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In Defense of Divorce: Why Leaving a Bad Relationship Can Be a Good Idea

Family at the beach

Many parents stay in unhealthy marriages for years for the children, but experience shows that divorce can actually improve the environment in which we raise our sons and daughters.

Huffington Post recently published an interesting article (In Defense of Divorce) wherein the author argues persuasively that divorce “can be a wonderful thing.” He writes of his own experiences as a child:

I was terrified of [divorce] happening to my family at the time. I had been listening to the escalating discord between my parents for years and knew where it could be heading. I spent many nights in bed hoping we’d dodge that awful fate — the stigma of being a divorced family as if there were something defective about us all. That we — all of us — were fallen, never to rise again.

But when it finally happened — much to my surprise — things began getting better almost immediately. For the first time, everyone was finally being honest about what was going on and how they felt.

On my first read through, the author’s narrative sounded surprisingly familiar. My parents fought relentlessly. Their relationship was always strained, and that uncomfortable feeling permeated our household, just as in the author’s home. When they finally announced to me and my brothers that they were getting divorced, things began to improve dramatically. Tensions eased, and the general sense of pretense and anxiety dissipated.

My parents have both expressed that they wanted to make their marriage work for me and my brothers. The environment that created, however, was unhealthy for them and for us.

Scientific American recently published an article (Is Divorce Bad for Children?) discussing compelling research from top-ranked universities indicating that divorce is unlikely to have a lasting negative impact on children. Although some may suffer in the short term, “[t]hese reactions typically diminish or disappear by the end of the second year.” Further:

[i]n a quantitative review of the literature in 2001, sociologist Paul R. Amato, then at Pennsylvania State University, examined the possible effects on children several years after a divorce. … On average, the studies found only very small differences on all these measures between children of divorced parents and those from intact families, suggesting that the vast majority of children endure divorce well.

If you are postponing divorce in a marriage that clearly has no future, where either husband or wife is deeply unhappy, consider the alternatives. It will probably be rough at the outset, but both you and your children may benefit in the long run. Your family is probably better off in two happy households as opposed to a single household that’s tense and uncomfortable or, worse yet, angry or violent.

Every situation is different, and we urge you to think long and hard before deciding to seek a divorce. Even so, staying in an unhealthy relationship “for the children” is rarely the answer.