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Don’t Stay Together for the Kids

Instead, how about staying together for yourselves?

Key points

  • Children pick up on tension in the household even if parents act like things are all right.
  • Staying together with someone only for the children may continue to deepen resentments in the relationship.
  • Resolving issues with your partner helps to model healthy family behaviors for children.
  • Finding common ground with your partner can also help both people feel understood and cared for in the relationship.

Many times when marriages are not working well and people might otherwise break up, the couple decides to stay together for the children. Often, this means continuing to tolerate the things that are driving them apart instead of actually working to make them better.

Staying together models unhealthy behavior

Using the “kids” as the excuse as to why you’re not going to split up (even if you’re really unhappy with your partner) can create a dynamic that’s not good for anyone. Giving up on the relationship without ending it only deepens the wounds between you and your partner and adds to the tension and resentment that can permeate the household.

The even sadder part of this scenario is that the kids you’re trying to set an example for are almost certainly going to pick up on the unhappiness in the household. Tension in a home is palpable. It hangs over the family like a dark cloud that is clear to everyone, even when no one is speaking about it. As a result, this unhappiness can create a toxic environment that very quickly becomes clear to everyone in the family.

This causes a whole lot of problems (which I’m sure you can imagine). Perhaps the biggest one may be that children then live every day under this cloud of uncomfortable sadness. The big question is, what does this show them? What are we teaching our children when we are just staying together for them and not working on making things better?

When all we are doing is tolerating our partner, we are modeling unhappy, tension-filled, emotionally guarded behavior that kids then internalize and carry with them into their adult relationships. It can become normalized for them that relationships are often joyless experiences where the answer to conflict is to ignore the situation and not address it.

Breaking the pattern

To start to break this unhealthy pattern, it is important to realize we all have an obligation to make our own lives work, so we can provide a safe and supportive household for our children. Being miserable and staying together for the kids is not helping anyone, including the children.

I believe it’s healthier for a child to be in a happy home with only one parent, than in a two-parent home where both people are miserable. In order to avoid either of these scenarios, parents can make a commitment to work on repairing their relationship for themselves, so they can create a household for their children with less tension and resentment.

Children absorb the emotions around them like sponges. When we are fighting with our partner, or even giving each other the silent treatment, kids know it. They may not be able to articulate the tension they’re feeling; however, it can permeate the atmosphere in the household and be oppressive to being able to freely express their emotions. When adults can take responsibility to work on their issues and truly resolve them if possible, as opposed to just sweeping them under the rug, children can then learn the importance of resolving conflict toward a happier household.

It is so much healthier for children and teens to see how to resolve issues, rather than just stuffing them down and becoming emotionally blocked. By taking responsibility for your own issues with your partner, you can help work toward making things better. In this way, you can begin to heal your relationship. Whether your issues are such that you can resolve them yourselves, or need to get outside help, the important thing is to reduce the tension and resentment in the household. By improving your relationship, you are also helping children live in a household that shows them loving parents who work toward resolving conflict before it threatens to undermine the family.

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