What’s worse, having racist parents or parents who no longer have fun with each other?

Please turn off those alarm bells; I am not about to condone racism, the aim here is to highlight two things where even though they are equally as damaging, we hate one and tolerate the other.

Think about your friends and colleagues, how many of them are with a partner they truly love, get on with and laugh with where you can confidently say, “those two are best friends”? Some of you may be saying that partners don’t need to be best friends because a partner is different. I would agree with you if the divorce rate wasn’t at 50%; or if the vast majority of children didn’t witness two co-workers, usually one neutered and one trouser wearer, as parents. I would also let it go if we didn’t now know the extent of the damage to children that living with two co-workers void of laughter and fun causes. Most importantly, I would not have an issue if we didn’t now know the immense positive effect on children that living with two loving, fearless, expressive, banter filled, best friends as parents can have. Therefore, the time to BS each other and ourselves is over. We need to change and each of you can play a part to make this change happen.

The question is how can you help? What can each of us do to get us to the promised land of relationships? First, let’s define the promised land to be such that the majority of children grow up in homes where the parents behave in a manner that reduces the phycological damage and increases the positive effect on children’s wellbeing and self-worth. We now know that the couples most likely to achieve this are those who tick the following compatibility checklist:

The Compatible Couple Checklist

  1. They are fun friends.
  2. They admire each other’s minds.
  3. They accept one another’s flaws because the good far outweighs the bad.
  4. If asked to make a list of people whose company they enjoy the most, they would put each other as number one.
  5. If asked to make a list of people they feel free to express anything on their mind to without editing or fear, they would put each other at the top.
  6. If their child ended up being a clone of their partner, they would be so happy.


Some of you may be thinking that this list is unachievable. Firstly, may I remind you of the damage that current statistics are telling us is being inflicted on the partners as well as their children. Secondly, we can look at other areas in human history and learn that what once was seen as unachievable is now part of the norm. I will take racism as an example. Fifty years ago, if you heard someone say a derogatory racist joke, you would have probably found that joke funny and harmless. If anyone felt insulted, many of us would have concluded that it’s just a joke and the offended person should lighten up. Today, the vast majority would not find that joke funny at all. This happened in a relatively short space of time; evolutionarily speaking, fifty years is a blink of an eye. However, thanks to the power of modern-day information transfer avenues, we can highlight injustice and spread the word universally relatively quickly.

The process of change starts when a few people begin to highlight negative statistics and then hope that public day to day conversation takes place until awareness infiltrates the psyche of the majority. With racism, once the cause of injustice was linked to our indifference to it, finding racist behaviour tolerable, even if it was meant as a joke, became somewhat jarring. For example, turning a blind eye to the fact that neither we, nor our kids have a single friend of a different race became something noticeable and, eventually, questionable. Slowly but surely things improved, barriers were broken and change began to take place. Yes, there is still work to be done, but the difference between now and half a century ago is immense. Can you imagine a football team kneeling before every game even as recently as twenty years ago?

My wish is for the same thing to happen to unhappy relationships. If two people do not tick the points on the checklist above and yet they still choose to continue being a couple and even decide to have children, they need to be viewed as negatively as we view racists. It can be argued that tolerating incompatible couples causes far more damage than tolerating racist humour. With racist jokes, at least parents can still teach their children that such jokes are wrong; after all, children learn most from their parents. If, however, the parents themselves are the source of negative teachings, what chance do their children have to realise that what they are learning is damaging?

The vast majority of children are learning that home is where you bicker, where you edit thought, where you tiptoe around the missus, where mum gets irritated by dad, where mum and dad don’t laugh with each other and are only seen to be relaxed and smiling with their friends. Kids growing up in such an environment have very little chance to learn the value of self-worth. What chance do they have to grow up and demand to be loved for who they are? What chance do they have to grow up knowing that being alone is a million times better than being with someone that doesn’t really like them that much?

What needs to happen is for all of us to notice and call out incompatibility. Whether it’s parents seeing their grown-up children, friends seeing their friends, or even children seeing their parents, whenever any of us witness partners that do not tick the Compatibility Checklist above, we need to say something. If we hear jokes, see comedy shows, films or stand-up routines that try to make light of bickering couples or marital discord, we need to not laugh because this is exactly the same as tolerating derogatory racist jokes if not worse. We stopped laughing at racist jokes because of the offence they cause their target race; we now need to stop laughing at frictional couples jokes because of all the harm that frictional couples cause their children. It’s not funny to grow up in a home where laughter happens far more outside than inside it.

The time to tackle this problem is now and each of us can play a part starting today.

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