Sometimes, it doesn’t take a whole lot to spark a squabble with your significant other. Your partner puts his dirty plate right next to (and not into) the sink, or your kid wasn’t picked up from school when your significant other was supposed to do it. Sure, a fight here and there isn’t really a biggie, but when quarrels are constant between a couple, it can be problematic — for both your relationship and your kids, too. Because believe it or not, fighting with your partner affects your kids later in life.
It’s a fact of life. All couples fight — and for the most part, that’s completely okay. “It’s an absolutely normal part of a healthy relationship,” Suzie and James Pawelski, husband/wife relationship experts and co-authors of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts, tell Romper. “However, it’s not whether you argue but how you argue that will determine the impact it has on your individual and relational well-being as well as the well-being of your children.”
Whether the fight happens in front of your child or they waltz into the room right in the throes of it, the important thing to stress to your kid is why the argument occurred in the first place. “Your child needs to understand why the arguing took place and how the parents resolved it,” Laurie Wilson LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper. “Or how you and the child can resolve it together.”
Now, your child might be upset about the fight, which is to be expected. “Fighting makes children anxious, scared, sad, and angry,” Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, tells Romper. And, in turn, they might subconsciously adopt some of the behaviors that they’ve seen. “If you fight in an unhealthy way where you are being defensive and disrespectful, or attack and criticize your partner, these behaviors can have a detrimental affect on your children later in life,” says Pawelski. “It can lead to anxiety, cause them to shut down, or even act out.” Naturally, seeing parents fighting all the time might make it tougher for children to learn how to deal with relationship conflicts in the future.
That said, having your child witness an argument between you and your partner might actually be beneficial… if you fight fairly. “If you argue in a healthy way, where you listen to one another, and are curious about the other person’s viewpoint, your kids can learn how to argue in a productive manner,” says Pawelski. And at some point, kids do need to learn that every relationship has its ups and downs, and fights are bound to happen. “Your child needs to see and be taught healthy ways to cope with relationship stress in order to have healthy relationships later,” adds Wilson.
So even if you have a spat with your spouse every once in a while, don’t assume that you’ve damaged your kids for life. By being aware of how and why people fight, you can teach your child healthy ways of interacting that will foster thriving relationships. And that’s something definitely worth fighting for.
Suzie and James Pawelski, husband/wife relationship experts and co-authors of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts
Laurie Wilson LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist
Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent