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Stopping Unhealthy Marriage Patterns to Improve the Next Generation

May 16, 2022

By Theresa Boedeker

Do you know that stopping unhealthy marriage patterns can improve the next generation? We sometimes forget the importance of nurturing our marriages, so that they will survive long term as we set a good example for the next generation.   

Starting Marriage Under a Cloud of Difficulty

The day our wedding was announced at church, my mom served my dad papers for a separation, which quickly led to a divorce. 

I, like everyone else, was surprised. They seemed happy. Seemed to get along. I had assumed they would always be married. 

It would take years before I realized the dysfunction in my parents’ marriage. Partly because Mom liked to put on a show and things had to look perfect. 

My husband’s parents’ marriage was also unhealthy. They argued and could not get along. 

My husband and I wanted a healthy marriage. A God-centered marriage that was different and better than our parents had. We just were not sure what that looked like.  

Wanting Better for Our Children

As parents, we desire to give our children a better life than we had. More advantages and opportunities than we had. 

One place we can do this is with our marriages.  

When we are committed to our marriages, dedicated to having a marriage better than our parents, and zealous about stopping the dysfunctional cycles of our families and their marriages, we are teaching the next generation. We can set a good example for them and give them a head start in their marriage.   

Our Marriages Affect More Than Just Us

Whether we realize it or not, every day we are setting an example for our children about marriage. We are teaching them how to treat their spouses, deal with conflict, handle trials, cope with stress, and have fun. We are teaching them what is acceptable and what is not. 

They grow up absorbing how we handle ourselves and each other. They notice if we do it together or alone. If we help and support each other or compete with one another, they absorb what we do as normal, thinking this is how marriage is done. 

If we complain about our mates, they don’t question whether that is healthy behavior or not. If we fight in front of them, trying to win at all costs, we teach them that is normal. If we love and forgive our mates, we teach them that is normal.

Messages about Marriage You’ve Absorbed as Normal

I never once heard my parents argue or disagree. Nor were we kids allowed to argue or disagree with one another. But what I absorbed as normal was not healthy. 

Life is full of conflicts, discussions, and differences of opinion. Things I never saw modeled in my home. 

I married thinking conflict and disagreement was practically a sin. I didn’t know how to have a healthy conversation with a difference of opinion. This was just one thing I worked on, trying not to pass that dysfunction onto my children and their marriages. 

Stopping Unhealthy Marriage Patterns to Improve the Next Generation

When our daughter got engaged, I remembered my parents quitting as we were beginning. 

Over the years my husband and I had traded unhealthy habits for healthier ones. But we still had stuff to work on. 

It became a time for reflecting. Refocusing. Celebrating how far we had come and discussing how to finish strong. 

We desired to set a good example for our children and their mates and for our future grandkids. Giving them the gift of grandparents working together and visiting together was an important priority for us. 

We recommitted to the importance of our marriage and fought for it. We didn’t let it get ignored on the back burner. We started working harder to learn new habits of relating and loving one another.

Our actions have consequences. Exodus 34:7 talks about how our good and bad actions affect our children and their children to the third and fourth generation. This is why it is important for us to focus on stopping unhealthy marriage patterns to improve the next generation.

Strive for Progress, Not Perfection

If we can strive to have better marriages than we had a year ago or ten years ago, we will be doing ourselves, our children, and future generations a favor. Progress happens one day at a time, so we can strive for progress, not perfection.

With God’s help and his Holy Spirit’s influence, we can stop the generational cycles of dysfunction that so many of our families exhibit. God is in the job of healing us, our marriages and our families – if we let him. 

Wife Step: What unhealthy pattern can you identify in your marriage and work on to move towards healthy? Maybe it is a pattern that came from either of your families or one you see affecting your children. Commit to working on your marriage so it survives long term. 

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Theresa Boedeker has been married to her husband, her complete opposite, for over 30 years. They live in the Midwest and have two children, 15 years apart, and a few grandkids. Theresa daily hunts for humor and tries to bring forth laughter from others. She is passionate about helping women smash lies with God’s truth.  Overcome shame. Learn to laugh at life and themselves. Notice God’s love and grace.  And not be afraid of making mistakes. She unwraps life and faith at When she is not writing, she enjoys doing creative things like cooking, making jewelry, and taking photos of flowers (they never run from the picture).

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