My essays about healthy relationships with God, others, & yourself.

The Importance of Showing Affection in Marriage

This past week, my daughter Lexi randomly discovered “The Brady Bunch” on YouTube. She’s quickly become addicted to it–but this is one of the better addictions; it offers wonderfully clean, and wholesome entertainment compared to what is so often dished out by Hollywood today.

Watching the Bradys is like traveling in time back to my childhood — in fact, I was about my girls’ age when I used to watch it every day after school. (I admit, I was crushing on Marcia.)  It’s been a delight to revisit these shows, laughing with my girls and talking about the relative simplicity of life in the 70s.  Yes, corded phones used to be attached to the wall!  

One thing that stands out about the the Brady Bunch is the level of affection shown by Mike and Carol. It’s obvious that they are in love, nuzzling and flirting all the time — even in front of the kids. But nobody blushes — in fact, the kids relish their parents’ mutual delight nearly as much as Mike and Carol do. The affection of their parents seems to add to the well-being and security of their home.

Which is exactly the point I wish to make.

Today, we live in a world where marriage is breaking down before our eyes. We might blame the secular culture for devaluing and redefining marriage, but perhaps the greatest hindrance is the lack of healthy marriages being modeled.  Our kids are subtly being taught something about marriage every day.

Think of the messages they get from television and movies: sensual delight is found primarily outside of marriage and marriage will limit your options — almost like going to prison. Married people have to “settle down” and stop having fun. Bachelor parties have become like the Mardi Gras before the dreaded season of Lent. No wonder kids today don’t value marriage!

Christian parents are not exempt.   Do we who are married show our kids that marriage is a delight or do they see it as more of a contractual arrangement where the parents simply co-exist?

Why might Christian parents neglect to show affection in front of their kids?   I can think of three reasons.

First. Is it in hopes that our kids won’t think about sex? Too late, they already do! God has given them massive amounts of hormones and they’re trying to figure out what they’re for. We’ve got to show them that the proper context for drives, affections, and sensuality is in marriage — otherwise they’ll begin to seek the fulfillment of these things in all the wrong places.

Second. Is it because showing affection is out of our comfort zone? I realize that your background, personality, ethnicity, circumstances etc. affect your comfortability with showing affection, but I suggest that nevertheless it must be shown. It may take getting used to and you may observe some eye-rolling at first, but it will impact your family for the better. My kids have gotten used to us snuggling on the couch; they see us holding hands; they catch my cheesy pickup lines some nights before bedtime, and they hear me tease about wanting a “transparent shower curtain” in our bathroom for my birthday. They groan at this last one of course, but through it all, they learn that their parents’ affection is genuine and secure, which makes the whole family feel secure. And in the process, they learn what marriage is meant to be, hopefully wanting that for themselves one day.

Third. Is it because we honestly don’t have any affection for our spouse? If this is the case then the best thing you can do for your kids is to sprint directly into marriage counseling. Affection isn’t negotiable. It’s not the icing on the cake of marriage it is the cake itself. Marriage is ALL about the quality of the relationship. As far as it depends on you, do whatever is possible to get help with your marriage. I would be glad to chat with any of you about how to get help in this area.

Guilt. Lastly, I fear some of you will read this and simply feel guilty because you’re not able to model a healthy, affectionate marriage to your kids. Perhaps you’re a single parent or you’re stuck in a marriage where — due to circumstances beyond your control — affection is simply not going to be a reality. I want you to know that God is big enough to overcome your situation! He’s so good at working in spite of us. Trust Him. Pray that your kids will see healthy marriages modeled in the lives of other mentors. (That’s why I require my youth group volunteer couples to show PDA in youth group.) Perhaps your unfortunate situation will be used positively to give your kids a thirst for what you yourself long for. God’s not limited by anything. Trust Him.

And for some of you perhaps the first step would be to watch a couple reruns of the Brady Bunch!


1 Comment

  1. Mark Forstrom

    Someone on Facebook reminded me that Mike Brady (Robert Reed) was actually gay. But I’m still sticking to my point. All television is acting of course — I never suspected the affection shown between Robert and Florence was real. But in real life marital affection ought to be genuine to best promote the institution. The love that the Bradys model on tv should be lived out in reality as much as is possible.

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