Should You Put Off Divorce for the Sake of the Children?

11/01/2017 08:19 am ET
photo credit: Merlijn Hoek Angeline Coco climbing a tree via photopin (license)

When contemplating a divorce, one of the biggest concerns couples have is whether splitting up will be the best option for their children. After all, a divorce impacts an entire family, not only a husband and wife. A couple’s decision to divorce turns on various factors, with the weight of each resting heavily on every family’s unique circumstances and the timing of it all.

If you’re considering a divorce and are unsure about whether it’s the right choice for your children, I suggest thinking about the following issues while you decide.

Reasons to stay:

1. You’re still hoping to repair your marriage. Rebuilding a marriage requires a lot of hard work and introspection. You’re going to have to dig deep and find out what’s at the root of your issues. That takes time. If you haven’t yet gone through these exercises, you might want to buy yourself some until you do. Only then will you be sure the choice you’re making is the right one.

2. You and your spouse are better off together than you are apart. There may be extenuating circumstances in your lives that make staying married a better option, such as continued medical coverage in the event one of you is ill. Whatever the situation may be, make sure that the benefit(s) for staying far exceed the costs, which, more often than not, have little to do with money.

3. You understand the long-term effects divorce can have on children. It’s no secret that divorce can negatively impact a family for a lifetime. To name only a few of the consequences, children who come from divorced homes often suffer from emotional problems, have a higher likelihood of divorcing as adults, and are less likely to attend college. Because of these and other risks, you’re unwilling to put your needs above your children’s.

4. You appreciate the sacrifice you’re making by staying. Sacrificing your needs for your children’s doesn’t come without consequences, and you need to evaluate what those are and whether you will be able to withstand them as time goes on. Are you ready to stay in a unfulfilling, loveless, or sexless marriage? Time to start thinking about what staying means in real terms.

Reasons not to stay:

1. Abuse. It's simple. If your spouse is abusing you verbally, physically, or emotionally, leave. Kids learn by example, and the lessons they do are the ones they take with them into their future relationships and family. Do your part to end the cycle and show them there’s another way.

2. You cannot get along. You’ve tried in earnest to make your marriage work, including going to counseling and giving your relationship the time and attention it deserves, all to no avail. Recognize not every relationship is fixable.

3. You’re not fooling your kids. Children are smarter than you think, even young ones. Though they may not be able to vocalize with words how they’re feeling or understand yours, kids pick up on your cues and can tell whether a relationship is genuine or not.

4. You’re happier being apart. Children experience less anxiety and stress when their parents are doing well, even if they’re living under two separate roofs. If you find you and your spouse are happier when you’re apart, you probably have the most viable reason to go. After all, two happy homes are better than a single, unhappy one.

A final word:

In my experience, most people end up regretting their decision to stay together for the children because, as time usually tells, they have only put off the inevitable and in the process wasted valuable time they could have spent moving forward with their lives. The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to create a pro and con list when you and your spouse first put the possibility of divorce on the table. If the negatives outweigh the positives for staying in the marriage, you should consider leaving and work with a counselor to assist you, your spouse, and your children with the dissolution of the family as it currently exists, the transition, and adjustment period afterward. Guaranteed, seeking the support you need will be the one decision you will never regret.

Vikki Ziegler is the star of Bravo TV’s Untying the Knot, the founder and CEO of DivorceDating, Author of The Pre-Marital Planner (to stay happily married) and The Pre-Marital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage, and a co-founder of and partner at Ziegler & Zemsky, LLC. To learn more about Vikki, visit www.vikkiziegler.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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