By Ellie Hayes
Relationships are not easy. Having to balance our own needs with that of another person can be incredibly tough. And when kids are added to the mix, that challenge becomes all the more difficult.
Often, after years of resentment and overfamiliarity, couples feel trapped in their marriage or long-term relationship. While they might be unhappy, several factors prevent them from breaking the toxic cycle and moving on with their lives.
The fear of the unknown, social groups which rely on your union and close financial ties are common reasons couples stay together longer than they should. But it’s arguably when kids are involved where the greatest sacrifices are made.
As Direct Line found out in a recent study, 7.6 million parents in the UK stay together because of their children. Amazingly, as many as 41% of these say they didn’t even tell their partner about their desire to separate.
Staying together longer than you should might sound like a healthier environment for the kids. But it isn’t always the case. Let’s look at four key reasons why staying in a bad relationship is actually worse for your children.
- It doesn’t teach your kids about healthy relationships
We sometimes convince ourselves that breaking up means we’re leaving behind a “broken home”. This is a dangerous train of thought, and one which could have a drastic impact on the way our children approach relationships and even friendships in the future.
Children, particular younger ones, won’t understand that the argumentative and resentful way you approach each other isn’t the norm for what is considered healthy. They’ll grow up mirroring those traits, and believe that it’s okay to experience extreme mental highs and lows throughout their future interactions with those close to them.
In essence, it may create a distorted sense of worth, where they’re tricked into believing that conflict and even mental abuse are part of a normal, functional relationship.
- You’ll become emotionally numb
Staying together for the sake of the kids means you’ve effectively given up on your relationship. A common response to that would be to adopt a far more laissez-faire approach to life as a whole.
This is a natural coping mechanism for being in an uncomfortable situation, and can certainly reduce stress. Unfortunately, it could also have a knock-on effect for how you approach other aspects of your life.
Nobody believes in their hearts that they could be neglecting their children, but you may be doing so without realising if you allow yourself to become numb to emotions.
- Kids can feel your unhappiness
Children might not have the emotional intelligence to process what they’re feeling, but they can still sense unhappiness. In their eyes, you’re heroes. They literally worship you. As such, they’ll be able to pick up on any subtle change in mood or behaviour – which could have a direct impact on their own happiness.
Studies often report that parents are on average less happy than couples without children. The common misconception here is that the kids are what make a person less happy. In reality, it’s the feeling of being tied to a partner who is no longer right for you which causes this negative mindset.
- A chaotic home
We think our kids need us to be together to be happy. So would it shock you to learn that in a study of 514 young people in the UK, as many as 82% said they were better off because their parents didn’t stay in an unhappy marriage?
It’s a common belief that a home with one biological parent absent is lacking something. In reality, the only thing it’s missing is a confrontational and chaotic environment, where kids are subjected to watching the two people they love most constantly at war.
Staying together for the kids can sound like the right thing to do. In some cases, this might be true – every relationship is different, after all. But it can also cause more long-term pain, resentment and psychological damage than when a marriage comes to a natural end. The hardest part is accepting your time together is over, and moving on. Although it’s tough, nobody should settle for unhappiness – it could be that there’s a happier future out there for the whole family.
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Ellie Hayes has written for a number of publications, both online and in print, focusing on issues related to health, lifestyle and transport.
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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