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Staying Together for the Sake of the Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 24 Mar 2012 |
Children Marriage Divorce Staying

You may be going through a rough patch in your relationship, and may have thought seriously about leaving, but one thing stops you from making that choice: your children. The burning question that all parents in this situation ask themselves is whether it’s better to stay together for your kids or divorce as painlessly as possible to set your children a good example.

What is Best for Your Kids?

Will your children cope better in life as adults if they are raised by separated parents, or is a two-parent family more important – no matter how unhappy that family unit may be? Children learn good and bad behavioural patterns from their parents. So what would your children learn from their divorced parents? And what would they learn if they knew you were sacrificing your own happiness for them?


If you and your spouse or partner don’t have a volatile relationship, and do not argue or fight in front of the kids, you may be thinking that your children won’t notice and that you can stay together without your feelings showing true. This isn’t necessarily true. Children pick up on underlying tension and if you and your partner have grown apart and are merely sharing a home, the lack of a bond between you will, on at least a subconscious level, be apparent to your children. If they don’t understand it at the age they are now, there are certain to think about it later on in life.

If your relationship is low-conflict, you may also then consider that your divorce will be equally non-confrontational. This is a misnomer. Divorce and separation can quickly turn nasty, no matter how well-intentioned you both are. Even if you and your partner consider that you are able to divorce amicably, this is a very adult-centred view. Your children will still experience a radical shift in their worlds. Of course, if you are able to divorce without bitterness that is better than the alternative, but the impact on your children remains considerable. If you are considering divorce, there are two main elements to remember: firstly that you and your spouse are able to separate while still focusing, as parents, on the needs of their children and secondly, that children continue to have relationships with both parents. Divorcing is enormously stressful for all concerned, but whatever is said or done, your children must remain your focus throughout.

Staying Together

Not all marriages will be successful, and in fact some couples need to divorce. But this doesn’t apply to everyone. It is not essential for the happiness and growth of your children for them to live in a family unit with parents who enjoy a ‘perfect marriage.’ A marriage with imperfections, highs and lows, and periods of stagnation is not abnormal. If parents can co-exist in harmony while in an imperfect marriage, this can allow each parent to concentrate on loving and caring for their children full time. That way, the children know absolutely that they are paramount in each of their parent’s lives.

Making the Decision

You and you alone know your marriage, and you can only make your decision yourself. Do not be influenced by relatives who might try to persuade you into staying; and don’t make any rash decisions that you might later regret. Take time to consider your options and what would happen if you left, as well as what would happen if you stayed. Whatever you decide, you have to make sure that your decision feels right. It’s not an easy decision to have to make, but only you know whether you can live with your choice.

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