Children Know When a Marriage is in Trouble

So, things have started to unravel between you and your spouse. It either happened overnight, or gradually, over the years. Perhaps there was infidelity involved, or maybe you just grew apart. Either way, things aren’t as they should be, and if you think your kids don’t notice, you’re sadly mistaken. Kids are very in tune to the relationship between their mother and father. They most certainly know that your marriage is in trouble.

When I was a child, I distinctly remember being absolutely terrified when my parents fought with one another. Not only did I find the sound of my father’s voice to be scary when he raised it, but I always concluded that they would surely be getting a divorce. Luckily, in my case, my parents’ marriage stayed strong and they recently celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary. But, many of my friends’ parents ended up divorced, and it was never a shock when it finally happened. They always knew their mother and father no longer wanted to be together, and it was an excruciating process for them to endure.

I know in my own marriage, my kids get very upset if my husband and I ever argue, which we do quite often being that we’re both the stubborn type. Our extra-sensitive middle child always freaks out and draws the same conclusion that I did when I witnessed my parents fighting, that we are headed towards a divorce. I always reassure her that daddy and I are just loudly airing our differences and that everything’s going to be okay. My husband and I almost always get over ourselves and homeostasis is generally reestablished rather quickly.

It’s not just the fighting that the kids notice…any other signs that a marriage is in trouble stick out to them like a sore thumb. When mom and dad no longer hug, snuggle, or hold hands in front of them, the children know that something’s amiss. If their parents no longer go on dates with one another, a red flag pops up in a child’s mind. They notice these things because a happy marriage between their mother and father is the foundation of a child’s sense of security. Once that’s shaken, they go into panic mode.

How many parents consider the effect that their discordant marriage has on their offspring? Sadly, selfishness is often the catalyst for the dissolution of a marriage, so parents are usually unaware that their children are in emotional turmoil due to their actions. Many use the lame excuse that the kids would actually be better off if they separated from their spouse, because their fighting is damaging to the kids. While this is true, it reeks of a lack of effort to achieve resolution and ultimate harmony within the household. Most marriages fall apart because the husband and/or wife become self-centered and self-absorbed and so they don’t realize, or care, that there is collateral damage as a result.

I can only assume that many marriages fall apart when one spouse or the other suffers a mid-life crisis. In our own marriage, my husband purchased a convertible and I didn’t speak to him for four days afterwards. Truthfully, I was worried we wouldn’t make it through that event on our marital timeline. Over time, I tried to embrace the car and even agreed to take a few spins in it. Ultimately, my husband agreed to trade it in for a sensible family car. I know it stung, but I’m forever grateful that he made this wise and thoughtful choice, and I remind him of it often.

Then there’s the empty nest. Many marriages are held together by the glue that is raising kids. Parenting together through the decades keeps a husband and wife a united front who embrace the single purpose of bringing up the next generation. When the last child finally flies the coop, a marriage can suffer. Faced with no longer having to parent on a day-to-day basis, couples sometimes wonder what they’re supposed to do with their time. Often, they realize that they’re now strangers who have no common ground. When marriages crumble at this stage, grown children still suffer the ramifications. Dreams of bringing their future babies to Grandmother and Grandfather’s house are now obsolete.

In any case, marriage counseling should be sought if one’s marriage is falling apart, whether children are involved or not. Many times, people are resistant to counseling because they see it as a last resort and are reluctant to air their dirty laundry to a complete stranger. Some people cope with conflict by shutting down and don’t want to communicate their feelings, especially in front of a supposed impartial third party. What other solution is viable besides counseling, however? It’s worth a shot and should be considered as an option before the ultimate demise of your marriage is inevitable.

And the kids? Get them in therapy. They’re suffering and you know it. The best thing you can do is to try to keep it all together instead of allowing it all to fall apart. Do you really want to shuffle your kids from one house to another on every holiday? Or only see them every other weekend? Battle over custody and scar them further? Miss precious moments and milestones in their lives? Is it worth it to pursue your own selfish needs and desires? Obviously, divorce is acceptable in cases of abuse or infidelity, but even then, rehabilitation and reconciliation should be considered.

Marriages ebb and flow. We fall in and out of love with each other over and over again through the years. The vow we made when we got married was “for better or worse” and that line exists for a reason. Marriage is full of “for better or worse” and remembering that will see us through the tough times. If your marriage is in trouble, rest assured that your kids are fully aware. Remember that you and your spouse are on the same team, and you owe it to your kids to make it all work out.



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