The decision to get a divorce is fraught with uncertainty and loaded with complications, especially for couples with children. Surveys reveal that one in four unhappily married couples continue staying together for the kids. Some couples even have a specific date in mind when they will split, but plan to wait as long as 10 years so that the kids are grown when they end their relationship. But experts say that staying in a troubled marriage “just” for the sake of the kids is not necessarily in anybody’s best interest. Here are 4 reasons why staying together for the kids is a bad idea:
Boundaries Get Blurred
When the parents are in a strained relationship, the boundaries in a household get blurred. Children thrive on clear and specific rules, which are easy to implement when a couple is in a healthy marriage. But a shaky connection between mom and dad quickly leads to disintegrating boundaries about time, discipline, chores, and finance. The ensuing confusion can do more harm to children than any benefit from the parents’ decision to stick it out.
Kids Can’t Be Kids
Many parents involved in marital conflict end up confiding (inappropriately) in their kids. No child should be forced to endure the pain and complications of an adult struggle. Sometimes this occurs subconsciously and a parent subtly communicates bad feelings about their spouse, who is, after all, the child’s parent as well. A noble decision and the parents’ dedication to their children end up being a disservice to the entire family.
Everybody Ends Up Miserable
Chronic parental conflict is extremely harmful to children. Following through with the decision to stay together is far more difficult than making the decision. Over the long-term, it’s difficult for unhappy parents to keep up appearances. And even young kids pick up more than we realize. Sooner or later, one or both parents can’t hide their misery. Bitter arguments, unpleasantness, and resentment spill over onto family time. The very fabric of a solid marriage – a deep friendship and empathy for each other – gets unraveled, and everybody ends up miserable.
It Sets a Bad Precedent
For kids who grow up in unhappy households, the troubled relationship between their parents becomes the norm in love. They tend to follow the same pattern of dysfunctional behavior in their own relationships as adults that they observed growing up. Emotionally healthy love often evades these children their entire lives. Some end up fearing commitment and go through a string of short-term relationships. Others vow never to get married at all. When parents decide to stay together in a troubled marriage for the sake of the children, they are actually setting a bad precedent.
If a couple’s relationship is beyond reconciliation, it is far better to work towards an uncontested divorce than staying together in a loveless marriage. A well-managed divorce can take children out of a toxic situation and can, in fact, teach them resilience and the ability to adjust to a new reality. Separation and divorce are sad, stressful, and confusing times for children. Yet, when parents decide to be honest with their children, listen to their concerns, and try to make the split as amicable as possible, divorce is not such a dirty word anymore.