I was recently listening to John Tesh radio on a drive and the topic of couples who wait until their children go off to college to divorce came up and piqued my interest.
I have encountered many clients who recognize the trauma divorce can cause and the multitude of studies and “common knowledge” showing that divorce can ruin children’s health, their ability to build positive relationships, their trust, etc. etc. These clients have justified staying in relationships which are unhealthy, unhappy, and unfulfilling (often to either spouse) for years “for the children”.
I believe the truth is far more complicated. It is not divorce itself, but rather how the divorce is carried out and how the parties conduct themselves throughout (and after) the proceedings that is truly impactful on the children. Even young children have a fundamental understanding that something is wrong when they see their parents constantly fighting, or conversely, barely speaking. Is it not better for both spouses to commit to ending their marriage with mutual dignity and respect, and moving forward as co-parents and healthy, happy, growing individuals? Just as much as children have the potential to blame themselves for their parents divorces (though this is more common in volatile divorce proceedings), so too they have the potential to be detrimentally effected knowing their parents lingered in unhappiness “for” them.
Above all, I would encourage anyone in an unhappy marriage to work with a mental health professional to explore potential outcomes and courses of action in light of all of the specific details of your particular relationship dynamics, family structure, and beliefs to identify the healthiest and most fruitful solutions.