3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Staying in a Bad Marriage for the Kids

You’re at lunch with your friends. Or on the phone with your mother. You get to talking about what a jerk your spouse is and how you wish you weren’t with them anymore. You rattle off a laundry list of reasons why you can’t stand them. In isolation, none of the reasons seem too bad. Taken together, the thought of this person walking through the door at night sickens you to the point of contempt. And you haven’t even gotten to the quality of your sex life — or lack of it.


You’re thinking about divorce but haven’t made a final decision yet, despite everyone around you urging you to pull the plug on your marriage. You want to go but think it may be better to stick around a little while longer for the kids’ sake. Those you’ve crowdsourced say it’s not worth it. Still, you remain unsure whether to stay or go.

The answer, like most other considerations during a divorce, is not clear-cut. Before deciding to stay or go, you need to ask yourself a few questions first.


Is there abuse?

There are many kinds of abuse, the most obvious of which is physical. There’s a slap. Or a punch. The abuse is the easiest to see because it comes with immediate pain. However, according to the Social Care Institute for Excellence, there are 10 different abuse types, including sexual, emotional, and financial, which are not always so easily recognized. Nonetheless, each one presents a viable reason to leave.


With non-physical abuse such as emotional abuse, the effect isn’t always visible from the outside. However, given how powerful the mind-body connection is, such abuses can have physical manifestations, as described in this article in Psychology Today. The effects can last a lifetime, negatively impacting your personality and how you interact with others, not to mention how you treat yourself.


If you or your children are victims of abuse, the answer is always to leave. Whether you are in immediate danger due to physical abuse or are like the fabled frog who doesn’t realize they’re in a pot of water that’s gradually getting hotter to the point that it will eventually boil and kill them, the answer is the same — go. Abuse gets worse, not better. Don’t wait around for your situation to push you to your breaking point.


Can you put your differences aside to co-parent?

From my experience, I can tell you this is a tall order. Also, from my experience, I can tell you it is possible. For five years, I remained focused on my four school-aged children, through two moves and years of homeschooling, which I led. My husband and I still had our share of disagreements about the kids, and I often chose to take the high road by walking away from an argument or finding a way to get from point A to point B via the path of least resistance.


It’s hard work, and it gets tiring after a while. If this is your choice, give it a go. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it forever. Marital problems, if not addressed, escalate and take their toll. It happened to me. Eventually, I left.


Are you both committed to repairing your marriage?

You may want to enlist the assistance of a marriage counselor to help guide you and your spouse through your issues and try to save your marriage. Marriage counseling can work. However, if both spouses aren’t invested in the process and share that common goal, your efforts will fall on deaf ears. To save a marriage, both spouses must want to save it.


A marriage counselor can play another vital role. And that is to help a couple exit their marriage with respect and dignity — for themselves and their spouse. A good marriage counselor will help you develop skills to interact with each other, which will cause you less stress and make the transition easier while facilitating that same environment for your children. As the saying goes, you are only as happy as your saddest child.


Final thoughts

Staying in an unhappy marriage requires stamina. It requires knowing this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the understanding you won’t be able to live this way forever. At some point, something will have to change. If you and your spouse continue to remain on a different page, you will likely be the one who needs to turn it. Just ask yourself how long you’re willing to wait to do that for, and, more importantly, how will you best utilize the time while you’re waiting.


Each of us deserves to live a life we love, even if achieving that will temporarily disrupt our status quo and our children’s. You’d be surprised that when parents are happier, so too are their kids. Parents become better caregivers, better friends, better children, better employees, better bosses, and more productive people in general. Most importantly, instead of mourning the loss of one not-so-happy house, you, your soon-to-be-ex, and your children get to see what it’s like to live in two happier ones.

STAY UP TO DATE

Subscribe to our newsletters

 
Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.

FURTHER READING

Latest Blog Posts

There are various ways to plan for the handling of your remains after death, as we discussed in Part I of “How to Handle Remains in Washington State.” What option you choose will likely turn on some combination of your…

Death is a part of life. Like taxes, there's no avoiding it. Also, like taxes, you may not like thinking or talking about the subject. However, if you think about death and how to handle your remains from a planning…

Every child deserves love, stability, and consistency. Is there a child in your life that you have considered adopting, perhaps because they are the child of your spouse or a child you are fostering? Perhaps there is an adult in…

The thought of losing your home or its contents in a disaster is a scary thought. Loss of life, destruction of irreplaceable items such as home movies, photos, and heirlooms make it unconscionable. But as we know in life, sometimes…

Spoiler alert: If you’re doing everything around the house (or at work) because you’re living (working) with a bunch of incompetent fools, or so they’ve led you to believe they are, you’re being manipulated. So pervasive is this phenomenon, there’s…

If you've created an estate plan, you've already spent a good deal of time thinking about what will happen to you if you become sick, incapacitated, or die, including where you will go (literally) when you die. After all, you don't want your…

If you're 18 or older and live in Washington State, you can legally change your name to anything you want as long as you're not doing so to commit fraud. For example, if your goal is to change your name to evade…

Your estate plan should ensure your special needs child experiences the best quality of life they can, that the assets upon which they will rely will last as long as possible during their lifetime, and that their eligibility for public services will be maximized. Learn more.

Popular culture is using the moniker "America's daughter" to describe Gabby Petito because she could've been any of our daughters. Learn how to talk to your daughter about the signs of domestic abuse.

When a couple decides to divorce, and one spouse is unable to support themselves, spousal support becomes a hot-button issue. Learn how to mitigate conflict and move forward.