If you have children and your marriage or relationship seems as though it’s not thriving, you might be tempted to try to stay together for the sake of the children. While this is a common goal, it can actually be the wrong choice for many different reasons. If you and your partner want to stay together only because you don’t want to put your kids through a divorce, you (and they) might be better off doing exactly the opposite. Read on to find out why staying together for your children can be the wrong choice.
Children Sense Your Unhappiness
If you are staying together for the sake of your children, there is a very good chance that they know that something is amiss. Even very small children can sense parental angst, and if you and your spouse are not getting along, your child likely knows that you are unhappy.
Many parents are careful to avoid arguing in front of their children, but stony silences and veiled sarcasm are just as troubling to little ears. The fact is that no matter how positive you are trying to keep the household environment, it is likely that your children, whether they are toddlers or teenagers, can sense your stress. This can, in turn, cause anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues in your child. An amicable divorce will likely be less stress-inducing for everyone.
You Can Set a Better Example
What example are you setting for your child when you trudge through your days feeling stressed and unhappy about your marriage? Children growing up in an unhappy home can become pessimistic and think that a marriage or romantic relationship is bound to be stressful and unfulfilling.
Instead, consider the example you would be setting by deciding to separate. Yes, there will be hard times involved, but it shows your child that you both accept that your relationship is unhealthy. Getting divorced can free both of you up to relate to each other as co-parents rather than as spouses or romantic partners, and it can also allow each of you to pursue truly happy and healthy relationships. This is a better example to set for your child.
An Abusive Relationship Is Dangerous in Many Ways
If you are in an abusive marriage, staying together can be dangerous in many ways. First, it exposes your child to abuse. If your spouse is abusing you physically, emotionally, or sexually, there is no guarantee that they will not turn on your child now or in the future.
In addition, seeing their parent abused is extremely traumatic for children. If you think they don’t notice, you are most likely mistaken; children do know when a parent is hurting, and they will soon learn who is to blame for that hurt.
Finally, the example that you are setting for your child is that abuse is okay. Your child might grow up to be an abuser or someone who is abused.
If you are being abused, it is essential that you get yourself and your child out of the situation. There are organizations that can help. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you find the resources you need to get out of your abusive relationship and get a divorce without the high fees of a private attorney.
Neither Parent Has to Lose
In the case of an unhappy (but non-abusive) marriage, one parent or the other might be reluctant to lose what they currently have in terms of financial security and time with their children. Today, divorces are generally fair in the sense that good parents are encouraged and enabled to maintain their bonds with their children. Joint custody is very common, so neither parent should have to miss out on regular visits with the children.
In addition, there are often resources in place for parents who were the full-time caregivers. If you have been the stay-at-home parent, your ex will, in many cases, have to pay spousal support (also called alimony) for some period of time so you can get the job skills you need to return to (or enter) the workforce.
When to Throw in the Towel
If you have been contemplating divorce for some time, marriage counseling can be a great way to help you decide whether you would like to continue fighting for your relationship or file for divorce. While many problems can be overcome, some should not be. Only you and your spouse can decide what those non-negotiables are. For many, they include abuse, addiction, and infidelity. It is important to be honest with yourself; if there is something going on that you cannot forgive or work through, then it will be easier on your children (as well as on you) to not drag out the proceedings indefinitely.
Making Divorce Easier on Kids
If you have decided to get divorced, it is important that you and your spouse approach them to tell them before you begin telling others. Your children should hear the news from you and should not overhear you telling someone else first or hear it from another relative or a friend of the family. Explain that you are divorcing each other but that both of you will still be in your child’s life. (This only applies if there is not a major issue like abuse or addiction that might not allow the abusive or addicted parent to be involved with the child any longer.)
Once they know that a divorce is imminent, make sure that you support their feelings. Good communication with your ex can help you keep the divorce as amicable as possible. Do what you can to get along and not pass your stress about your divorce onto your children. You can also contact a legal resource group like National Family Solutions. We can help you get through this difficult time by being your advocate and not charging you the high fees that a private attorney would. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you and your children as you go through the emotional and difficult process of divorce.