It’s an age-old trap to fall into — the idea that staying together is better for the kids. Couples often grow apart and sometimes the relationship might even become toxic or physical, but they’ve been told that divorcing could have negative effects on their children, so they stay together because of that. It’s sad. It creates an unhappy environment for both parents, and children pick up on more than parents think they do, regardless of how young they are.
So is it always better to stay together for the kids? Probably not.
There are many scenarios in which it’s better to divorce. It might be a surprise to the kids at first, and there’s definitely going to be an adjustment period, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world for anyone in the family. In fact, it could actually be better in the long run than if the parents had stayed together, creating an unhappy home life for both them and their kid.
In any of the scenarios below, divorce might just be the better option. Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s always better to stay together for the kids. It’s just not always true.
There’s nothing worse for a kid than hearing their parents fighting. Because their parents are their source of support and the ones they’re supposed to look to for stability, it’s extremely unsettling for them to see their parents at each other’s throats. Every couple argues of course, but it should be done away from the kids. If the fighting is so often that they can’t help but be exposed to it, it might be time to look into what would be best in the long run.
A lot of times, couples stay together because they’re worried about the financial repercussions. But the truth is, there are also a lot of times where each unit in the marriage could definitely afford to be financially independent if they tried. And it might just be worth the effort — for their own happiness and for their children. Having to be careful with money for a while is nothing compared to staying in an unhappy home and exposing the children to the same thing.
You might not think that the kids are picking up anything if you’re fighting behind closed doors. You might think that because they aren’t very mature yet, they won’t notice harshly whispered words as long as they’re shielded from view.
But the truth is that kids are very intuitive, and they’ll definitely be able to pick up on negative energy if a couple is becoming resentful of each other beyond a fixable point. It’s not just outright shouting that could make a child unhappy.
“Staying together for the kids” is a concept that makes no sense when the home they’re staying in isn’t loving. A couple who are fighting a lot might not realize they aren’t being affectionate to their kids anymore, but the truth is, an unhappy marriage can make people snap more than they’d like to. Sometimes it’s best for both of them to get out of that situation so they can go back to being the loving parents their kids deserve.
It’s not only love that kids need – it’s peace and calm.
Whether an unhappy marriage is causing shouting matches or just tense arguments when the kids are supposed to be asleep, it’ll put the kids on edge as they wait to see what happens. If both parties know what they want, it’s better to settle it sooner rather than later. There's no point in trying to force something to work when it's not going to. The sooner a stable environment can be created, the better. Even if that does mean some upheaval at first.
It doesn’t matter how hard you try – if you’re unhappy at home, you aren’t going to be able to put on a happy face for your kid all the time.
You deserve to be in a situation where you’re happy for yourself. This way, you can be the best parent you possibly can. If both parents are going to be happier apart, that is ultimately going to lead the kid into growing up to be a much happier person.
It goes hand-in-hand with kids being more intuitive than their parents might realize. They also might pick up on things from their negative parents.
If they’re surrounded by fighting, they might start to deal with conflict the same way. If they see people who are unhappy and don’t try to help themselves, they might learn some unhealthy coping mechanisms (or not learn any coping mechanisms at all). Staying in an unhappy marriage is not benefitting the child in any way, shape, or form.
Another time when it might be better to seek a divorce is if one parent is spending money that the family just doesn’t have. They might be spending both parents’ incomes and potentially creating a bad situation. People often have addictions all the time that need money to fuel them, or simply are inept with money and unwilling to learn. This could create a seriously damaging family environment when basic necessities can no longer be afforded because of one parent’s financial irresponsibility.
The obvious one—or so it should be—is when one parent is abusive. When this is the case, it’s time for the other one to leave.
Whether it’s verbal, emotional, physical abuse; whether it’s to the other parent or the child — it's time to say goodbye. It’s time to leave when abuse is becoming a norm in the household, because the child may be a victim and because they may become stuck in a cycle where they think this is normal behavior. It takes strength to leave an abuser, but it’s necessary for the children of that marriage.
A child being unhappy at home isn’t all you need to worry about if you’re in a marriage where divorce looks tempting. It can affect their social life, how they interact with others, and their education. If they’re up worrying at night about fighting, they could be unable to concentrate in school. They could be lashing out at their friends because they see their parents doing it. Every aspect of a child’s life will be affected by an unhappy marriage.
It might be tempting to stay with an unfaithful partner to keep the family together for the kids, but here’s the truth — the family has already been split up by the person who’s been sneaking around. Any idea that the family is still together is an illusion, and the children will find out sooner or later.
It’s important to show them that being unfaithful and lying isn’t okay. I should not—and will not—be tolerated. It might be hard for the parent being lied to, but they have to remember that although they’re the one making the decision to leave, they weren’t the one to bring this on the family.
The most important thing about this is that it might show your kid how to deal with tricky situations. If the parents avoid dealing with a divorce head on and bury their heads in the sand, their children might copy their example and do that with other problems in their life. By calmly handling a separation the best way that they can, it’ll set an invaluable problem-solving example and teach your kids one of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn.
As well as showing them how to solve problems, it’ll teach them that their own happiness is important and that they should go after it at any cost. Seeking a divorce may be difficult for your child at first, but when they grow up they’ll look back and admire the fact that their parents decided to handle it gracefully. They'll then have the courage to pursue their own lives rather than let themselves be miserable – perhaps encouraging them that they should do the same thing.
Being in an unhappy marriage is exhausting. Even as selfless as someone might be, it’s hard to avoid the trap of wallowing in self-pity, because it’s hard to be unhappy all the time. And that’s understandable.
But if you find yourself in an unhappy situation, think how freeing it is to escape it. A parent who finds themselves with a new life may end up with a new lease of energy and their parenting will be all the better for it because they’ll feel renewed.
Sometimes, it’s not fighting; sometimes, there are just situations in which two people aren’t willing to compromise, either because they’re unavoidable or because the couple isn't each other’s top priority. For example, someone might be gone for work all the time, making their marriage unsustainable, but they're unwilling to find a new job.
It’s okay to split up in these circumstances too. It won’t make the child’s life more difficult. Actually, it might well make it easier on them.
If a child is around fighting in a marriage, they might start to think it’s normal. After all, we’re told that relationships are hard work and take effort; they might think this is exactly the hard work and effort that people mean. So when they settle into a marriage in the future that’s exhausting and unhappy, they might just think this is normal when it’s absolutely not.
Don’t set that example for them. Show them that happiness can be achieved and they don’t have to settle for less.
Education is one of the main things that can be affected by problems at home. A child who might be up late worrying about their home life—or even just unable to get peace and quiet to do homework at home—is going to suffer. An education is extremely important in a child’s life and shouldn't be compromised because of a negative home life.
If divorce would provide them with a calm environment to concentrate and learn, without the constant worry of their parents fighting, it’s surely not better to stay together for them.
There might not just be lessons to learn during the divorce for the children – there might be lessons to learn after.
Co-parenting can be very difficult after divorce, but it can be done healthily and happily if everyone is willing to compromise and no one bears grudges. Doing this can teach children the value of compromise and stop them from being stubborn and hard-headed, since they’ve seen their parents exhibit fairness towards each other — even in a really difficult time.
It’s important to acknowledge that the few months after a divorce may be very difficult, for both the parents and the children. Everyone will be adjusting to a new life, and the children might even act out because they’re confused and upset that things are changing. But as well as the short-term, it’s important to look at the long-term. How will it be when things have settled and the children aren’t around fighting anymore? How will they be when they’ve adjusted to their new reality? Don’t be thrown off and intimidated by the days or weeks that will potentially follow the divorce for the children – think of the years after.
You should divorce when no one in the family is happy anymore. It doesn’t matter if you’ve heard myths about it being better if you stay together for the kids – it’s just not true. If you aren’t happy and the children aren’t happy, nothing is miraculously going to get better. Things are only going to grow more tense and resentful, and if the marriage is truly beyond saving, you may just have to take the leap. It’ll be worth it when your children have two safe, happy, calm homes rather than nowhere to go when they’re feeling stressed by their home environment.