Posted Oct 24, 2006, updated Dec 08, 2008.
Children today live in many different kinds of families, and most grow up without major problems. Not all parents are married or part of a couple, but this article focuses on parents who are raising their children as a couple. Most of the research on this topic has been with married and previously married couples, but the results might also apply to other kinds of committed relationships. Studies show that children thrive when there is less conflict between parents, and that a good couple relationship can be a great source of emotional stability and good physical health for children. Benefits to children include:
Adults in healthy relationships also benefit from better physical and mental health, greater wealth and satisfying intimate relationships. How can adults create and maintain healthy relationships?
Ups and Downs Are Normal. Relationships vary over time. Sometimes things are great and other times a relationship might need a tune-up to keep running smoothly. Becoming parents and raising children are often stressful for couples. Many couples find their conversations decline and conflicts increase when children arrive. It can be helpful to know that changes are normal and don’t necessarily mean your relationship is in trouble.
Effort pays off. The tools for a healthy relationship can be learned. When couples are interested and motivated they can make their relationship better. It’s a bonus that building your skills can benefit your couple relationship and also help your children thrive.
Although there are many ingredients in a happy relationship, four are especially important: commitment, contentment, communication and conflict resolution. Here are information and tools to strengthen the four C’s in your relationship.
1. Commitment—Ties That Bind
A strong relationship includes a commitment to the children in the family, as well as to the couple. There is a sense of “we” instead of “me.” Committed couples feel like “we are in this together, and I can count on you.” When couples plan to be together for a lifetime, they are more likely to take care of the other person and the relationship.
2. Contentment—It Feels Good
When asked what they want most from their relationship, many people answer “a best friend,” or a “safe haven”. People want partners who will listen, give comfort and emotional support, and lend a helping hand with all the chores and responsibilities.
3. Communication—Let’s Talk
Make the time to talk. Not just about who is paying the electric bill or picking up the kids after school—but discuss something you care about, your dreams, joys, or frustrations. It’s not the sheer amount of communication that is important, but the quality or nature of the communication. Positive communication is respectful and involves compromise and humor.
4. Conflict Resolution—Acceptance
People disagree and face problems. According to John Gottman, a leader in marriage research, most conflicts between couples never get resolved. Conflicts generally occur because of basic personality or lifestyle differences between the couple so they are unsolvable. He suggests learning to cope with many problems by talking about them, and accepting your partner’s faults and limitations. That will free you to work on problems that have solutions.
Arguments don’t have to drive couples apart—it’s how you argue that makes a difference.
Healthy couple relationships require work but are a worthwhile investment for children and for adults.
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