense feelings. And children can be a lot more receptive than we think they are, to the energy and feelings in the home. If life with your partner is stressful for you, how your kids might feel, as witnesses to these issues? And how are they responding?
So, whether you and your partner are struggling with your own issues, how can you reduce the impact it has on the kids?
Ask yourselves these questions…
1. What are the big issues between you and your partner?
Make sure that you both prepare yourselves for this conversation. It could be difficult to have, as you are both pointing out some things that are painful to hear. Find a time to talk when the kids are not around, and you are both calm. If the conversation gets heated, take a breather, and come back when you have both cooled off. I would probably even suggest getting a supportive counsellor to help you have this conversation.
2. What is the impact on your children?
You might notice yourselves fighting in front of the children… or even just not talking to each other, because you know that what might come out will be terse or angry. What can you do in those moments for yourself? If you need time to cool off in that moment, go for it… and do something that makes you feel happy and calm. Can you take the kids for a walk? Maybe get some exercise on your own? Call a friend? Write, or do something creative?
3. What do the kids need?
- Reassurance that you love them, and will always be their parents.
- Keep the fighting away from the kids. No one is perfect, and of course this happens from time to time. Try suggesting that you talk about the issue with your partner another time, and when you have made up with your partner, demonstrate to the kids that you are okay again (but only if you are genuine about it!).
- Counselling can often help kids to process what they are experiencing at home. Is this necessary for your kid? I would suggest monitoring your kids’ moods and behaviour… if you notice drastic changes that last for longer than a week or two, or you are concerned about safety, get support.
If you are ever worried about anyone’s safety at home, please consider making a safety plan. Briefly, what is the reason that the safety plan is needed? What are the triggers? What are the supports? What is the plan for staying safe – what will you do? Who will you call? Where will you go, if necessary?
Keep in mind that when couples struggle in their relationship, as long as both people want to work on their relationship, you can overcome any obstacle. And children are resilient, as long as they have the support to express what they have on their minds.