When you were growing up, what do you remember about your parents’ relationship? Do you remember if they fought? How they fought? How they treated each other? What did that teach you about relationships and how have those lessons influenced who you are with your partner(s)? Kids are always watching and observing what happens in their home and internalizing those messages. The way you are with your partner impacts your daughter and her own future relationships, even if you think she isn’t paying attention.
As parents, our job involves instilling values in our kids, in the hopes that they will go out into the world and be good people. But the values you instill don’t just come from the words you say to them. Those values also come from your unspoken actions and interactions. The way that you treat a server in a restaurant, for example, can teach your kids a lot about respect and decency. So, too, can the way you interact with your partner.
Kids absorb everything around them, and you can bet that they’re watching us. If you’re in an unhappy relationship, you might think that the only person you’re hurting is yourself. But there are a lot of ways that your relationship can impact your daughter’s future ones. Here are eight ways your daughter learns from your romantic relationship.
1She Watches How You Fight
Will your daughter learn to fight fair? The way you argue with your partner matters. Doing it in front of your child isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because disagreement is a natural and healthy part of any relationship. But she’s watching how you do it. Do you call names or tear the other person down? Yell and scream? Or do you hash it out in a constructive and productive manner? Be mindful of these things next time you and your SO are about to throw down.
2She Learns What She Should Expect From A Partner
How does your partner treat you? Are you equals, showing each other mutual respect? Or are they putting your down or taking you for granted? What you accept from a partner sends messages to your daughter about what she should accept from hers.
3She Learns How She Should Treat A Partner
Similarly, your daughter is watching how you treat your partner to learn about what kind of person she should be in a relationship. Do you talk down to them? Take them for granted? Try to be the kind of partner you want your daughter to be when she grows up.
4She Absorbs Healthy (or Unhealthy) Boundaries
Do you and your partner have your own friends? Do you guys do absolutely everything together or do you each have passions that you pursue individually? It’s important to demonstrate that in a healthy relationship, two people cannot be each other’s entire world.
5She Internalizes Ideas About Running A House
How do you and your partner split the housework? Who makes financial decisions? Your daughter is watching and learning about all of that. Splitting things as equally as possible (or explaining why one of you does more or less than the other) will help your daughter learn that it doesn’t have to only be on a woman to do the household labor and that big decisions about a family’s finances should be made together.
6She Gets Messages About What Kinds of Relationships Are OK
How many partners do you have? Maybe it’s just one, but maybe it’s not. For people that are polyamorous, the decision of when, how, and if to tell their children can be a tricky one. But the truth is that there’s nothing to be ashamed about, because polyamory is a totally valid choice. If that works for your family, showing your child how to be ethically non-monogamous can help empower her to make her own decisions about what kind of relationship she wants when she’s old enough. And if you are monogamous, talking about other kinds of relationships as valid options will help know that she can explore those options without shame or judgment.
7She Learns Where Her Worth Comes From
Do you have low self-worth and depend on your relationship to make you feel worthy or attractive? When you are a secure person within the relationship, she can sense that. When your own self-worth comes from within, you teach her that hers can, too.
8She Learns How To Have A Healthy Breakup
Not all relationships last, and you may find yourself separating from your partner. How you handle that separation teaches your daughter a lot about breakups. The end of a relationship doesn’t have to be seen as a failure. Sometimes people grow apart, sometimes they choose to move on, and sometimes one person does something that they can’t make right. Handling it gracefully and amicably teaches your daughter that she can do the same.