Short answer – It depends. I know it sounds like I’m sitting on the fence unwilling to commit, but hang with me – there’s good reason for my waffling.
Your first consideration should be the kids
Remember these facts:
Your children’s emotional boundaries are still developing. To them it can feel like they’re in the fight as much as you are.
Worse, if the fight touches on something they did, they can feel responsible for the tension between you and your partner.
Emotional intensity can affect children in ways we don’t know. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Oregon showed infants’ brains reacting to other persons’ anger, even while the infants were asleep.
''Infants’ brains respond to anger, even when they’re sleeping''. Click To Tweet
Is it worth the risk? I would say no. But I have a caveat.
Are you fighting to hurt?
Every relationship that matters to us has times when we need to work out a conflict.
How you handle this process is a function of your end game. Are you seeking to come to shared understanding? Or to win at all cost? To prove yourself right? To show your partner is wrong, even if it means belittling or embarrassing them? If you do this in front of your kids, regardless of their ages, you are emotionally crippling them, setting them up for ineffective patterns in their own relationships.
Or are you fighting to heal?
If you’re both doing your dead-level best to come to mutual understanding, to a solution that – whether or not it’s yours – is best for everyone, that may be a process your kids need to see.
In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at Wharton, cites a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Rochester and Notre Dame. The study of 235 families over the course of three years found that kids who felt emotionally safe and saw their parents argue constructively used more empathy in dealing with others, and in classroom settings they were more friendly and helpful.
Now that’s an outcome I can support.''Kids who see their parents argue constructively show more empathy to others''. Click To Tweet
The bottom line
As I do with all of my clients, I urge you to look past the heat to the healing.
If you see that most of your arguments involve tearing down your partner, making fun of their opinions, or loudly exploiting an error in their logic, shut yourself down. Walk out of the room. Take a drive. Do whatever it takes to deescalate the emotions.
And most important of all, commit to never let this happen again. If you can’t, one of you needs to move out until you can get into therapy. It’s just not worth what you might be doing to your kids’ brains.
But if you’re able to say, “Let’s calm this down. I’d like to think about what you’re saying and talk it through again. Can we do it tonight after supper?” you might be in a place your children desperately need to see. After all, how many people in this world can show them how to calmly work toward shared understanding? And who better than the two people they love more than anyone else in the world?
If you want more of this peaceful yet constructive approach in your marriage, give us a call or schedule an appointment with us online. We are experts in helping couples manage conflict in relationships.Learn More