It is almost universally accepted as a fact that divorce is hard on kids. Children of all ages experience social and emotional consequences, and they act out as a way of expressing their stress and negative emotions during a parental divorce.

Knowing that divorce is hard on kids can prompt some parents to choose to stay in a relationship that makes them incredibly unhappy. They may tell themselves that their decision is the best one possible for the children they love.

However, there’s a flaw in this logic. Parents who avoid divorce solely to protect their kids from having a negative emotional reaction to it should consider the long-term repercussions of staying in an unhappy marriage.

Ongoing parental conflict can be as destabilizing as divorce

Kids need stability in order to thrive, and divorce is unquestionably destabilizing. They will have to move back and forth between their parents’ houses, navigate their own emotions and possibly witness their parents processing their negative feelings.

For most children, co-parenting arrangements will soon become your family’s new normal after divorce, which means that the amount of stress the situation causes your children will decrease as they adjust to life after divorce.

For those who stay in an unhappy marriage, they risk exposing their children to ever-increasing levels of instability and familial conflict. Their dissatisfaction with their spouse and their marriage isn’t going to magically disappear just because they accept that divorce isn’t an option right now. Kids constantly witnessing their parents fight may have incredibly high stress levels that get worse over time instead of better.

Don’t forget that your relationship also sets an example for the kids

Do you want your daughter to stay in a marriage where her husband doesn’t respect her? Would you like your son to unquestionably remain committed to someone who verbally abuses him? Consider that your children will likely internalize the example that you and your spouse set in the house.

The more unhealthy and uneven your relationship is, the greater the chance that your children will struggle with forming healthy relationships in the future. While it may cause more difficulty in the short term, divorce can be the less harmful option in the long run for families where conflict is inevitable.