by: Holly Alyse
I get that this is a controversial topic.
And I know exactly where I stand on this issue.
Don’t stay together for your children unless you are in one of two situations.
Feel free to disagree with me but first, hear me out.
I have clients who are in miserable marriages.
They never know if they will come home to an argument over a whole lot of nonsense, be subjected to words of disgust or threats, have objects flung at them or be completely ignored and given the silent treatment, for days. Every day is a surprise. But about 5 days out of 7, their relationship is visibly awful.
Yet, they’re adamant that they cannot (or will not) leave until their youngest child goes to college or moves out on their own. They think it’s best to stay together for the children.
I’ve heard it too many times to count.
And I’ll never, ever try to impose my will and force a client to do something against their beliefs.
I’ll never tell them that they’re wrong for making a choice to stay. It’s their choice!
But I will do everything I can to open their eyes to the possibility that staying married for the sake of the children can be a huge mistake.
Because if you’re fighting in front of the kids, or fake smiling with anger in your eyes and venom brewing up inside of you, or giving or getting the silent treatment, there’s often tension in the air so thick that you can touch it. And without a doubt, your children sense it.
Studies have shown that even an infant of just six months old can sense their parents’ tones and emotions. So, if the parents are stressed, angry or sad, an infant can suffer emotional distress! Now imagine what that kind of relationship and behavior can do to a child who understands these emotions, or a teen who understands the words being used and the abuse they are witnessing? That environment is toxic for your children. And they’re learning from you, which means you might be setting them up for a life of relationship drama, including in their own marriage. Because it will be normal to them. But we all know this type of relationship is not normal! Or healthy!
I believe that staying together for the children in a toxic environment hurts them (and you) more than if you divorce and they have to go back and forth between two loving homes.
Because staying together in a high conflict marriage can create anxiety and depression in children and demonstrates bad behavior, which they may take on as their own. They may also grow to disrespect you and your choice to stay.
But divorcing instead of staying in a troubled, antagonistic marriage teaches your children that:
- Everyone’s happiness is important, including theirs.
- No one should be subjected to anger and animosity in their marriage or family.
- You love them so much you want to provide stability for them.
- You love them so much you want to make sure they feel safe instead of on edge, stressing about an attack at any moment.
- You respect yourself, and you respect them.
That being said, I think that there are two situations when it’s reasonable and maybe even beneficial to stay together for the children.
First, when you and your spouse can provide a safe, stable, and loving home for your children where they are not witnessing constant fighting, and they have no reason to suspect you are unhappy. (Very hard to do!).
Second, when you genuinely believe it would be dangerous for your spouse to have your children alone, without you present, to moderate and care for them. Then, I applaud you for staying together for your children’s safety. That is a valid, noble, imperative reason to stay! (caveat – if staying makes you feel unsafe, you and your children need to leave).
I really believe that people should consider leaving an unhappy marriage where they’re just going through the motions, living as roommates and feeling lifeless.
But if you are living in a toxic marriage and you have kids that are witnessing arguments and feeling the tension, for the sake of your children – don’t stay.
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?
I’d love to know what you think.
About the Author
Holly Alyse is an attorney and a family law mediator with a masters in social work and certified as a Strategic Intervention Coach. She also went through her own divorce while raising two daughters so she understands the grief, overwhelm, fear and anger that comes with the end of a marriage.
In 2017, Holly combined her passion for helping people with her education, experiences and skills and opened a practice as a Divorce Consultant and Coach. Today, she helps women get through their divorce in a more peaceful and healthy way so that they can launch into the next phase of their life feeling confident and optimistic about what their future holds. To learn more about Holly, please click here.