Don’t fool yourself: Your kids know you, and they’re way more in-tune with what’s happening “behind the scenes” in your marriage than you think. Even if you and your spouse whisper-fight so that the kids don’t overhear what you’re saying, your children are bound to pick up on the stress, anxiety and frustrations in your marital relationship.
In other words, you can’t fake it convincingly enough to make your kids believe that you and your spouse are happy together. A divorce can allow you to put down your mask, begin to live authentically and start modeling good relationships for your kids – which can ultimately help their romantic relationships prosper in the future.
Good marital relationships require communication, boundaries and empathy
Nobody is perfect, and no marital relationship is without its trouble. To model a healthy relationship for your children, you have to focus on communication, boundaries and empathy.
What does that look like in a failing marriage? Consider these examples:
- Communication: By directly addressing the problems in your marriage and acknowledging that things aren’t working, you’re showing the kids that a passive-aggressive approach or resentful complacency isn’t the way to operate. Open communication gives you a chance to fix things – or start discussing what it will take to end the relationship and move on.
- Boundaries: You don’t want your children to constantly have their boundaries violated, do you? Then don’t allow your own to be crossed. By defining your limits and “deal-breakers” in a relationship, you show your kids that it’s okay to have standards. You’re not being unkind by refusing to accept poor behavior from your spouse.
- Empathy: Teaching your children to be kind requires modeling empathy. You can demonstrate this by recognizing that the attributes that make your spouse a poor partner don’t necessarily make them a poor parent or a poor human. Sometimes, two perfectly good people just aren’t good together.
Splitting up isn’t easy, but staying unhappily married may be an actual disaster that could lead to trauma that gets passed down through the generations. If your marriage isn’t working, find out what options you have to get unstuck from the current situation.