The Best Gift We Can Give Our Kids? A Healthy Relationship With Our Partner

The best gift we can give our kids is a healthy relationship with our partner. Not only does it model healthy relationships for them, it brings them a foundation of safety and security being contained within a solid parental relationship. 

Parents often tell me they can talk easily to each other about everyday things like a project at work or how the kids are doing in school. They mindlessly discuss what's happening in the news or on the political front. However, they avoid talking about topics involving how they're feeling in the relationship, what triggers them, what their needs and desires are, or what they are struggling with.

You’ve likely had your partner blow things out of proportion, blame, shame, and criticize -  demanding that you be the one to change. This type of reaction creates hesitation in checking in with them about their contentment within the relationship. Sharing what you most value or enjoy in the relationship can feel vulnerable, especially if you’re not sure whether or not your partner is on the same page. Most of us have learned in childhood that vulnerability means danger, so we avoid having the conversation, and protect ourselves by not voicing our appreciation for our partner in an effort to remain safe.

By not checking in with each other, we miss out on valuable opportunities! We miss out on making small adjustments along the way, getting to know each other more deeply and truthfully, and understanding how to contribute to each other’s overall well-being. As a result, change only occurs in the relationship after a major blow-out that has been building over time. This is a painful and avoidable pitfall in many relationships. It exhausts us and makes it difficult to stay optimistic that the relationship will continue moving forward.

Here are some ways to make checking-in with your partner feel more safe and fruitful:

  1. Meet regularly. Schedule time with each other WITHOUT THE KIDS, when things are going well (Sunday evenings?). Make it fun, relaxing and easy. Waiting for a relationship check-in only when a problem arises will make you avoid them.  

  2. State how you feel and request what you need/want. When sharing, agree to speak clearly and directly. State your need first, “I am missing affection with you”, then follow up stating a request, “Could we cuddle and watch a movie tonight?”. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Stay aware of how you are stating your need and your request. Starting any conversation with the word “YOU”, using criticism, blame, and defending are not helpful. State what you want (as opposed to what you don't want). If your feelings become intense, immediately stop, turn within, scan your body from head to toe while breathing, and notice any uncomfortable sensations. Stay with the sensations, allowing them to be there and continue breathing until the feeling subsides. Do not continue until you feel calm and can speak clearly and directly.

  3. Ask specific questions. Questions like: “Are you happy with me?” are vague and broad. Check in with specific questions that address particular needs in a specific way. Here are a few examples:
      - “Do you feel connected to me right now? If not, what could we do now to create more connection?
      - “As we talk about moving, are your needs being considered? If not, what's one thing I could do to give you a greater sense of consideration?”
      - “I remember you saying that ‘play’ is one of your most important needs. In this last month, are we playing as much as you want? If not, could we brainstorm ideas to bring more ‘play’ into our life together?”

  4.  Let them know when your needs are being met. When things are going well, be sure to tell your partner how connected, in love, happy, secure, and alive you feel in the relationship which associates positive feelings and increases the likelihood of continued check-ins. Remember to be specific and clear about what is meeting your needs.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Your partner is NOT responsible for meeting your needs, you are. Your partner may hear your request and be unable or unwilling to meet it at that time. Taking care of yourself is up to you and is why you make requests.

  • All your needs CANNOT be met within one relationship. Maintaining a sense of individuality and freedom within the relationship, you must agree with each other that meeting some of our needs outside the relationship, in no way puts any risk to the needs of your partner, the relationship or the family.

  • Checking-in is meant to share your needs with your partner with honesty and sincerity, all while knowing your partner is inherently good and holds goodwill for the relationship.

Prioritizing the relationship with our partner is vitally important to the well-being of our kids. Modeling mutual respect, honesty, and good communication takes commitment, consideration, and courage. Are you up for it?



To learn more, Download The Free Guide: The 13 Keys to the New Parenting Paradigm