Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Do you think parents should stay together "for the kids"?

Asked by nikipedia (27481points) February 8th, 2010

I think most people would agree that divorce is not good for kids, and research by psychologists supports this. But I am sure divorce is not a decision made lightly, and people who choose to get divorced are really suffering, and that seems like an awful way to go through life.

Of course in cases of abuse or neglect there is no argument to be had. I am referring to a case where one or both spouses are profoundly unhappy and would be happier if the marriage ended, but the marriage staying intact is probably better for the children.

Should parents put the needs of their children above their own in this case?

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44 Answers

jfos's avatar

^ Just for reference.

Blackberry's avatar

Only when they’re young. Once they are older, they can understand. When they’re older, there’s no need to have that miserable tension last any longer.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I’m not necessarily sure it would be putting the needs of the children first. How good can it be for the kids if the parents are too wiped out from fighting to take care of their needs, and how good can it be for the kids to see the animosity between the parents. Divorce may be the lesser of two evils.

DominicX's avatar

Somehow I get the feeling that an unhappy marriage isn’t too good for the kids either. I don’t think that would be fair to the kids.

Likeradar's avatar

I still believe what I said in the link @jfos linked to.
Children deserve happy, emotionally available parents. They deserve to see that a person can change their current situation and find one that’s healthier for them.

edit: I also think that this parental happiness should NOT come through trashing the other parent or turning their child into a friend they can complain to.

nikipedia's avatar

Yikes, sorry for the repeat! I’ve been here long enough to know better!

tinyfaery's avatar

I begged my mom to leave my dad several times, begining at about age 8. I believe my life would have been infinitely better had she done so.

I can’t think of a worse model to grow up with—2 parents who put their own lives and desires on hold to make someone else happy, and all of the fucked-up shit that goes along with it. I witnessed this for 17 years. In my case, staying together for the kids did not do any good.

ETpro's avatar

That depends on how acrimonious the relationship gets. Some people might be better advised to split up “for the kids.” That said, we should take note that in cultures where arranged marriages are still the norm, the divorce rate is considerably lower than it is in most of the marriage-only-for-love world. That tells something remarkable about our level of selfishness and emotional immaturity. In places where arranged marriages are the norm, both partners simply accept who they have been paried with and decide to make the best of it. For those of us who are mature enough to do that, yes, we should stay together “for the kids” and for each other—to honor the commitment we made and to be together instead of alone as we grow old.

Facade's avatar

No they shouldn’t. It’s in no way better for their children to see them hate each other.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

If I believed that then I would still be with my ex husband (yikes!) – we had a child together when I left him (the baby was 1) and I didn’t flinch – I knew I would be better off without my ex and I knew that I would be my child’s primary caretaker so I had to take care of myself. I have never regretted the decision and he’s never been a good father to my child. Luckily I got together with my current husband shortly thereafter so my children have a father that loves and takes care of them.

deni's avatar

No. If you are married to someone and you are unhappy and cant tolerate being around that person the amount of time that being married and living with them requires you to be, then you shouldn’t. If splitting up means that each parent will be happier, I think in the long run thats better for the kids. Little kids might not understand it all that well, but I can tell you that when I was 7 my parents got divorced, and prior to that I could feel the tension and I knew it was going to happen and I just wanted the fighting and yelling to end. It didn’t scar me, I’m no worse off than I would have been had they stayed together. Actually, I think if they’d stayed together EVERYONE would have been less happy. Living with parents that don’t get along isn’t healthy for anyone.

skfinkel's avatar

Yes, they should stay together for the kids. Otherwise, they bring untold (and mostly undocumented) pain to their children, and there is no reason in the world to think they will be happier in their lives without the original spouse. Only if they get serious counseling to figure out why they are in the situation they are in now, will things change. So they might as well stay in the marriage, make the best of it, and not mess up their children’s lives as well.

le_inferno's avatar

It depends on the severity of the situation. If a parent is an abusive alcoholic, staying together benefits no one. However, if there simply are “irreconcilable differences,” the parents should tough it out IMO. If they’re fighting and screaming all the time, that’s not good for the kids, so they should try to keep that under control.

HGl3ee's avatar

Stay together for the kids only if the Mum and Dad can keep their “shit” together and act like civil adults to one another. If you are fighting and bad-mouthing one another it’s pointless!

Fighting, IMO, is much worse to a child than having two Christmases.

Better yet, WAIT to have children. Wait until you know full well that your partner is the one and that you are ready.

I’m mad now.. I’m going to go have a little walk..

Steve_A's avatar

That really depends I suppose…. in my case, both my parents were druggies often fought a lot even had to break them up before so I was in a strange way happier and better in the long run that they split.But I found that only caused problems too. (legal,family relationships,etc…) This was couple years ago now I am an adult but when the your not 18 and caught in the middle it sucks.

I say if the marriage is unhappy,and really have tried all options to work it out, then end it.

nikipedia's avatar

Can I please clarify that I am asking specifically about the situation in which it is definitely better for the kids if the parents stay together. Suppose for the sake of argument you have a magic crystal ball telling you that staying is better for the kids, and leaving is better for one or both parents.

tinyfaery's avatar

@nikipedia That’s just too hypothetical. We could never really know.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia if it was definitely better for the kids, I’d stay but I would have a love life on the side, for sure, until they’re a bit more grown up and over 18 – then I’d leave their father.

Likeradar's avatar

@nikipedia I agree with @tinyfaery- just too many variables and too hypothetical. But, I guess if I had to answer… If I’d be miserable staying and it would only be a little worse for my kids if I left, I’d probably leave. But if it was just not a perfect marriage and the kids would be miserable if we split, I’d probably stay.

Val123's avatar

This makes me sad. When I got to the point where I realized my husband was really getting wacky, and I KNEW divorce was was going to happen sooner or later, I debated on waiting till the kids were “older” vs doing it then, when they were preschool. I don’t know if the reasoning was correct, but in the end I felt that perhaps it would be easier for the kids to do it when they were so young, so that it would be something that had pretty much ‘always been.’ That was 19 years ago. It breaks my heart to think about it all to this day.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

If there is violence or other abuse, splitting up is almost mandatory. My parents never divorced, but lived completely separate lives only maintaining the same domicile. In their social class at that time divorce was unthinkable.

stardust's avatar

I think kids will always pick up on negative vibes in the home. This can have a worse effect than an actual divorce. If the divorce is handled delicately, without unnecessary drama, then I think it can actually encourage a supportive & communicative family relationship.
My parents split up in a flurry of drama. Nobody sat down and told me ther was going to be a divorce, nor that our family was falling apart. I was quite young at the time. Occassionally I feel very pissed off at both parents for their immaturity

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I just had a chilling thought: Do you think our kids are staying longer with us after college… in order to keep us together?

wildflower's avatar

Even if children benefit more from being raised in a tense, resentful and loveless two-parent household than between two single-parent households, you have to wonder, are those benefits great enough to justify the suffering of two people?
...and any two people that all things being equal would split up, are suffering if forced to stay together (even if there’s no abuse, etc.).
Also, wouldn’t the added stress the parents would have to take on to stay in a loveless marriage increase their chances of various illnesses and dying at a younger age than they otherwise would have?

wundayatta's avatar

I would stay together for the kids unless I was very manic or depressed. At those times, all bets are off. But when I’m normal, I can not imagine ever being separated from the kids. It’s pretty weird to see one’s thinking change like that, often from one day to the next.

Which is another thing. They have my genes and they might get this some day, and it seems to me I should be here at all times because my wife doesn’t get it. Not that I expect her to get it, but it would be nice.

simpleD's avatar

The full text of the article that @nikipedia links to is not available, so I can’t see the conclusions. It was published nearly 20 years ago. The claim in the abstract, that “long-term effects of divorce on children yields a growing consensus that significant numbers of children suffer for many years from psychological and social difficulties associated with continuing and/or new stresses within the postdivorce family” is unqualified. My understanding as a recently separated parent is that psychologists now believe that happy, loving parents, whether living in the same or separate households, is the single most important factor determining the well-bing of children.

It is not a better to stay together for the children if you and your spouse do not share a loving relationship. It is better to maintain separate, loving, secure households, with both parents participating in the upbringing of their children.

casheroo's avatar

My husbands parents stayed married until their youngest (twins) graduated high school. It was painfully obviously they were not going to last. My husband says they never slept in the same bed, his father was a blatant alcoholic, he resented their mother because he had to make sacrifices because of having children…which they both wanted, but maybe he didn’t want to grow up? He wanted to be selfish and you just can’t when you have children.
I don’t know what had more of a negative impact…his parents staying together and knowing they were together for the kids, or the fact his father was/is an alcoholic..his has extenuating circumstances.
For me, my parents are still married and very much in love…but I’ve seen them fight like hell and wondered why they stayed together (when we were younger..) but howis a child supposed to understand the financial burden of having children? That’s mainly what they fought about, and have fixed the situation..which is why they’re still married.

I do not think I could stay in a miserable relationship. I show my feelings way too much, my children would see that I was unhappy with my life. I think that would make me a terrible role model for them. I would hope I would have empathetic and understanding children, and could explain it to them when they were old enough that I can’t be the best mother I can be if I’m in such an unhappy situation. To me, divorce is sort of like taking an anti-depressant. It sucks to have to take them, but it’s a necessary evil (in a way, because in my mind, taking any drug that alters your brain isn’t necessarily a good thing..but it’s much needed.)
I understand that divorce is extremely hard on children, but don’t they mature eventually into adults who can comprehend the facts of the marriage and the unhappiness? It’d be like having a career that you hate and dread going to every day. That would suck!

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Divorcing because one person is “unhappy” will not make that person happy. Each person is responsible for their own happiness, married or not. Unless one partner is abusive or has a substance abuse problem, or is involved in illegal activities, fixing happy inside the marriage should be tried first.

My grandparents had a happy and close, loving marriage from about age 50 on. When they were in their mid 30’s and 40’s, the fought like cats and dogs. Seeing how they both lived into their mid-80’s and got married at 20, they had about 50 good years together, and 15 that were not so good.

Val123's avatar

@wildflower If I was the only one suffering, and the kids weren’t, I would have stayed through hell and high water.

jerv's avatar

Actually, it’s been proven that divorce is often less harmful to the children than watching their parents fight for years. Those that say otherwise are looking less at the welfare of the children and more at the religious ”‘Til death do us part/Stand by your man” dogma.

Of course, if you want your kids to grow up with a skewed sense of what relationships are about and thus never be able to have a happy marriage of their own then by all means, stay together “for their sake”. Just remember that you really aren’t helping them. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions ;)

Janka's avatar

It depends.

If the parents hate each other and despise the situation of being “trapped”, the children will know, whether or not there is fighting in their hearing. This is not good, and a divorce could be better.

If it is simply a case of being bored and grass looking greener on the other side, etc, then divorce might be worse for both the adults and the children than staying.

In the absence of obviously hurtful things (such as constant yelling between the adults) it’s not easy, if it is even possible, to say what should be done from the outside.

Whatever you do though, do not ask the children what you should do, especially not when they are very young. Making a child feel responsible for something like that will screw them over.

Sophief's avatar

No. Children are people, they are see everything, hear everything and pick up on everything. That is what they are brought up on. If your not happy, then your child definately isn’t. I’m speaking from experience.

wildflower's avatar

@Val123 I would have concerns about a family where the parents could suffer without the children picking up on it – to @Dibley‘s point (and I too can speak from that experience). Not to mention the long-term effects of enduring hell and high water could lead to your kids not having grandparents around for their children (ulcers, heart problems and other stress-related complications can do that).

jerv's avatar

My wife, her brother, and her father would all be far better off if her parents had divorced. My wife’s therapy/medication bills and my brother-in-law’s criminal record prove that!

Oxymoron's avatar

No. It’s crazy when people do that. It makes the kids feel better when there isn’t so much fighting because they’re apart from one another anyways. It hurts the kids more than anything to have parents that hate each other stay together.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, as long as the relationship is only mildly toxic.

emeraldisles's avatar

hell no. That’s the worst excuse for staying in a bad marriage. trust me the kids don’t want you staying together for them if your unhappy, fighting whatever. They would rather you be separate from each other but happier in a better situation.

wundayatta's avatar

What if you are merely chronically unhappy, but not really fighting?

emeraldisles's avatar

I think that it depends. Like if they are always fighting, feel they can’t be themselves, feel stuck , have een unhappy for more than just a while. If they bring out the worst in each other, I think that’s a good reason for getting out.I have a friend who’s mother is on her 2nd marriage who has been hit by her husband, gets screamed at, talked down to etc, has hit her daughter, and the mother still doesn’t want a divorce even tough the kids have begged her because they can’t stand the stepfather who’s a douchebag.

whitenoise's avatar

It is as good a reason as any… Probably a better one than most.

I think ‘let’s stay together because of the kids’ trumps, ‘let’s stay together, because I like your tits’, and it definitely is better than ‘let’s break up, because you think the new pool boy is hot’, or ‘let’s break up, because my secretary is so much more understanding’.

ETpro's avatar

@whitenoise Great answer. How true.

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