Besides your wife, your kids see you and your marriage in an unfiltered way like nobody else. Several years ago, my wife and I asked ourselves the questions, “Based on what our kids see day in and day out, what would they think about marriage? Would they want to be married one day?”
Those questions were humbling, as we weren’t sure they would. Today, I want to pose a different question for my wife and me as well as you and your wife. If someone asked your kids to share their thoughts on marriage (based on what they see in your marriage), would their answers make you cringe?
Here are three cringe-worthy actions your kids may see you doing that you should stop immediately, and what you should do to replace them.
1. Stop the passive-aggressive behavior. It’s happened plenty of times in our marriage. While I hate to admit it, it sometimes happens today, but nowhere near as much or to the level it used to happen. You’ve been there before. There is a disagreement or disappointment that leaves you frustrated, so frustrated that you don’t say anything to her in an attempt to avoid any confrontation.
When she asks, “How are things?” you respond with a dry, “Everything is fine,” when it’s really not. Or, you just don’t say anything at all, giving her a cold shoulder. You may not be intentionally trying to hurt your wife by not speaking to her, but the angry half smile leaves her guessing. You say nothing. You say nothing while at dinner, nothing before going to bed, and in the worst cases, nothing the next day or the next few days. All it does is confuse her and cause separation.
Instead, confront the problems in your marriage problem head on—with love. Express how it made you feel. Share what you would like to happen. And tell your wife what you are willing to do to achieve a better outcome.
2. Stop speaking negatively to and about your spouse. You might have read this and thought to yourself, I don’t have this problem. And maybe you don’t. I thought the same, but as I took a deeper look, I realized I did. No, I don’t say negative things to hurt my wife in the presence of others. But I may be extra critical of mistakes she makes and express them to her, sometimes in front of our children.
I may say something under my breath or use nonverbal language (facial expressions, eye-rolling or throwing my hands up) to express my frustration or disappointment with something she has done or hasn’t done. I’m guilty. And I’m thinking you may be guilty to a degree as well.
Instead, speak encouragement, love and life into your spouse at all time. Return a kind word or gesture in response. Find words to build her up. Smile instead of frowning or rolling your eyes. Do your best to express your frustration in a constructive way.
3. Stop being selfish! In my book, I talk about marriage not being for you. That means your focus should not be on getting your needs met but on serving and meeting the needs of your spouse and serving those connected to your marriage (your kids, extended family, friends and so on). When the restaurant for date night has to be chosen, allow your wife to choose or help her without grumbling if she struggles in this area.
If you have to choose between golf, fishing, watching the game, or doing something with or for your wife, be sure to choose her needs over yours. When you’re making a decision on what to do with the extra room in your house, concede and put your plans for a man cave off if necessary to meet your wife’s needs.
There are many things that we can do that will impact our marriage, our kids’ view of marriage, and even other people’s view of marriage. When you take a closer look, you are bound to find some room for improvement. I encourage you to love your wife even more than you love yourself and this will show to all, and most importantly, she’ll see it herself.
Jackie Bledsoe is an author, blogger and speaker, but first and foremost a husband and father of three who helps men better lead and love the ones who matter most.
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