People ask: Should I stay married for my kids?

Have you been living a loveless, sexless, unfulfilling relationship just for the sake of your kids? We often talk about reasons people choose to divorce. Sometimes the reasons people choose to stay in a strained marriage are actually more detrimental to them and the very people they’re trying to protect: their kids 

Each year in the city of Calgary alone, about 4500 people get divorced. About 3000 of those divorces involve children. The effect of divorce on the children and ways that children react vary based on their age, gender, mental health, and relationship with each of their parents.  

Effect of Divorce on Children

If you are one of those people who is sticking to a marriage that is only existing on life support, know that your children are probably doing their fair share of struggling too.  One client described to me the look on her 13-year-old’s face when she and the child’s father are together. The look show fear, awkwardness, and a hint of sadness. 

My client went on to say that she knows exactly what causes those feelings for her child, as she had the same experience when her parents divorced, when she was the same age as her son now. She knows that her son is expecting a conflict to erupt between his two parents at any moment. Knowing how much he loves them both, he is watching, on edge, until every short interaction is concluded, and he can be sure both his parents are safe and calm, and so is he 

When parents choose to stay for the sake of the kids, there is still ongoing friction between them. Emotions are cranked up high. That means it is inevitable that the very same little social creature you are staying in the relationship for is struggling because of it. Your child may avoid the strain of divorced parents, but they are grappling with another problem: palpable conflict in the home. 

Avoiding Each Other is Not the Solution 

Some, especially those who have experienced their parents’ acrimonious divorce growing up, will often choose the silent exchange. They avoid one another, interact by text, and spend considerable amounts of time outside the home.

The covid pandemic has really exposed the limitations of types of relationships, as working outside the home and traveling has been reduced as an option to cope for these couples.   

Divorce is Better for Kids

Children experience less anxiety and depression when their married parents divorce than those children whose parents stay married.  

Parents are not to blame. They are just trying to protect their children. When adversities hit, we often revert to our primitive ways of dealing with them. Many of those families had chosen flight over fightHowever; even in high-conflict families, studies have shown that children experience less anxiety and depression when their married parents divorce than those children whose parents stay married 

Furthermore, current research on children of divorce points to two factors that most affect children’s ability to successfully adjust to divorce: 

  • Frequent, ongoing time with each other
  • Having parents who find ways to effectively parallel-parent

Moving Forward by Facing the Issues

 How do you move forward from here? – only by facing the issues 

In Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, the author points out that 

“Stress and conflict are caused by resisting acceptance and ownership. Each entity in conflict has 100% responsibility for resolving their issues. That’s 200%. If there is any area of our life that we’re not fully willing to accept, we will experience stress, and friction. When we take ownership, as in ‘this is my problem and I’m committed to resolving it, we can work genuine miracles. 

 Conflict is difficult to face alone. Engaging the help of a mediator allows you to move forward with separation and divorce with the least amount of damage to you and your children.