Couples Who Depend On Their Kids
This post is about couples who avoid their “couple issues” by over-focusing instead on the children they are responsible to raise. We could say this is an old “defense mechanism” meant to decrease the stress and unhappiness involved in the differences and difficulties that can and will come up between two people. If this is the way you and your partner are dealing with each other in your relationship, you should consider the following:
1. If both of you are distracting yourself away from your relationship issues by focusing on kid issues instead, remember, the problems you are avoiding will not go away on their own and tend to grow once the factor of “time” is applied. In other words, ignoring problems over time only makes them worse.
2. Focusing on the kids instead of your love relationship problems tends to shift an emotional burden, however subtle, onto your kids’ shoulders. In the worse case scenario, they will begin to feel that the adults “need” them (kids) to deflect what is going on between them (adults). This is like adding another full-time job to the job description of simply being a kid. Now the kids have to worry about the adults and their relationship in a family. This is an emotional burden and will inevitably complicate the lives of your children.
3. Kids are supposed to be nurtured into their own maturity in a family unencumbered by the emotional needs and difficulties of the adults who are raising them. At least in theory. When kids get in the middle between two adults who are angry at each other and those feelings are unresolved, weird stuff starts to happen. You could say their (kids’) mental wires get crossed. Or you could say, due to the intensity of the situation, the adult unresolved un-communicated difficulties are like sending way to much voltage into a light bulb that was built to handle much much less.
Kids in such “middleman” situations often start acting-out, a fancy psychological word for taking actions that indicate something is wrong that are not being talked about directly. Good examples of this are failing school performance, authority conflicts, drug use, and of course lying and being oppositional.
The only effective solution for this kind of problem in a family is for the adults to take responsibility for what is going on in their relationship. This of course always involves setting appropriate limits on kids when they (out of habit and conditioning) try to get involved to solve problems when they appear.
A gentle (or not so gentle), “Stop! We’ll take care of this, it’s not for you to deal with,” should suffice. In all my years of practice, I still think “communication” is the most potent couple repair tool out there. As far as I’m concerned, if you are talking about what you’re supposed to be talking about, you can never overuse it.
Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan