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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

If you can't co-parent, can you save a marriage?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (11979points) February 12th, 2019

If parents have completely different styles of parenting and neither can agree on how to raise their kids, can a marriage work? Assume one is always yelling and swearing at the kids and one is more laid back about discipline. If the parents split up, the kids would still be raised differently while in each of the parent’s homes. So I assume the only upside would be no more arguing/toxic environment at home anymore. In my experience, people don’t change drastically, even if they have the best intentions to. So let’s also assume the parenting styles will remain the same. How could this ever work? Seems like a lot of resentment would build.

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18 Answers

janbb's avatar

Marriage counseling to talk about differences would be the best help at this point. It certainly helps a marriage if parenting styles can be agreed upon but it would be hard to resolve on your own.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@janbb That’s been attempted and one isn’t willing to budge. They aren’t open to hear criticism from even a therapist.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Sounds like there are major differences before having children.

Marriage counselor !!! before getting married.

zenvelo's avatar

The critical factor here is the best interest of the kids. And the one that is emotionally abusive has no right to share custody.

The supposition, … no more arguing/toxic environment at home anymore. is false. The kids would still be around a toxic person. That person should not be permitted anything more than supervised visitation unless and until they undergo significant therapy and anger management.

It is incumbent on the non-toxic parent to work towards getting full custody..Allowing one’s children to be with an abusive parent is abuse too.

janbb's avatar

@zenvelo Well, we don’t know that a divorce is imminent. They may still want to be married.

zenvelo's avatar

If the divorce is not imminent, the children need to be separated from the abusive parent.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@zenvelo if only the courts would always see things our way. Even if the non abusive parent is right about separating kids from the abusive parent that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

I would be torn. At least if you’re together you can try to minimize the damage as it happens….

stanleybmanly's avatar

It works all the time, with one parent being more severe or demanding than the other. This is particularly true when the harsher parent is substantially more responsible for the financial upkeep of the kids. That’s a situation where it BETTER work.

JLeslie's avatar

People stay together in this type of situation all the time. I don’t think parents need to be exactly the same in style. However, swearing at the kids is a little too far for me. Do you mean the parent is calling the children names? I have a real problem with that. I do think people can change.

In my experience, parents who are overly aggressive verbally don’t realize the harm they cause their children, especially fail to realize that not all children are the same. One child might brush it off while another night grow up to resent and hate that parent all within the same family. I think the way to reach the parent is not necessarily marriage counseling, but rather family counseling where the child gets to say how they feel. It only works if the parent is open to criticism though. I’m not a psychologist, I’m just giving an opinion.

The most important thing for children to see when parents disagree is how they are able to resolve disagreements and also see both parents show respect for each other, but they don’t have to always agree in my opinion on what they see as right or fair. The world is not black and white.

If it’s very abusive, or if the fighting between parents is excessive or very abusive, I think it’s sometimes better for the children for the parents to divorce. Giris watching a mom be abused or tolerating extremely bad behavior from their spouse is a possibly dangerous example. Boys watching their dad get away with that behavior is a bad teaching moment too. That’s not black and white either though. I’m assuming genders there, but obviously the mom can be the one with the bad temper.

seawulf575's avatar

If the stricter parent is abusive, those kids need to be moved away legally. If one parent isn’t willing to even listen about changing, they aren’t in a marriage. They are in a dictatorship with them as the dictator. A marriage is about working together, supporting each other, and listening to each other. Unless you want to be in a relationship where you are subservient 100% of the time, this will not work as a marriage. Eventually it will blow up, possibly in a very spectacular way!
If the parents divorce, the abusive (for lack of a better word) will have some interaction with the children, at least for a while. The other parent cannot and should not attempt to directly influence the children on how to get along with that parent. Depending on how abusive the one parent is, any parenting will be done on a frequency dictated by the divorce agreement. When getting divorced, the calmer parent needs to work with his/her attorney to ensure all the facts are out there…honestly. It might be that a psychological profile would be done on both parents. If there are legal issues from the past, they might be brought up if they were pertinent. A Guardian Ad Litem could be appointed to do a review of both parents and their interaction with the children. They would then make a recommendation for parenting after the divorce.
In the end, the children will make their own determination of who their parents are. They will eventually see an overbearing, controlling parent as just that. I give you my own children as an example. When I divorced my ex-wife, I ended up with custody of the kids. But I made it a priority to not influence their views of their mom. She’s always going to be their mom and they need to establish what that relationship looks like. She would bad-mouth me to the kids and would try all sorts of underhanded tricks to drive a wedge between us. I did none of that towards her. I just dealt with the crap she created as it happened. Eventually, they came to a realization of who their mom really was…not the idyllic image she wanted them to have. But they came to that determination themselves and never looked back and felt I pushed that on them. They are happier and healthier because of it, I think.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie Not swearing in an abusive, name calling manner. For example, if a child spills something one parent would respond in anger and yell “God dammit, I told you to be careful!” The other parent would say “Go get some paper towels and clean it up.”

I agree that it’s very important for children to see how parents handle conflict and come to resolutions.

jca2's avatar

If one parent is screaming and ranting and raving every time they get frustrated, it might make the children anxious and fearful. It causes tension in the household and that could affect the children’s mental health, their school work, their physical health (ulcers, eating disorders, etc.).

One tactic you could try, not that it’s the best way to go but if you’re desperate, you could give an ultimatum. “If you’re not willing to attend therapy with me/the children, I’m going to leave you.”

Does the dad have problems with drinking? Were his parents verbally abusive or overly strict? It sounds like he’s a tense person.

If the anger issues get to be bad, or it comes out that the children have issues stemming from conflict at home, it could rise to the level of a Child Protective Services investigation. This could start if the children reveal something at school or to a doctor. “I’m feeling nervous because my dad screams at us all the time” or something like that. The benefits of that happening is that it might make the dad more open to attending counseling. The disadvantage of CPS involvement is that the children are at risk of foster care, and it just opens a can of worms when other agencies start getting involved.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 My FIL was horrible to my husbands brother when he would spill something (worse than what you describe, but still I think it’s worth mentioning) and believe me my BIL has not forgotten it. It is part of a pattern of abuse with him, and specifically he was the kid picked on by the father. I don’t know if in the family you are describing has one child being picked on. In most families I don’t think this type of “favoritism” really goes on, even though a lot of children believe they were picked on, but in my husbands family it was objectively true that the father was much much worse towards one child.

Without telling you all the ins and outs, I think maybe he was more accident prone, but that shouldn’t have mattered. I also think he became so nervous about doing something wrong, things kept happening. He definitely has self esteem problem, which turned into being a liar, and stealing (from his parents and credit card companies he left hanging). I can tell you more about it if you want. Again, he was being more than just yelled at, but the message was the kid was a screw up, and his dad was angry.

The parent in question has an anger problem. The one thing to know of everything I know about anger is the person with the problem has “shoulds” in their mind, and tend to have unrealistic expectations. Children “should” behave. My dinner “should” be ready when I come home from work. My niece “should” have invited me to her wedding. All the shoulds are not only expectations, but attached to those things are often hurts. If you can do anything for that parent to learn reasonable expectations of children maybe that will help?

Also, help the children (without making them anxious) to do the right thing before the bad thing happens. My in-laws never made sure the glass was far from the edge of the table, they had expensive breakables displayed on tables practically in the middle of the living room, etc. it was like a set up.

I’m not assuming this parent is some horrible ogre, but he will have some impact on the children I think. Depends on the child how it manifests.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

You can. That is why gender role exist in many traditional families. As a wife you’re expected to be involved in child raising and you have full autonomy over this particular territory. Surely men are happy if they don’t have to deal with household messes so there should be no incentive for them to challenge their wives’ parenting style.

zenvelo's avatar

Note the assumed gender roles in this thread: it is assumed the man is the abusve one in the relationship, and the mom is “laid back”.

My experience is that the mother tends to be the one that is abusive and the father the calm one that doesn’t swear and yell, but just directs the child to clean up the mess.

Kardamom's avatar

I agree with most of the advice above. I would suggest to the non-abusive parent, that they tell the other parent that they are going into family counseling, whether or not the abusive parent goes along too, or not.

The kids need to be given ways to deal with this situation, otherwise they are likely to become abusive, themselves, or be more likely to allow themselves to put up with abuse from their partner, later.

If I was the non-abusive parent, in addition to the family therapy, I would be talking to a divorce lawyer, and figuring out if I could gain sole custody of the kids, and make plans to leave.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo I know you are making your statement to everyone, but I do want to say that in my first answer I wrote that I was making assumptions regarding gender, but easily the mother can be the abusive one.

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