The concept of staying married “for the sake of the children” has always been the subject of debate. Children thrive best on predictability and routine, and there’s no question that divorce is disruptive to a child’s life.
If you’re thinking of “toughing it out” in an unhappy marriage for your kids, here’s why you may want to think again.
It’s not the divorce, it’s the conflict
While the intention behind staying married for the children’s sake usually stems from a deep desire to shield one’s children from the potential drawbacks of a divorce, it’s not rooted in reality.
Research consistently shows that children who are subjected to high-conflict situations by their parents are more likely to struggle with the long-term consequences of a divorce. In other words, a divorce may be disruptive in the short term to a child’s sense of stability, but it’s the conflict within the marriage or after the divorce that actually causes the real damage.
So, no, it really isn’t better to stay married until the youngest child leaves home. Ending a toxic or unhappy marriage even has the following benefits:
- You can remove the children from a stress-filled, unhappy home. Children are very sensitive to the emotional atmosphere of their surroundings, so witnessing ongoing hostilities between their parents can be far more damaging than witnessing a separation.
- You are providing a healthy role model. Children learn about communication and relationships from their parents, first. Staying in an unhealthy, dysfunctional marriage sets your children up for the same – while a divorce that is handled with maturity can model great conflict resolution.
- You may find yourself better at parenting. An unhappy relationship can be exhausting, and parents stuck in bad marriages may have little physical or emotional energy to direct toward their children at the end of a day. A divorce can give you the ability to focus on your parenting and be more engaged with your children in the future.
Divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to marital troubles, but it is worth considering if you’re unhappy. At the very least, exploring your legal options can help you decide if it’s a step worth taking at this time.