Dr. Dad


Fathers and Marriage

The most important things in life are not things! What is of greatest value is our relationships. The relationship that has had the most impact on our own lives is the relationship we had with our own parents, and likewise, it is our relationship with our partners, our marriage, that will influence our children in many profound ways.

Good schools, living in a decent neighborhood, participation in community and sports activities, having a computer, music lessons, are some of the ways we help to nurture our kids to grow and develop. Every father wants his child to grow up to be an honest and caring person. But how does that happen?

If we reflect on our own parent's marriage, what was it like? Did they treat each other with dignity and respect? Were they considerate and understanding with each other? How did they handle the inevitable anger and frustration that comes not just with parenting, but with life! Did they seem to enjoy being married? Why did they have children?

The relationship between husband and wife is the center of a child's developing morality. How he treats himself and others grows out of the observations he makes about how his parents treat each other.

Many men who have become fathers today take pride in their involvement, right from birth, in the nurturing and caring of their infant. This is a very positive change in our culture. Fathers involvement in "active" parenting is creating a new model for family life.

I am always struck by meeting fathers who are so positively engaged and excited about their children, but appear so uninterested or disengaged in their relationship with their wives. I often comment to couples I see in my psychotherapy practice that they act like single parents who are living together. Everything in their relationship seems to focus around their child.

In many cases, as time goes on, the couple begins to work out many of their interpersonal difficulties through their child, and this can become a very disturbing experience for the child. A young child may begin to wonder why his or her parents seem to have so much love for them and not seem to care much about each other. What does an experience like I am describing teach a child about interpersonal relationships?

There is a great renaissance today for men, and today's father is the cornerstone. A new developing sense of masculinity and gender identity is unfolding around the development of the nurturing father. It is important, rewarding and valuable to participate in the caregiving to our children. But if we don't nurture our marriage also, what have we really conveyed to our children about being a loving and caring person?

One of the greatest gifts a father can give to his children is to love his wife. This is a lovely statement, but in reality a difficult and often life-long adventure in understanding another person. Good luck!

For Further self-reflection and discussion:

1. What is most difficult for you about "loving" another person?
2. What are the "trade-offs" in being married? (What do you find liberating about being married, or in a committed relationship, and what is restricting?)
3. What can you do in your relationship that would have a positive effect without your mate "changing" her behavior or personality style?

© 2008 Dr. Bruce Linton

Other Father Issues, Books

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The kind of man who thinks that heping with the dishes is beneath him will also think that helping with the baby is beneath him, and then he certainly is not going to be a very successful father. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Dr. Bruce Linton is the founder and director of the Fathers' Forum in Berkeley, CA. In his weekly columns he share his expereinces and insights gained from his work with fathers in his groups, classes and clinical work. He explores how parenting and fatherhood effects us as men. Bruce is a Marriage and Family Therapists and recieved his doctorate for his research into men's development as fathers. He is the father of two children. Dr. Linton is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood: Men's concerns as parents. Visit Fathers' Forum

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