Marriage is designed to last a lifetime. Most enter their union with intentions to stay with the man or woman they love until death. But life happens and people change. People grow apart, heartache and pain find their way in, and the marriage you once thought would last forever, starts to fall apart.
And sometimes it’s not some unexpected event that disrupts the peace within a marriage. Sometimes that peace just never existed. People get married for the wrong reasons every day. It seems okay at first, but year after year with the wrong person—someone you aren’t truly meant to be with—can take a toll.
So what happens when you want to run in the other direction because the marriage feels all kinds of wrong, but you have kids? Do you stay because of the children? Do you make it work until they are old enough to leave the home and start their own lives?
The argument for leaving
Many people say ending the marriage is best. Children are intuitive, and despite your best efforts to protect them, most kids can detect that something is wrong. They sense the tension. They see the sadness in your eyes.
Of course children want the stability of parents who stay together, but how will they feel when they grow up and realize that their parents stayed in an unhappy marriage for them? Will they be grateful, or will they feel immense guilt for being the reason their unhappy parents decided to “tough it out?”
Yes, kids want a family that stays together, but most would say they don’t want it if the cost is two unhappy parents. What good is a family unit if something always feels unsettling? Kids want more than that. They want the same dream the parents had when they decided to join in marriage—the dream that this happy unit was meant to be.
The argument for staying
But is leaving always the right thing? What if it does more damage than good? There is no question that divorce has a significant impact on kids. Children thrive off of routine, so when the routine they value most is disrupted, it hurts them deeply. This is particularly true for children who have already experience major changes in their lives.
What if a couple has adopted children? What if it’s a blended family? Is disrupting the stability in their lives worth it? Can’t the parents find a way to be happily married even if the love has faded? In instances like these, as well as others, is it possible that staying together is truly what’s best for everyone involved, especially the kids?
Making the choice
I don’t claim to know the answers to all of these questions. Until recently, I always stood firm in my belief that staying just because of the kids would do more damage than good. Then I had a conversation with a friend and it really made me consider things from another perspective. Things are not always as simple as they seem from the outside looking in.
Parents always have to make tough decisions about what’s best for their kids. And sometimes the best decisions we make still come with consequences. However, after much deliberation and thought, we make the decision that we think will bring our kids the least amount of hurt. We choose the path we perceive as less painful, because we want them protected from harm.
The decision to stay married or not is one that is deeply personal and often complicated. When children are a part of the equation, it’s even tougher. So while staying together only because of the kids may seem like a bad call to some, unless you know the unique circumstances within a family unit, you just don’t know the level of harm splitting up may cause.
It’s a choice each family has to make for themselves.
BMWK families, what are your thoughts about staying together only because of the kids?