In our current world, the information highway is moving at lightening pace. We are bombarded by advice from everyone though websites, social media, books, podcasts and yes, blogs. People are looking for answers to their challenges. As a Marriage and Family Therapist one of the most asked questions I get from my clients is, “Should I stay in this relationship or should I go?”.
This question takes on an entirely larger significance when it is asked by parents who are having difficulty in their relationships but query if they should stay together for their children. And the answer is that there is no easy answer! I have a lot of personal experience in this area. I am a product of divorced parents, as well as a divorced mom of two wonderful kids and a stepmom to my four bonus kids. Plus, I see families and couples every day who are grappling with these difficult decisions.
Divorces, even amicable ones, are tough on everyone. Separating a marriage should be a decision that is well thought out and discussed. Kids do survive and thrive after divorce; however, the process can still be wrenching to them. The work of the parents, and often the therapists they are working with, is to safeguard the kids as much as possible.
I always ask my clients if they think their kids know that they are struggling as a couple. 4 out of 5 times they respond that they don’t think the kids know. Hear this: kids see, hear, and feel so much more than we adults assume!
There are certainly many advantages to having two parents in the same house every day with their children. What is equally relevant to explore is what the effect is on the children when those two parents aren’t in love, don’t act respectfully, and have friction in their interactions. That’s not even touching on the effects of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse that can be present during an unhappy marriage and how that impacts our children from a trauma perspective. But more on that in another blog.
The biggest mistake couples make when they start to notice that their marriage is faltering is to ignore the signs. They think it is just a stage, or that the kids need more of their attention at this time, and resign themselves to thinking that every other couple goes through this and it is normal. But what starts as a small marital slump can fester into a much larger collapse. And the problems don’t get smaller when they are ignored.
Early communication is the key. This will help facilitate an improvement in the marriage or a mutual decision that everyone would be better served by a separation. Because let’s be honest… two happy separated parents are better than two miserable together parents.