7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage

You are in a bad marriage. What to do? Stay in it? Get help? Divorce? First, why are you in a bad marriage? Bad choice in the first place? Started out good but has fallen apart? Damage reversible? Have you tried quality marriage counseling from a trained therapist? The answers to these questions will vary from couple to couple.

If you have a bad marriage and have tried your best to make it a good one, and it still is terrible, what choice should you make – stay or leave? Typical arguments used by many to stay are:

  1. “What God has joined together … “ Some people of religious persuasion say that no matter what conditions exist in your marriage you should stick it out because you made a marriage vow before God.                                 2. The kids need two parents in the home. Divorce will take place after they leave. Just look at divorce statistics and you will find that many divorces take place when the kids leave home

I won’t address reason number one here, let that be between you and God. The second reason I will challenge based on the following rationale. Brittany Wong, has gathered information that shows that staying in a bad marriage can be unhealthy for children. The reasons given follow, along with my added commentary based on my clinical experience over the years.

  1. YOU MAY BE SPARING YOUR CHILDREN EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SCARS BY STAYING TOGETHER: Children feel the tension and this affects their brain wiring in the limbic area of the brain. Kids and adults have often told me of the stress and trauma they have experienced by seeing and hearing parents fight. Even if the parents are not fighting but coldness and disrespect exist, the children are scarred. It affects them in a number of ways over their lifetime.
  2. YOUR KIDS WILL FEEL UNEASY IN THEIR OWN HOME: Kids need consistency and predictability, among other things, to thrive. If they do not have that they walk on egg shells, wondering what might happen next.
  3. IT MAY LEAD TO LOW SELF ESTEEN IN KIDS: Studies have shown, my clinical experience has verified, that children coming from high conflict homes often have low self esteem and unworthiness.


  1. KIDS OFTEN FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PARENTS’ HAPPINESS: This one breaks my heart as I so often see this. Time after time I have heard children tell me the various ways in which they are trying to “fix” their parents marriage or try to make one or the other parent happy. When they do this they lose part of their childhood. No child should! Sometimes kids feel that the marriage struggle is their fault thus they develop a sense of guilt.
  2. UNHAPPY SPOUSES ARE OFTEN LESS PRESENT AS PARENTS: When couples are not getting along, one or both of them are often gone from the home. They “escape” their unhappy marriage and, thus, are absent from their children. These kids then feel abandoned. If divorced the kids often regain a parent in their life, albeit on a limited basis.
  3. YOU ARE SHOWING YOUR KIDS AN UNHEALTHY MODEL FOR RELATIONSHIPS: Children are sponges taking in the reality they experience. A bad marriage model leaves an unhealthy model in their brains. They deserve to see a good one. Oftentimes a second marriage can provide the positive model needed.
  4. DIVORCE CAN BRING PEACE TO THE WHOLE FAMILY, IF IT’S HANDLED CORRECTLY: Kids being raised in a war zone or in silence and apathy of a dead marriage may well be better off with parents splitting. Hopefully, the divorced parents can do a better job of parenting from a distance.

A good marriage and effective parenting are not easy things to accomplish. Yet they are goals worth pursuing. Hopefully a couple committing to marriage will have done their “due diligence” and focus on how best to have a wonderful relationship. And, as a part of their quality marriage they will learn how show their love to each other and their children and thus negate the need for a divorce. But, if they can’t do it, alternatives exist.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

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