Love and Marriage…and Kids

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An interview with Dr. Laura Markham by Laurel Moglen, Managing Web Editor, TMC

Last night my 95 year-old father reached across the dinner table to hold my mother’s hand.  They’ve been married for 45 happy years. Growing up, I remember being disgusted by their daily hugs and kisses.  But now, 11 years into my own marriage, I’m so grateful to have had that model as my “norm.” Our connection (or lack thereof) with our partners can impact whether our children will choose affectionate or antagonistic interactions with their future partner. Thankfully, these tips from Dr. Laura Markham are not only loving but lovely. — Abbie Schiller, CEO and Founder, TMC

How important is it to show affection and/or love with our spouse/partner in front of the children?

It’s very important. Affection is love manifested in action and behavior. It makes kids feel secure, knowing their parents are committed to each other. It sends a message that their home is table, and is reassuring on a visceral level. Also, modeling loving behavior shows kids what love looks like.

What are a few ways to show affection without being physical?

  • When you’re talking with your kids, you can say things like, “I love your dad/mom don’t you?” or “Your dad/mom has this wonderful quality of (fill in the blank). I feel lucky to have that in my life.” or “I hope one day you find someone with whom you can feel as loved as I do by your dad/mom.”
  • Gazing fondly at your partner during dinner.
  • Leaving a loving note in a place where both you and your child will see it.
  • Once a week, sharing one thing you appreciate about the other members of the family is wonderful modeling of love.
  • Practice verbal appreciation, by saying things like, “Honey, thanks so much for cleaning the dishes.” Or “Thanks so much for making dinner.” Or “Thanks so much for filling the car up with gas.” This has three benefits: it will change the way you perceive your partner, it will change the dynamic of your relationship, and your children observe great modeling.

How important are parental date nights for the kids?

They’re important in that they send a message to the kids, that their parents have a relationship they value. Kids then understand their parents have a separate connection they share together — apart from the children. Date nights, for the parents, offer freedom from the endless lists at home – it gives some lightness to the relationship. You’re able to experience each other, temporarily at least, unburdened by the house and responsibilities, leaving you more refreshed for your children.

Maintaining a loving marriage while raising children can be trying. Could you give some tips that might help make it a little bit easier?

  • Love is not to be taken for granted. It’s precious. This fact is so easy to forget.
  • Accept that conflict is a part of every relationship. Expect ups and downs.
  • Attempt to solve conflict with your partner in front of your children. This way they learn about conflict-resolution.
  • Choose to see conflict as a problem in need of a solution. It’s not that the partner is wrong. It’s an opportunity to grow as a person and couple to grow.
  • Commit to behaving compassionately towards each other when things don’t go perfectly.
  • Assure your children that whatever conflict mommy and daddy are experiencing will be worked-out and that conflict is normal and to be expected.
  • Commit to having fun together even when the going gets tough.
  • Manage your own emotions, and sooth yourself. Individuals must learn to self-regulate. Take responsibility for your feelings. Don’t blame your partner.
  • Pull your own weight at home regardless of who is earning the money.
  • Watch what you say. Don’t disparage your partner in small or big ways in front of the children. (This applies to non-abusive relationships!)

Laura Markham, Ph.D., is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start ConnectingShe earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University and has worked as a parenting coach with countless parents across the English-speaking world, both in person and via phone. You can find Dr. Laura online at

The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of our “Ruby’s Studio”   along with our beautiful children’s booksmusic, and more.


This article was originally published February 10, 2014

Posted in: Expert Advice, Holidays, Modern Parenting