Nearly half of American marriages end in divorce.
However, the word itself still carries a stigma with it – especially when children are involved. Many couples feel pressure to stay in a marriage that is not working for the sake of their kids’ well-being. They forfeit their own happiness in favor of raising well-adjusted children, untouched by the challenges that come with divorce. Their intentions in doing this are undeniably good. Unfortunately, the impact on the family is not always positive.
A married home does not always bring happiness, security, or stability. In fact, it can often result in the opposite.
Here are three things to consider in this troubling situation:
1. Your children will internalize your behavior towards one another.
Intentionally or not, you and your spouse are creating a sort of relationship blueprint for your child. They will learn how to treat others from the way you relate to one another. They will learn what to expect from a partner – respect or contempt, spite or compassion, consideration or disinterest – from the way you and your spouse interact. As James Baldwin wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Look at your marital choices. Look at your daily interactions and behavior. Look at who you are and how you are living your life. Is this what you want for your children?
2. Resentments will build – and not only between yourself and your partner.
Children will always find someone to blame for conflict and unhappiness. They may take one parent‘s side over the other – a common and tragic dynamic that is often seen in children of divorce. They may choose a scapegoat, such as a flirtatious neighbor, a troublesome sibling, or a seemingly perfect family from church. Most likely, however, they will find a way to blame themselves for the family’s problems. This may result in low self-esteem, guilt, anxiety, anger management problems, or even depression. The trauma of a broken home can take root without the legal proceedings of a divorce. Many married families live in it every day.
3. Your children will be living in a place of conflict.
Many adults think their children are immune to tension in the home that doesn’t involve them directly. They are not. Whether they listen to all the details of a fight through the air ducts or simply pick up on a sense of tension at the breakfast table, your children know more than you think – and it affects them deeply. Healthy conflict is one thing. After all, no home is entirely peaceful all the time. Occasional disagreements can teach a child how to reconcile, forgive, and compromise. However, if your house seems like a battle zone more often than not, your children are unlikely to feel secure and happy there.
Don’t show your children how to settle for almost-good-enough.
Teach them to create their best selves. Demonstrate self-respect, independence, and healthy boundaries. Someday they may be thankful that you did.