We hear a lot about the “rules” of relationships – especially when it comes to marriage and family. If you are married, think back to the advice you got on the day of your nuptials. Chances are you got advice like “don’t go to bed angry” and “don’t let your kids see you fight.” There are also family rules and practices in society that revolve around the idea that children must always come first, or that healthy families do everything together. While some aspects of these rules make sense, they aren’t hard and fast. And they can actually be damaging to family relationships in the long run. Here are 6 family relationship rules that you can break sometimes to build stronger connections:
1. Be Completely Honest All of the Time
There are times that complete honesty is warranted. When you are discussing your financial situation, complete honesty is a good thing. However, you don’t need to be honest about everything all the time. Details about past relationships are not necessary. If there is something you feel the need to disclose, do it quickly, and move on. No need to linger, or to be completely honest about how maybe you liked someone else a little bit better in bed, or admired his or her more adventurous spirit.
2. Make Up Before You Go To Bed
I heard this a lot when I was preparing to marry my husband. And I found early on that maybe staying up until two or three in the morning trying to resolve some issue wasn’t the way to do things. Instead, agreeing that you both need to sleep on it provides some time to step back, and refresh yourselves. You’re both more reasonable when you’re rested, rather than being tired and stressed. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, my husband and I wake in the morning, and realize that what seemed so important the night before was silly and not worth being angry over any more.
3. Never Let Your Kids See You Disagree
Yes, you want to present a mostly united front. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t see how disagreements can be resolved rationally. Showing your children that you can discuss things calmly, without resorting to personal attacks and yelling, sets a positive example for conflict resolution. You can be good examples of compromise and working out relationship differences by showing your children how to disagree constructively. Of course, it means that you and your partner have to have practice at positive outcomes before you demonstrate them to your children.
4. You Should Do Everything Together
We know that quality time with our families is important, but that doesn’t mean that every vacation or activity has to be attended by everyone. Indeed, sometimes it can help for you to go on separate vacations, especially if there are some divergent interests involved. My husband hates camping, but it was part of my growing up, and I love it. So my son and I meet my parents and siblings (and their families) once a year for a camping trip. My son and I have a good time, and my husband gets some buddy time in with friends by going to a movie, or enjoys himself by sleeping in and vegging out with video games and baseball on TV. My husband gets away with one of his cousins regularly, for a road trip of a few days to spend quality time together.
Yes, you need to do family activities for health relationships, but sometimes it can help to have separate activities, so that family members aren’t miserable doing something they really dislike.
5. Your Kids Should Always Come First
Actually, your partner’s emotional needs should come first. This doesn’t mean you neglect your children; just that you show them that your partner is the most important person in your life. Go on dates, leaving the kids with a babysitter, on occasion. One of the most important lessons I learned after having my son is that my husband needed attention, too. After I went back to work when my maternity was up, I would come home and immediately go to my son and pick him up and feed him and hold him. My husband felt I cared more about our son than him. He spoke to me about his feelings, and I realized that our son could wait 10 or 15 minutes while I greeted my husband first, and asked after his day (as a primary caregiver), listening to him.
We also frequently tell our son to wait when he tries to interrupt conversations we are having with each other. We pay attention to our son, and make efforts to encourage him, but we make it clear that we love each other first.
6. You Need Things to Be Exciting
Yes, it’s fun to go on vacations, or to have a red-hot intimate relationship. But it doesn’t need to be that way all the time. Indeed, sometimes it’s healthier to slow down and be boring a lot of the time. The initial excitement you felt upon meeting will eventually wane. That doesn’t mean that you picked the wrong person. Indeed, lifelong commitment with your partner can mean a deeper love, that doesn’t depend on some feeling of excitement. The same is true of family home life. Your kids don’t need to be constantly stimulated with activities and “fun.” There is a lot to be said about finding contentment in home life, and viewing big vacations as “extras” rather than as necessities.
Can you think of other family relationship rules it could be healthy to break?