Relationships are messy.

The other day my husband and I were in the kitchen having a somewhat heated argument about something insignificant…probably the dishwasher (we both have different theories on how to load it - don’t get me started!) As our tone with each other got a little sharper, my son interrupted us and said, “When you guys argue, it makes me think you are going to get a divorce.”

This obviously caught my attention, as it would any mother. My first reaction would typically be to stop arguing, reassure him and then move to another room so he wouldn’t have to hear us. But that day, I saw it from a different perspective and I took another approach. I said to him, “The only time you need to worry about that is when Dad and I stop talking. Silence should be what makes you worry. Dad and I keep talking when things get difficult. Yes, it may be heated, but we keep talking to work through it.”

Relationships are messy. They never look like what we see on TV - beautiful, perfect yet completely unrealistic, a fairy tale created simply to entertain us. It’s just not real life. Real relationships take work, they take time and they take conflict. You cannot avoid conflict in relationships, and if you do, then one of you is not being honest and real.

I have had so many parents come through my office, overwhelmed with guilt because their children have seen them arguing. Often, my challenge to them is to help their children see the resolutions to these arguments. If we shelter our children from the messiness of our relationships, then they only see the same fairy tale from us that they are seeing in the media. We need to show our children that relationships are messy and that they take work. They need to see that we will fight and argue, in respectful ways, but that we also will seek resolution, apologize and work to understand each other better.

Relationships are messy because they are real. The more we are honest and the more we truly seek to understand and respect each other, the messier it can get. Don’t be afraid to show your children the disagreements that take place in relationships, and then show them how you grow because of these disagreements.

You are the best model of this for your children. What you teach them now is what they will use as their guide for their own relationships in the future. Be honest about the messiness. Be real.