“We’re staying together for the sake of the kids”. This is a sentiment couple counsellors and family therapists hear a great deal. It is usually said by couples who have reached the end of the road in their ability to love each other, but who are still able to co-exist – just. The idea is simple: for years they’ve been hearing various reports from the media about how children from broken homes are more likely to become involved in drugs, crime and a whole host of other unsavoury fates and they don’t wish for any of these things to befall their children.
Whilst I certainly wouldn’t dispute the basic idea that children from broken homes are statically more likely to run into such troubles, I do however think that a lot more thought needs to go into the definition of the word “broken”. Quite often, couples believe that a mum and dad continuing to live under the same roof is all that is required to constitute a healthy family unit — and it is this idea I wholeheartedly dispute.
Childhood is essentially an apprenticeship into adulthood. Particularly in regards to how, as adults we manage our own relationships. It is during childhood that we learn the life lessons and skills that enable us to successfully relate to others in a mature and (hopefully) healthy way. Growing up watching your parents struggle in strained relationships where they forever force smiles through gritted teeth and avoid fighting within earshot of the kids isn’t exactly the best set of lessons for children in learning how to love and manage conflict in later life. The loving parents who I often work with rarely intend to make “arguing under your breath” a prime life lesson for the kids.
Two happy parents living apart are far more likely to be able to work together as a team for the sake of their children because they are not also slogging through yet another silent (or not so silent) argument of their own, but the question of how to separate is a difficult one to answer. This author is certainly not trying to cause the break-up of any family.
But if you feel that you and your partner are actually creating more harm than good by staying together for the sake of the kids, then a conversation with your local couple counsellor, or Family Mediation Council Accredited (FMCA) mediator might be able to help you find a solution.