We know we learn through observing others – this is natural human behavior. Previously on the blog, we’ve talked about what marriage lessons we learn from our families – either as a young kid or even into our adulthood when we’re so kindly given those one-liner pieces of advice from family members. Thinking about those lessons, we encouraged you to consider what things you carry forward and strive to live up to in your marriage and relationships, as what you’d rather leave behind. Your family has good intentions, but they’re likely not all marriage experts.
What happens when you flip the question, to ask not about what you learned, but what can you teach others?
What are you actively showing your community and your family about your relationship? Is the relationship example you’re setting a healthy one or is it something you’re not actually proud of?
Those can be hard questions to answer. But relationships are important, and we know that those around us – young, old, single, married, etc. – are all latently learning from us as we live our lives and continue to exist in a relationship in front of them. While it can be difficult to look in the mirror at our own marriage, it benefits not only us, but also anyone in our family and community who interacts with us. If we can be positive marriage role models for them, we stand a better chance of helping set them up with healthy examples to learn from.
Here are three things you can do to show up as positive marriage role models:
- Keep it real.
Being a positive marriage role model does not mean that you have to have and always display a perfect relationship without any struggles. That’s actually setting up an expectation of relationships that is nearly impossible to attain. Keeping it real is about being transparent about the fact that you face adversity and harder seasons in your relationship, but you rely on your commitment, relationship skills, and overall resiliency as a couple to weather the storm. It’s about showing up, putting in the work, and not hiding that from those around you. Of course, you and your partner first need to discuss what level of transparency you are comfortable with, so that neither of you unintentionally cross a boundary and share too much about what’s going on between you two. You need to be on the same page and decide what is appropriate to share for the benefit of keeping it real for and demonstrating that the work is worth it.
- Put in the work.
And speaking of the work being worth it – you have to actually do the work! Some will say that marriage shouldn’t have to be work – that once you have love, you have it all. Well, we know that’s simply not true. As people we morph and change as we continue to develop. We’re always growing, and it takes intentional effort to grow together as a couple. You can’t just coast for the first 25 years of marriage when you’re distracted with a career and kiddos. It takes effort, and showing and acknowledging that fact is a healthy thing. This can look like a lot of different things, but even being open about attending marriage enrichment events, prioritizing date night, dedicating time to reading books or listening to podcasts about relationships, or even sharing with others that you actively work with a marriage therapist can do so much to encourage others to do the same. If they see a couple like you that is keeping it real, and also very much doing the work, they’ll be inclined to take a similar direction in their own relationship.
Communication is probably the most overshared tip when it comes to anything relationship education related – but for good reason, it’s arguably the most important skill to have and use. Healthy communication can help you navigate nearly anything in your relationship. It’s all about being assertive (which can get a bad rap but is actually a very healthy trait when done respectfully), and actively listening to your partner (this is the kind of listening where you actually listen instead of just formulating your next reply). Demonstrating healthy communication in front of others is an easy way to be a positive marriage role model. It shows others in relationship how they can have a conversation, discussion, or even a disagreement without anything spiraling out of control and while accomplishing the goal of understanding each other. The people in your life who will benefit the most from modeling communication in your marriage are the ones who live with you – your kids. And they’ll soak up those skills like sponges, which is great for their own relationship skill development.
Becoming positive relationship role models doesn’t have to be a big new undertaking in your life – you’re already a role model, it’s just the extra effort to make sure what you’re modeling about marriage is healthy and positive.
Interested in going a step further to help other couples? Consider becoming a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. Contact us to learn more.