Stop Blaming Your Crappy Marriage On Your Kids

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Parents blaming their marriage on their kids

Editor's Note: This is a part of YourTango's Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.“

I’m thinking about getting a divorce. Well, I want to, but I’m just not sure if I should because I am worried about the kids. I think they will be traumatized. No, I'm not in love with my spouse. We co-exist at best. I feel like I’m drowning. I’m miserable and I cannot imagine we will stay together after the kids go to college. But do you think the kids would be OK? I think we should wait.” I hear some version of this monologue regularly. I'm not one to judge the reasoning.

I have been through a painful struggle with the decision of whether or not to divorce. Throughout a difficult marriage, the biggest fear I had was how it would crush my children to find out that their father and I would not be together anymore.

I feared the financial and emotional dangers that come from dividing time and property between households. I feared my boys would be impaired as men in their future relationships. I felt that — as an adult — I had made my own decisions, and my children shouldn’t have to pay the price of living in a broken home. But really, the home was already broken.

If you are calling me, a friend, or certainly any divorce professional to ask the question, “Should I get a divorce?” then I am telling you now the answer is yes. And pardon my French, but if you don’t have the balls to go through with it yet, just like I didn’t for almost ten years, that's fine. It’s not your time yet.

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Stop blaming your kids.

That’s right. You're not staying in your marriage for the kids. What you're doing is using your kids as a scapegoat to avoid taking a major, frightening step.



Divorce is scary. Divorce is hard. Divorce is painful and traumatic and can be ridiculously expensive if you allow it to get there. But you know what's scarier? Spending the rest of your life in the sheer and utter misery of a loveless at best—abusive at worst—marriage. And for your children to grow up expecting their marriage to be the same way.

We all see the headlines with new studies about the havoc divorce wrecks on children. The best possible situation for any child is to be raised in a loving, intact home with their two parents. Where these studies can be dangerously misleading is in the assumption that the opposite situation of a divorce is a happy marriage.

Happily married people stay happily married, just like my own parents, who are still crazy for each other after 47 years. The marriages that end in divorce are unhappy. Children born into these marriages are born into a home fraught with the makings of anxiety, depression, and the like.

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They were never going to grow up in a loving, intact home.

According to An Overview of the Literature on the Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children, published by the American Psychological Association, “Some children do well post-divorce and others do not. However, not enough is known to disentangle the impact of contextual factors that often accompany divorce (e.g., financial pressures and marital conflict) from the impact of the divorce itself.”

It is a chicken and egg question. Children of divorce do experience higher levels of anxiety than children of happy marriages. Still, there are no studies that compare what effect the same marriage would have had on the children.

Whether or not children of divorce will suffer long-term negative effects depends largely on their coping mechanisms, which are modeled for them in their parents’ behaviors. Parents who see problems as challenges and work towards solutions by thinking positively and staying flexible model resiliency to their children.

Parents see problems as unconquerable threats they can only manage through wishful thinking model helplessness. Whose children would you suppose learn more effective lessons for managing their own difficulties? Parents with the resourcefulness to build a new life, or parents who remain frozen in a cycle of unhappiness?

Who does your little girl pretend is her special prince? Daddy. Who does your little boy think is the most wonderful woman in the whole world? Mommy.

mother reads to child

Photo: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

Your children watch every single thing you donot just as individualsbut as a married couple.

Without even thinking about it, you are teaching your children how their marriages should be. You may not be the couple who has knockdown, drag-out fights. Maybe you just live your separate lives, pretty much ignoring each other except for when you need to touch base about logistics. There is the one question you need to consider.

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How would you feel if your child wound up in the same type of marriage you have?

As you go about the next week, try imagining your child as the husband or wife currently in your shoes and consider these 3 scenarios:

1. Do you feel happy that your child is in that relationship?

Great! By all means, keep doing what you are doing, and let us all know so we can learn from you!

2. Do you feel content for your child but concerned by a troubling disconnect you observe has grown over time?

Raise the conversation with your spouse now and consider options for help reconnecting before it's too late.

3. Do you feel sad for your child? Angry at their spouse for treating them that way? Disappointed with them for allowing themselves to be so ill-used?

Get. Out. Now.

Every time you tell yourself you are staying in your marriage for the kids, you are unconsciously sending a message to your child — I have to be here because of you. It is your fault. And if you make the same mistake I did when your time comes to choose, you will just have to suffer through it as I did.



No one has to be blamed. It is what it is. It is your life. If you know you should get out, do it now. If you want to stay in, stay. Just realize you are not staying for the kids, you are staying because that works for you right now.

George Bernard Shaw said it best: “Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself." The same should be true of your marriage.

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Executive Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, is a writer, former family law mediator, and recognized expert on relationships and conflict resolution. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN, Bustle, Parents and more.