Every few weeks, Jessica sends her four kids off for a sleepover and kicks off an almighty row with her hubby - and she says it's the secret to her blissful marriage.
How many times have you been told that having arguments when you’re in a relationship is bad?
There seems to be a social construct that exists wherefore couples are meant to be automatically worried if they’re fighting, disagreeing or not always getting along.
As soon as one partner has a difference of opinion, we are led to believe that we are in dangerous territory because that could lead to conflict - and apparently, all conflict is bad.
Well, I’ve been married for 12 years now - and I'm calling bullshit
Because I believe that arguments are a normal, healthy part of any marriage. And I’m even going to go so far as to say that my husband and I having disagreements and arguments together makes our marriage stronger.
I’ll tell you why, but here’s a bit of back story first.
My husband and I got engaged after six weeks of knowing each other
Within six months, we were married. By the time we had been married for a year we already had a baby, and seven years later we had four daughters.
Avoid food fights. A healthy child instinctively knows how much to eat. If he refuses to finish whatever food is on his plate, just let it go. He won't starve.
Raising four children is hectic, to say the least. It’s even more hectic when you are two people, completely opposite to each other.
We are so opposite that we basically live on different planets, but regularly meet at one located in the middle.
He’s reserved, I’m outgoing. He’s methodical, I’m haphazard. He’s calculated and precise, I’m spontaneous and random. He rarely makes mistakes … but I learn best by f*cking up, big time.
Jessica, her husband and their four daughters. Photo: Supplied
Eleven years ago when we became parents we decided that we wouldn’t argue or fight in front of our daughters. Whilst banter and bickering is totally fine, we made the conscious choice that anything worthy of an argument would not be had in the presence of our children.
Why? Because we believe that whilst disagreeing with each other is totally fine, having it out in an open-slather style, uncensored and without holding back - is really not what we want to role model for our children. So we bicker and banter a lot, but we save the big arguments for another time.
Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.
Yep, that’s right - we schedule our arguments
The really gritty ones.
Sometimes, with small stuff - negotiation is easily done and can be done in a civil, polite way. But I don’t know ... there’s something really liberating, freeing and cathartic about getting it all out there unfiltered, raw and honestly.
When someone has done something to piss you off, or you’re really mad with how something has gone down - there’s nothing better than voicing it openly, and getting it off your chest. Telling someone how you really feel - yeah, there’s really nothing better.
It seems to me, that having emotions of a negative type is so often looked upon as bad. People seem to construct their little perfect lives, never sharing their shitty days or the days that they feel really mad, sad or even lonely. So many people are not in touch with their real emotions because they don’t know what to deal with them, so they shove them to the side.
That’s why my husband and I give each other the chance to vocalise our feelings, and to own and honour our emotions. Sure, it isn’t always pleasant for the person on the receiving end, after all - no one likes being called on their poor behaviour. But the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
"Everyone should have kids. They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they are born and they start using sleep deprivation to break you." - Ray Romano
Jessica and her husband never argue in front of their kids. Photo: iStock
So what does scheduling an argument even look like?
Well, we are fortunate enough to have wonderful family that offer to take our daughters for sleepovers regularly. During this time we get to be husband and wife - not Mum/Dad/cook/cleaner/educator or guide.
We can just be us.
Usually within half an hour of being alone, just the two of us - one of us will voice an upset. And so the arguing begins.
Kim Kardashian is feeling pressure from her husband, Kanye West, to have four more kids. “And I think it’s important that in all couples, the mom give the husband as much attention as the kids.” According to Kim’s sister Khloé Kardashian, she has felt stretched recently trying to spread her love equally.
Back and forth we will go - not quietly, mind you! Often when we are driving somewhere.
He’ll tell me how he’s feeling, and I’ll listen and then I’ll passionately give him a piece of my mind. Sometimes it can go on for a few hours, other times it’s pretty quick.
But do you know what happens after we are done?
We feel weightless. We feel heard. We feel validated. We feel like understand each other. We feel like we are on the same page.
And then we have epic make-up sex.
Let them read what they want. Kids who read for pleasure excel academically—not only in language arts but, as recent research from the Institute of Education, in London, found, in math as well. So while you wish he would pick up Dickens, don't make him feel bad about a graphic novel. "A 'junky' series can be good if it gets kids hooked on the habit of reading," says Mary Leonhardt, a former high school English teacher and the author of Parents Who Love Reading, Kids Who Don't.
Arguments get a bad rap. When I think about all the times I might have had to sweep issues under the carpet, or maintain some false facade of happiness when I really wasn’t happy - all I can think of is how resentful and bitter I’d no doubt end up feeling.
Not arguing means not talking, and I think ultimately that does more harm than good.
I consider the art of disagreeing with my husband a really wonderful gift
Because it gives me the opportunity to learn, and see things from new perspectives. Sure, I might not always end up agreeing with him - in fact, I often don’t - but my mind and views are widened, and I’m able to be honest and open.
We can be real with each other, all pretences aside. We can sit with the icky bits, and deal with them head on - rather than avoiding them, or pretending they don’t exist.
I know that most of the time when my husband and I argue, it’s because we don’t feel heard and are seeking connection somehow, in some form. So that is why carving out space together to connect, communicate and be heard is the best thing we can do for our marriage ... even if it isn’t done in a way that others would expect.
Give yourself a break. Hitting the drive-through when you're too tired to cook doesn't make you a bad parent.
Carmen and Mario Briffa celebrate 60th anniversary
Carmen and Mario Briffa celebrate 60th anniversary