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I Fight With My Husband in Front of Our Kids — and That's a Good Thing

Photograph by Jill Simonian

Holler if you've fought with your spouse in front of your kids. (Hand raised.) Do I feel like a bad parent? Nope. Fights happen. Life happens. It's how we handle the during and after that really counts for our kids.

Dare I say it's called ... LOVE.

What I once thought love meant versus what it really is, and how it sometimes seems to morph into an unrecognizable commodity with marriage, kids and life's dips and valleys ... sometimes I'm flat-out confused. With age, love has definitely gotten a whole lot more real. It's changed. Sometimes, it even feels invisible.

When my husband and I were first married, it was like Disneyland. Lovey-dovey. Not an argument in sight. Look at us so gaga over each other, putting all those cranky and jaded longtime-married couples to shame! Cut to now, 10 years and two adorable back-to-back daughters later, and my husband and I argue. Not too much, not too little, but enough times for our daughters to witness or overhear it.

One particular argument comes to mind whenever friends and I dish about kids and spousal disputes. The initial fight started at my birthday dinner and then re-erupted in front of our daughters the following Sunday morning, before we could stop it — with me in my bathroom getting ready to go to church. We yelled. We finger-pointed each other. We counter-pointed each other. I may have cried. My husband may have felt hurt.

Hearing our yelling, our girls burst into our bedroom and ran straight to hug me and then one of them broke off to go hug Daddy across the room because she noticed no one was hugging him. It was an argument that most married couples have. Nothing permanently damaging, no graphic or inappropriate vocabulary involved, but still significant.

I didn’t talk to my husband for almost a week after that.

I was angry and hurt about what was exchanged. He was. too. Neither of us wanted to rehash it. For days, we cordially communicated family logistics, like, “What time will you be home?” and “Will you be able to take the girls to school Friday morning?" but not much else. No "good morning." No "have a nice day."

Real love is beyond the wedding, the baby births, the red-and-pink heart-shaped cards.

We even went to a Super Bowl party still mad at each other and on non-speaking terms with our kids in tow. We superbly acted as though everything was peachy in front of other guests without actually looking directly at or talking to one another. Our girls went unbothered, chatted with both of us and ate dozens of cookies from the dessert table.

At some point later that week, my younger daughter assertively informed me that Cupid was going to come shoot my husband and I with his arrow to make us fall in love again. My older daughter drew the scene in her notebook so we could have a visual. I laughed but also felt a bit guilty. And then I realized, it's OK.

“We still love each other, girls,” I told them. “We just got angry … like how you get when you two fight over which one of your dolls should wear what.”

They got it.

Six days later, our war that kicked off that particular February ended. I decided to stop being stubborn and get over it. He apologized in a roundabout way and I knew he meant it. We're married. We’re parents. Time to move on. We love each other.

We soon returned to saying "Good morning," "How was your day?" and all the normal things that non-fighting married people do.

Real love is beyond the wedding, the baby births, the red-and-pink heart-shaped cards.

Real love is accepting the reality that arguments happen, hurt feelings can bubble and explode, grown-ups can yell and not talk for a week and shut down all communication in the name of clearing headspace to recover and reset.

Real love can be revealed by taking a deep breath and stepping beyond whatever misspoken words or hasty actions irritated you.

Real love is appreciating what you have, knowing that deep love for each other is still there.

Real love is being an example for our kids; learning to meet in the middle and move forward so they can learn how to disagree, hash it out and forgive and repeat without fear. Don't we all want to believe that real love truly is possible for ourselves and our kids?

For children, seeing it is believing it — and that's one of the greatest gifts we can give to them.

Photo credit: TheFABMom.com