Is it Better For Kids if Their Unhappy Parents Stay Together, Or Get Divorced? (Pt 2)

A black and white silhouette of a man and a woman, looking unhappy, with their backs turned to each other

Welcome back and thanks for joining us. We’ve been discussing the difficulty faced by parents who are unhappy in their marriages and want out. Should they get divorced, and risk the emotional damage it may cause for their children? Or should they stay together, despite their unhappiness in the marriage relationship, in the name of keeping the family together for their kids? It’s a difficult decision, and one that has to be made by each individual based on the relevant facts of their life. However, as we mentioned in the previous article, Psychology professor Robert Emery says that the level of conflict in your marriage is the sticking point.

Low conflict marriages are better for kids than divorce

According to Emery, children do better in homes with marriages that may not necessarily be happy but are low-conflict, rather than if that same family had split as a result of divorce. In other words, an unhappy marriage where the parents stay together is better than a divorce for the children involved, as long as the level of conflict between the parents isn’t significant. However, this doesn’t apply to the children of high conflict marriages. Children from high conflict marriages statistically do better after the marriage has ended. Because even the emotional turmoil that divorce brings for children is better than living in a war zone.

What is a high conflict marriage, and why are they so bad for kids?

High conflict marriages are marriages where the couple is in a near-constant state of anger and even violence. Regular fighting, where the couple scream, shout, slam doors, break dishes, call names, and make threats are standard far in high conflict marriages. Domestic abuse is also more common in high conflict marriages. For children, growing up in an environment where their parents are verbally and emotionally (and sometimes even physically) abusive towards one another, is extremely stressful. This kind of stress, called “toxic stress” has long-lasting negative effects on children’s emotional, mental and physical health.

So which is better for your kids – staying together or getting divorced?

So the question of whether remaining together would be better for your children should be determined by the level and frequency of conflict that you and your spouse experience. Do you fight daily, once or twice a week, or hardly at all? Are your arguments brief and controlled, or are they protracted affairs with lots of screaming, wall punching, and name-calling? Consider the type of emotional environment your children live in right now. Then consider whether or not divorcing would be better for them, or not. Is their environment safe? Are they relatively happy? Or are they subject to fear, stress, and misery on a regular basis?

Don’t choose divorce or staying together based on your kids

However, whether you decide to stay together or get divorced, Emery warns that this decision should ultimately be made for yourselves, not for your children. This is what Emery calls ” a grown-up decision” that should be made by adults who take responsibility for their actions. “I don’t want you to be a martyr.” he says in his book, “I don’t want your children to bear the guilt of your misery. You need to make your own decisions. And especially if you have children, staying together despite your unhappiness, most certainly is an option to consider with great care.”

If you choose divorce, don’t try to do it on your own. Get good help.

If you and your spouse have decided that you’re no longer happy together, and you’re ready to end your marriage, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our compassionate and experienced family law attorneys have spent decades protecting our clients’ interests during their divorces, and ensuring that the outcome is as favorable as possible for everyone we represent. We understand the challenges parents face during divorces, and we can work with you toward achieving fair custody and child support agreements.