My parents are the strongest team I know. They’ve weathered 46 years and three children together and I’ve never seen them fight, not once. When they were still working Dad would always bring flowers home for the Mum at the end of the week. At weddings they would dance together and smile like they were 21. And sometimes, if I had to creep in to say good-bye early in the morning before a shift at work, they would still be asleep, wrapped in each other's arms.
Their example of married life may be why all of their children ended up married. But as anyone who has chosen to be in a long term, committed relationship will know, it ain’t always easy.
So what kind of advice would my parents give to people in committed partnerships? Luckily, I asked to interview them on Kinderling Conversation and they said YES! Here's what I learnt.
Caring for each other is a long-term game
If your children are still young, you know what it’s like. Your days are filled with looking after dependent adorable little creatures. Sometimes you have so little energy and brain space left you can hardly say hello to your partner, let alone engage in an empathetic conversation about their day. Mum’s advice is to make sure you share the load, that you parent together, and that you look after each other as well as your children. Children, she says, don’t stop needing you once they leave school- looking after them, and being strong for each other is a much longer game than the sleepless nights you’re having now.
Listen to the full interview:
Remember you’re a team, and support each other
This one relates to the point above. Mum says,'It's about having someone in your corner all the time who's going to be there and care about you... and make sure you're all right.” How much of a relief is that? To know your partner has your back?
It’s ok to grow together
When I asked Dad how they’ve managed to get along for so long he said, “I don’t really see myself as an individual. I see us as being one. So it’s pretty easy to go along with things.”
We’re often told to hold on to our individuality at all costs, but with Mum and Dad, it feels like they’ve found the balance. They still have their own friends and interests, but they know each other so well that they are truly two halves of a whole. And quite frankly I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Learn how to really listen and recognise when you need to let go
The biggest challenge of my parent’s marriage was over a house. They were about to lose their dream home that they had built from scratch, and Mum wasn’t really coping. Dad says, “Mum lost a lot of weight, and every time I asked if she was alright she said she was ok, but then she felt that no one understood.”
You hear it often enough, that good relationships are about communication, but this is something both Mum and Dad feel very strongly about.
Mum says, “communication is one of the key things in a marriage and trying to hear what the other person is really saying.” At the same time, with the benefit of hindsight, she says that it wasn’t worth the angst it caused, given that moving house ended up being a good thing for them both.
You don’t have to fight to resolve issues
And here we come to the reason why my siblings and I have never seen my parents fight. When Mum was growing up her parents used to fight all the time. “It was quite violent arguments [that] my parents had … it used to frighten me so much, I always vowed I’d never argue in front of my children and I never have.”
For anyone who is inspired by my parents but falls short of the “no fighting” stipulation (like me), Dad says “Don’t have arguments if you can avoid it, and secondly if you do, don’t say things that you’ll regret later on… because once things are said they can’t be unsaid.”
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