Family Focus: Family Blog Post # 12 Spousal Respect
“You cannot be a good Father unless, to your children, you demonstrate and encourage great love and deep respect towards their Mother.”
Years ago, I was in Tucson and was asked to be a guest speaker at a large women’s group. The woman who was the regular speaker talked first, then introduced me. At the end of the evening after my talk, the regular speaker came to me privately to ask for advice about her marriage. I asked her if she respected her husband and she said, of course she did. I told her that I honestly doubted that. She was shocked and got defensive. I then asked one simple question. When she was speaking prior to me, what part of her saying negative things about her husband to the entire group was demonstrating that respect? She became silent. She knew deep down she did not respect him and I told her that he was likely very aware of that.
In my work with people going through a divorce, it is so common for parents to bad mouth each other to me. Almost every case it happens. I get the opportunity to teach them about how incredibly easy it is to do that… and how incredibly destructive it is when our children pick up on it. Research indicates that the deepest and longest lasting harm to children of divorce is from their exposure to parental conflict. This is true not only during the divorce process, but also long term after the divorce is over.
Marriages end when relationships become unhealthy and at least one person no longer has his/her needs being met. When the divorce process finally begins, there is often a great amount of anger and bitterness. These deep and powerful emotions want to burst out and be expressed. In our office, we hear a lot. Which is a fine place to share.
But not at home. Not with your kids. There is such a powerful desire to have people like us and respect us, that we tend to paint ourselves in the best light and our spouse or ex-spouse in the darkness. Many want the kids to think the best of them and (whether it is acknowledged it or not) to take their side. Many fight the temptation successfully. Many don’t even start to fight it and work aggressively to turn the kids away from the other parent… and they eventually lose all respect for them… at least temporarily.
Holding your tongue and preserving respect is difficult in the best of cases. Doing so when you know the other spouse is bad mouthing you takes the greatest measure of self-discipline. Doing so actually could end up in having the kids not respect you because the other side successfully bad mouths you. I strongly encourage you to stay strong and speak only what is necessary. The children do not need to know all the gory details and see all the dirty laundry. They will likely continue to love their other parent naturally; but you play a huge part in how much the children respect the other parent. Take that high road and do not look back. Sleeping peacefully knowing that you have done the right thing for the kids is enough reward.
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For His glory,