Unhappy Relationship But Have Child

In an Unhappy Relationship But You Have a Child? Here’s What to Do

Published On: March 26, 2024

You might have reached a point where you’ve recognized that you’re unhappy in your relationship, but you feel bound to the relationship because you have a child. Maybe you’ve read about how divorce negatively impacts children, or maybe you’re worried about the challenges that come along with shared custody. You may even begin to question if your family would be better off if you simply stayed in the unhappy relationship to keep your family together.

Deciding whether to stay in an unhappy relationship or leave the marriage is one of the hardest decisions that parents face. You deserve to be in a healthy, happy relationship and maintain your strong relationship with your children at the same time. Here are some of the impacts of divorce and unhappy marriages on children and how to successfully navigate your divorce with your child. 

The Impact of Divorce and Unhappy Marriages on Children

It is true that divorce may negatively impact children; however, it is also true that growing up in a home with unhappy, disconnected parents also has negative impacts on children. When parents have conflict with one another, it creates strain on the parent-child relationship as well as how the children develop. 

Children that grow up in high-conflict homes often have difficulties creating positive self-esteem or self-confidence, forming and maintaining healthy relationships, managing emotions effectively, and trusting others. Long-term effects of unhappy marriages on children include passing negative relationship dynamics to their future family and less success in their adulthood. 

Although divorce comes with its own unique challenges, research has proven that children are harmed more by parents that stay together for the children if children are witnessing fights, if there is abuse present, or if there is chronic conflict that impacts the family. If you are experiencing abuse, help is available to you. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or access their website for support.

How to Navigate Your Divorce With Your Child

If you decide that divorce is the best option for your family, there are ways to lessen the negative impact it has on your children. By navigating divorce with openness, patience, and respect, you’ll find that you’re able to navigate this complex time effectively to build a happier future for your family. 

Be Cordial in Front of Your Children

Fighting in front of children results in fearfulness and instability. It is best to be cordial whenever the children are present. I advise against “faking happiness”, and encourage you to be polite and considerate of your spouse or ex-spouse without going overboard. Children quickly spot inauthenticity and will feel unsettled if you try this approach. Learning to co-exist with your spouse through the divorce process is essential to the well-being of your children.

Be Respectful of Your Ex

Divorce often causes children to feel as though they need to pick sides. They often wonder if they need to choose to be “team mom” or “team dad”. This thinking increases whenever parents speak negatively about the other parent. You will naturally have feelings about the other parent, and it is important that you work through those feelings with a friend or a mental health therapist. Do not allow your child to step into the role of a therapist, as this creates an unhealthy dynamic for everyone involved.

Share Appropriate Information as It Becomes Available 

It is normal for children to have questions. It is important to answer those questions as openly and honestly as possible while maintaining a degree of privacy and respect for your ex-partner. I find it to be useful whenever parents have open discussions with their children together. This allows for everyone’s voices to be heard, and to continue to prevent children from feeling that they need to pick sides. Some main questions I’ve heard from children when their parents are divorcing include questions about where they will live, where they will go to school, how often they will see the other parent, and how often they will switch off between parents.

Bring In Additional Supports

One of the most common reasons children present in counseling is due to parental separation. I highly encourage parents to seek out additional support if their child appears to be struggling with the transition. Giving your child the opportunity to process their emotions and experiences with a non-judgemental, neutral person can be very beneficial. Mental health therapists also often consult with parents about the divorce process, and are able to provide guidance on best practices. 

Final Thoughts

Deciding to stay in an unhappy relationship is complicated, and it is even more challenging when children are involved. You are probably trying to balance your own needs and wishes with those of your children. Please know that you are not alone in this, and many couples face similar concerns throughout their marriage. Some parents are able to work to repair their relationship, while others determine that it is best to separate. There is no single “right” answer. 

Regardless of the decision you make, there are resources available to help you as you create a new life for yourself and your family. If you’re considering divorce or working on your relationship with your significant other, I highly recommend seeking professional support from a licensed relationship therapist, as we are trained to navigate these complex situations and may provide more specialized support as we understand your unique circumstances.