Should You Stay Together for Your Children's Sake?
The Gray Area
The question of whether to stay together for the sake of the children is more difficult for couples who are not in a high-conflict marriage. While there’s no abuse or screaming, the marriage is no longer fulfilling and may even be disappointing. What then?
Wallerstein generally advocates parents staying together except in cases where there is abuse, be it physical, verbal, or emotional. That’s because she believes divorce “erodes” parenting as parents become preoccupied with rebuilding their own lives, and the children suffer as a result. She argues, “There are many unhappy or a little bit unhappy marriages where the parenting is very satisfying and where both parents are really able to cooperate about the children.” Ahrons agrees that children don’t need their parents to have a storybook marriage in order to be good parents. Children need stability.
Ahrons advises people considering divorce to ask themselves: What are my expectations for the marriage and what am I experiencing mentally and emotionally? She says, “Are you getting depressed? If you’re getting depressed, that’s going to have an effect on the marriage and on the kids. What effect is this marriage having on you even though it’s not the yelling-screaming marriage? Is it going to cause you to start having affairs, and is that going to create a crisis later in the relationship? How do you feel it’s affecting you personally?”
Ahrons says couples in an ambiguous marriage should also determine whether they can improve the relationship sufficiently so that it’s satisfying.
“The Good Divorce”
Experts emphasize that divorce will not solve anyone’s problems if parents continue to fight and create a stressful environment for their children. Parents must find ways to work together to meet the needs of their children and to establish a family structure that includes two separate households.
Ahrons, also the author The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart, prefers to talk about divorce in the context of a family being “redefined” rather than “broken up” or “destroyed.” She says that with divorce, “Your family changes, but you still have a family. And it’s the job of the parents to make that work in some way.” It’s critical that parents maintain their bonds with their children and establish a stable post-divorce environment.
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