Why Staying Together For The Kids Is A Bad Idea

March 23, 2022 | J. Benjamin Stevens | Share:

When a marriage becomes so unhappy that the parents no longer desire to be married, it can be tough to decide what to do. While not as common as it once was, many couples admit that they stay together just for the sake of the kids, believing that putting their children through a divorce situation is far worse, but that isn’t always the best decision. In fact, several studies have shown that “staying together for the kids” actually makes things worse for everyone involved. Below I have outlined just some of the reasons this is usually a bad idea.


Protecting the Mental Health of the Children

When parents are unhappy in their marriage, it often has a negative impact on the children. Studies have shown that kids who grow up in homes with unhappy parents are more likely to have problems in their own marriages some day. They are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Additionally, these kids often feel caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict on a consistent basis, even when the parents are unaware of it. This can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, and even resentment.

It’s important to remember that when a marriage is unhappy, the kids are usually well aware of it, no matter what the parents think they have done to hide their true feelings from the children. Children are like “little antennas” and can detect the friction and tension around them. They will always know something isn’t right at some level. If the parents are actively ignoring the problems or (worse) denying them, this can be very confusing and upsetting for the children. In some cases, it can even lead to behavioral problems at home or at school as the children try to work things out for themselves without the maturity or capacity to fully do so.

Parents who believe their marital status is the only component responsible for their child’s happiness should understand that teaching their children to find happiness regardless of someone else’s relationship status is an important life skill to have. Also, it’s more damaging to a child to watch an unhealthy marriage play out day after day than to watch his or her parents come to an agreement that they are not happy or healthy living together.

Further, it can be very helpful for the children to see their parents negotiate in a healthy, cooperative way how to proceed with a divorce, live in two separate homes, and support a healthy co-parenting relationship for the benefit of the child. By watching and living out this process, assuming the parents handle it appropriately, the child learns healthy conflict management skills and also has a model displayed on how to accomplish important goals with someone they may not be a fan of anymore.


Protecting the Parent-Child Relationships

Parents who stay together despite being miserable in their marriage should also consider how their child’s view of them is changing as a result of the marriage model they are watching every day. If the marriage is an unhappy one, more than likely, there are outward signs:

  • Is one spouse a bully? Is one spouse submissive, even when being bullied?
  • Is one spouse a control freak, and the other one spends more time making sure everything is “just perfect” than they do parenting or meeting the needs of the child?
  • Do the parents fight and argue so much they forget they have children?
  • Is one parent financially controlling so that the children must beg for money for necessities like school lunch?
  • Is one parent spending so flagrantly on luxuries that the children never have what they need before the money runs out?
  • Is one parent cheating so openly that the children are exposed to that behavior?

All of these are just a few examples of common marital problems I see weekly in consultations with potential clients. If you know they are going on in your marriage; odds are your children are also just as keenly aware of the problems. While your children will likely always love you, living in a home where such behaviors are apparent for long periods of time will affect the respect children have for their parents. In the worst cases, children will often find the quickest way to leave home once they turn eighteen. Sometimes, they never look back.

If you’re in a bad marriage, the short-term pain and adjustments necessary for everyone during a separation and divorce are a small price to pay to preserve your long-term parent-child relationships. Sometimes, parents and children may need counseling to guide them back to a healthier relationship, but it’s far easier to accomplish that when the child is a minor versus when they are an adult who has left home and established their own life elsewhere.


Final Thoughts

If you’re considering staying in your unhappy marriage just for the sake of the kids, it’s important to weigh all the potential consequences first. In many cases, it may be better for everyone involved if you choose to divorce instead.

Of course, every situation is different, and you should always consult with an experienced family law attorney before making any major decisions about your marriage. But if you’re not happy in your relationship, don’t feel like you must stay just for the sake of the kids. It’s okay to put your own happiness first. After all, your children deserve parents who are truly happy with each other and with themselves as individuals – not just pretending to be for their benefit.

If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like Ben Stevens today to discuss divorce or separation solutions that makes sense for your particular situation. Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Mr. Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.


Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has represented parents in separation, divorce, child custody, and other complex Family Court cases all across South Carolina for well over twenty-five years. If you or someone you know is facing a child custody or visitation case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule a consultation.


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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.



Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172

Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina.  His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.

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