July 02, 2015

Q: Is it right to stay married for the kids' sake even though my husband and I can't seem to get along & argue a lot? Especially when one parent thinks it's best to divorce & the other one says getting divorced isn't in the best interest of the kids.. So am I wrong for thinking divorce is the best choice since we can't seem to get along?

A: The decision to divorce, especially when children are involved, is one of the most difficult choices a person can face.  Divorce is not pretty.  It adds stress to the lives of each spouse, their families, friends and their children.  Unfortunately, divorce tends to bring out the worst in people.  Hurt feelings and anger often take precedence over doing what is truly best for the kids.  Because of this, I always encourage couples to do everything they can to work on their issues and challenge themselves to do the work to repair their marriages before choosing divorce.  Go to counseling.  Read books.  Talk with friends and loved ones.  Work at it.  When a marriage is healthy and the parents are working together towards the long-term health and happiness of the marriage and the family, it is always better for the kids.

Having said that, there is no reason to believe that staying together at any cost is better for children than divorcing.  In fact, when parents who are unhappy together and engage in unhealthy relationship habits stay together "for the kids" it can often do more harm than good.  The behaviors you display in your home will set the stage for how your children will behave as adults.  They learn what it means to be married, how to be a husband or wife and how to effectively (or ineffectively) deal with conflict in a relationship.  I often hear people say things like, "But we don't do it in front of them," or "They don't really see what's going on."  I assure you that these people are mistaken.  Over the course of day-in/day-out, year after year, these messages accumulate, and take root, increasing the likelihood that your kids will repeat the very same patterns they have seen in their home growing up.  The good news is that when couples do decide to get divorced and they handle their divorce in a mature and collaborative way, there is plenty of reason to believe that the children can be just fine in the long run.  In other words, it is not necessarily divorce itself that determines whether or not your kids will be ok, but rather how each adult behaves during and after the divorce.  Remember, divorce is not an isolated event - it unfolds over many years.  Parents who can remain civil, avoid bad-mouthing and blaming each other, work together to create unified parenting strategies and give their children consistent time, attention and reassurance have a very good chance of seeing their kids grow up just as happy and healthy as those of healthy intact couples.  Ultimately, the bottom line is this: unhappy parents do not tend to raise happy children.  And unhealthy relationships that "stay together for the kids" when the marriage is destructive tend to produce children who have unhealthy relationships as adults.  For an enlightening perspective on divorce and the pros and cons as they relate to children, check out The Truth About Children and Divorce by Robert Emery and For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered by E. Mavis Hetherington.

Answered by Jeff Palitz, MFT

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Comments (4)

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May 28, 2019
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Anonymous
May 8, 2019
Well, this article deserves a real comment, as do the rest on this topic that conveniently don't provide that option, so thanks for allowing comments, and may I say, from my own experience, that if there is a choice to be made, as in he or she has not left you for someone else? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THINGS HOLY STAY FREAKIN MARRIED ANY WAY YOU POSSIBLY CAN UNTIL THOSE KIDS ARE 18. It is not that long. Go to counseling. Come up with a plan, really really work on it and you can get it back! This is absolutely better for your children, and better for You if your ex is bitter, selfish, immature, greedy, narcissistic, or anything other than completely in agreeance with you about every single aspect of the divorce agreement. I was blessed that my parents still remain together, but one thing I know that I would hate if they had separated,and with today's thing being 50/50 I would hate not having one home. I would hate having my friends at one house only half the time. I would say keep the kids in the home and swap the parents out with a shared apartment. Yet that seems like it would massively blow up in your face when he wont clean up after himself or starts leaving new girl friends things lying around to upset you. Here's the thing. If you could agree on every term of the divorce and be nice to each other about it, your marriage probably would still have a shot! Let me tell you that the alternative? An ex who gets angrier and angrier from paying child support and blames you for his financial hardships will evenually decide to make your kids hate you too. And he will take them and they will have to grow u with a hideously less appropriate replacement, all because they want daddy to love them more than anything in the world. Nothing is worse than the pain caused by parental alienation, and it can happen to anyone and noone can help you without thousands and thousands of dollars. Kids, parents commit suicide often from enduring this evil pathogen that controls the minds of children so easily and completely. Stay stay stay. You could lose everything and be sleeping on your friends couch working two jobs to pay support. Don't think you are safe, don't think that it won't happen to you. Family court will not protect you, and they could care less about your civil rifhts
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