Is it right to stay in a relationship because of the children?
The decision to end a relationship, especially when children are involved, is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. But is it right to stay?
Unfortunately, breakups tend to bring out the worst in people. If you grieve then so must your children
Following the decision to end a relationship you have to deal with the fact that you no longer have a partner. However, the children have lost a parent. As a result, they may blame themselves for what has happened, they may withdraw and become introverted, and they may become aggressive.
Grief is the normal emotional response after the end of your relationship. Everyone grieves in different ways. Children, like adults, may grieve inconsistently, seeming fine one day, only to be very upset and depressed the next.
The children may:
- Blame themselves for the breakup
- Exhibit aggressive or withdrawn behaviour
- Have regular nightmares or difficulty sleeping – they may want to sleep with you
- Show out-of-character behaviour, such as temper tantrums
- Start to have difficulties with school work or not want to go to away from the family
- Be more fearful than usual
- Cover up hurt through indifferent or cold behaviour
- Have physical complaints, such as headaches
- Blame the parent they are spending the most time with
- Worry excessively, particularly about family members who are upset
- Regress to an earlier stage of development – for example, thumb sucking or bedwetting.
Everyone needs support
Breaking up is an emotionally difficult time. It can be fair to assume that a you can be so wrapped up in your own pain that they are unable to support your child in theirs. Your child may also need professional support and counselling.
Explaining the breakup to the children
Much of this advice will depend upon the age of your child. After trawling the internet a great deal of advice is as follows;
- If possible, both parents should explain the breakup to the child, particularly when breaking the news.
- Reassure your child that the breakup is not their fault in any way and that both parents still love them.
- Allow your child to ask as many questions as they want.
- Answer truthfully and honestly. It is OK to be upset.
- Use age-appropriate language.
- As the child matures, you can explain the separation in more sophisticated ways.
- Be prepared to explain the separation to the child again and again.
Is the status quo healthy?
Whether you’re the victim of domestic abuse, or you and your partner simply don’t love one another anymore, staying together for the kids is not a healthy decision.
Don’t criticise the other parent
This is important whether the children live with you or not.
The children may feel pressured to disapprove of the other parent in order to secure your ongoing affection. Each parent may have grievances or complaints about the other. It is important that the children do not become involved in these grievances, as this adds further distress for the children.
The children may still love them and deserves an untainted relationship with your ex. Don’t criticise the other parent and never use your children to ‘spy’ on your ex-partner.
Is your relationship the type your children will model for their own?
Whatever kind of relationship you have, is how the children will consider normal. This may become the foundation of their own future relationships, romantic or otherwise.
The behaviours that have been displayed in the home will set a precedence for how your children will behave as adults. They learn what it means to be in a ‘romantic’ relationships, how to be a husband or wife and how to effectively (or ineffectively) deal with conflict in that relationship.
The Children Will Learn Not To Prioritize Their Own Happiness
When you stay in an unhappy relationship you’re showing them that your happiness and your self-worth are not important things. You’re teaching them that it’s not as important to love yourself as it is to love other people.
Following my experience
Following my break up my ex used her children (they were my step children) against me. They had a sense of loyalty to her of which she used to the fullest. The children were encouraged to either give me the ‘silent treatment’ or to treat me in a negative way – of which they were encouraged to do. This, I would argue was a form of abuse to the children. They were encouraged to not only disrespect another person but it would ultimately shape their interpretations of a mature relationship.
I was never allowed to give my point of view to them as they had been tainted by her version of events. They were only encouraged to hear one side. This had also been enforced by their relationship with their natural father of whom they had no respect for. It bothers me further that due to the fact they they were all girls the negative views of men will be perpetuated for generations to come.
My door will always be open to the step children and I do have fond memories of them. But I realise the relationship with them is (possibly) destroyed due to her mother’s lies and manipulation. When I reflect on it she often took the view that the more people she had on her side the more right she was and using the children proves this. This was typical of her manipulative ways and it would have been foolish to consider it any other way
Unhappy parents tend to raise unhappy children. And unhealthy relationships that “stay together for the kids” when the relationship is destructive and tend to produce children who have unhealthy relationships as adults.
I consider (and I’m prepared to accept if I am wrong), but it’s not necessarily the break up that determines whether or not your kids will be ok, but rather how each adult behaves during and after the break up.