Many couples choose to stay in an unhappy marriage for their children’s sake, assuming that kids need an intact family to grow into happy, well adjusted adults. However, this isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes, staying in an unhappy relationship can have a negative impact on children.
Regardless of age, children are keen observers. They have the ability to pick up on tension, conflict, sadness, anxiety, and stress. Children who are living in a home filled with conflict, yelling, blaming, and general unhappiness have an increased chance of developing emotional problems. Furthermore, children may take on some of these emotions themselves, by acting out, turning inward, and more.
Children learn about relationships by watching those around them. They will learn how to approach and resolve conflict by watching their parents. If their role models are constantly arguing, blaming each other, and are just plain mean, children will grow up believing that is how relationships work. Additionally, when couples aren’t getting along, their resentment and anger towards each other can often affect their relationships with the children, creating a barrier to happiness.
So, should you stay together or not? It depends on the level of conflict, how well parents can manage the negativity in the home, and if they can commit to creating a harmonious environment for the children until they leave the home or are older. Of course, if there is any type of abuse going on, parents should seek help immediately for themselves and their children.
Most counselors agree that it is the quality of a relationship or marriage that matters most when children are involved. If the couple can truly get along and create a positive environment while the children are still in the home, then perhaps staying together for the children IS a good idea. In general, children living in intact families do better than those who do not. However, if parents can’t keep their emotions under control when the kids are around, then it may be more beneficial for children if their parents divorced, and each spouse led a happy and fulfilling life.