I think that most parents would agree that you will do almost anything for your children. Once you have brought these little beings into the world they change your life forever.
After becoming a parent, many people start to focus on their children. And their own needs, wants and desires take a backseat to doing what they believe is best for the children. To a degree this is a natural part of being a parent, as in the early years children are completely dependent. As the children become older and gain some independence many parents start to make time for themselves again. This can be a difficult transition time for many, but when it happens the children still will always be a priority.
People will do many things for their children. But one thing I don’t believe they should ever do is stay in a relationship “for the children”.
A Stable Home
Any long time readers at thezombieshuffle.com may be wondering where I’m going with this as I’m a big believer in marriage and long term relationships. Furthermore, child psychologists agree that a stable home life with both parents is very beneficial to the personal and emotional development of children.
It seems clear that having children grow up in a home with both parents is a positive thing. So why would I say you should never stay for the children? First, it’s important to understand what is meant by “a stable home life”.
A stable home life goes a lot deeper than just being able to come home to mommy and daddy; it means living in a house full of love.
When discussing environments for children most child psychologists will list some variation on the following scenarios (in order of benefit to the children):
- Child is raised by both parents in a loving home
- Parents are apart, but the child is raised, supported and loved by both parents
- Child is raised by a single parent where the other parent is largely absent
- Parents are together “for the child”, but the child grows up in a tense or loveless home
- Parents are apart and use the child is used against each other
The ranking of the first and last options seems obvious. Where confusion seems to come in is in the value of staying together “for the sake of the child”. Some people believe that simply providing the child with a home with both parents present is a positive thing. This is not only incorrect, but can actually do long term harm to the emotional development of a child.
The important thing is not the presence of both parents. The truly important thing is the presence of love.
Trouble on the Home Front
I’ve heard of all sorts of troubled relationships involving kids. In some cases parents split up and share custody. In other cases they stay together “for the children” and are unhappy, usually leading to one or both having affairs on the side in order to find the fulfillment that is lacking in their marriage.
Some wait until their children are grown before going their separate ways, and in one case I’ve heard of (second hand) the couple had agreed to split up as soon as their daughter reached the age of majority, and told her just after her 18th birthday. Geez, happy birthday to her.
I believe that the primary role you serve as a parent is as a teacher. You are trying to teach your child, and guide them to be the best people they can be while preparing them for life on their own. If you stay just for the children, what exactly are you teaching them?
A Life of Love
Recently I was at a funeral, and during the eulogy the daughters spoke about their father. One thing that both of them commented on was how much their father loved their mother.
After they spoke, the funeral director spoke and talked about how with the holiday season it is easy to get caught up in gifts. Often we want our gifts to be expensive or extravagant. Then he made the following comment:
As a parent, the greatest gift you can give your children is to love your spouse/partner.
I believe in that 100%. If you don’t do that, what exactly are you doing “for the children”. Children learn from what they see. The relationship parents model to children are the things they come to learn are “normal”. If someone stays “for the children” but has checked out on the relationship how does this help them? Kids are smart, and they can pick up on body language and emotional undercurrents. If you stay in an unhappy relationship for the children you aren’t helping them. All you are doing is creating emotionally broken children.
Reasons to Stay
Just to be clear, I am by no means suggesting that if you are unhappy in your relationship and there are children involved you should leave it.
In fact I understand the idea of staying “for the children”. Relationships naturally go through ups and downs, and often more than just love is needed in order for a relationship to last. Children can act as glue for a relationship, and sometimes they allow a couple to stick things out and make it through the tough times.
But staying in a relationship should never be just for the children. As soon as someone says they are staying “for the children” that implies that they don’t truly want to be in the relationship, and this lays the groundwork for unhappiness and resentment.
You need to be able to stay for the relationship itself, and for the value and satisfaction that it provides to your own life. If it happens to be beneficial to the children at the same time great, that’s a nice side effect.
So no, I am not suggesting leaving your relationship. What I am suggesting is that if you want to truly do something for your children, embrace your relationship. Work on it, and improve it. Do your best to build and model the type of relationship that you would want them to have. One full of love, caring and affection. Remain committed to the relationship and continue to support and love one another.
Love your partner and make that love part of your everyday life. People are different in how they express love, but however you express it make sure that you do. And let the children see that. Give them a home full of love. And let them know that not only do mommy and daddy love them, but mommy and daddy love each other too.
The Challenges of Parenting
I have two children, and I love them to pieces and can’t imagine life without them. But you know what? Being a dad is really hard sometimes, and I have times that I don’t particularly care for some of the things they do, decisions they make, or the way they sometimes treat me. My children are fairly young, and are still prone to the occasional tantrum (realistically though, aren’t we all?). When my child is in the throes of a tantrum, at that particular moment I don’t necessarily enjoy being a dad. But that doesn’t mean I love them any less, or that I will abandon them. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
For full disclosure I suppose I should admit that at these times I often tell them if they don’t improve their behaviour I will be putting them up for sale on ebay. But it’s a bit of a joke between us, and they know that I’m kidding (usually).
Why are relationships with partners any different? Why do we hold them to a different standard? Your partner will have days that they make you angry, and there will be days that you don’t particularly like them. That’s just life. We don’t give up on our children, and we don’t stop loving them or showing them that love. So why do we do it with our partners?
This may be a gender thing, but I believe my relationship with my wife is in some ways more important than my relationship with my children (or at least on an equal level). Eventually my children will grow up, move out and start their own lives. I will always be there for them and be a part of their lives, but their lives will be exactly that – theirs. My relationship with my wife is one where I hope we are able to share our lives and support each other “until death do us part”.
Leaving a Legacy
I hope I have a long life ahead of me, but when my time comes I hope my children are able to stand up and say that I was a good man who did my best for them, and that I loved them. And I also hope they are able to say that I loved their mom, and they knew that, felt it, and saw it.
Of all the lessons I am able to teach them, I hope I am able to teach them that life may not always be easy, but love can always endure.
16 thoughts on “For the Sake of the Children”
Very well written, and thank you for posting this…
I find this a common reason alot of couples stay together, and I don’t believe the children are being done any favours; sure it’s great to see both Mommy and Daddy every day but children feed off of the energy/actions in their environment, they will sense if there’s unhappiness no matter how hard it tries to be hidden. Also, children will model their own relationships later on in lilfe around what they viewed at home; if Mommy and Daddy love them but not eachother, that’s only half of a good family life… if Mommy and Daddy love them, live separately but love other partners or are happy on their own, this is a positive energy… And if Mommy and/or Daddy do get another partner later on, added bonus of more people that will love the children…
Just my two cents…
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I agree that it’s a common reason, and I have personally heard many people who have said that the children are the main reason they are staying.
Inherently I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The children are a very good reason to stay. It is positive for the children to grow up with both parents together.
BUT, that only works if both parents use the children as a reason to work on their relationship together and build a bond of love. If the kids are the reason, and the parents are able to nurture their relationship and love each other, great.
When the kids are the reason, and the parents are “putting on a front” when the kids are around while they let their relationship flounder, then there’s a huge problem and harm is done to the kids. Kids pick up on the negative energy, and they learn that a loveless relationship is normal. In that situation the kids are better off if the parents split apart.
Of course I happen to think virtually any relationship can be strong and positive if you give it enough tender loving care, and the children are just one more reason for people to put in the effort. But if someone won’t put in the effort? Then they are only kidding themselves if they think staying in the relationship is actually benefiting anyone.
Either commit, and work on things or get out.
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“Children learn from what they see.”
This concept is such a wide reaching one. Some may hear it and repeat it, but do not understand the importance of the statement. A child is like a human sponge. It absorbs everything you intentionally, or unintentionally place in their direction. Even when a parent believes they are not listening or physically present, children are quite aware of what is going on.
Bad parenting appears like good parenting, in the eyes of a child, until someone else shows them that poor parenting is not ideal.
In other words, since they are like sponges, if they only see hostility between mum/dad, they will develop this notion that hostility is normal, similar to how children learn that a positive relationship between their mum/dad is normal.
Until they encounter the opposite, children believe whatever they learn is the norm, which means all families are like this. Staying solely for the child is problematic, if the goal is not to tackle the challenges that are pushing you further away emotionally.
It may appear as a noble act, but it is actually quite destructive. As you said, children need love. Great post Drew
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Alright, I’ll take this into slightly controversial territory here. You are correct in saying that while staying “for the kids” may appear noble it is actually quite destructive.
But I’ll take it a step further and say it’s incredibly selfish. I think when people say that, often it is a way of rationalizing their own behavior. If you are staying for the kids and working on things, that’s one thing. But often people say they are staying “for the kids” and they check out on the relationship, or worse, start an affair on the side.
When that happens, people are just trying to have it both ways. They want the comfort and financial security that comes from a “stable” situation, without the emotional attachment or effort. That’s BS.
If you are out, get out. If you are want to be there, then work to make things better. If you are working to make things better and over time your partner is not reciprocating, then get out. It helps absolutely no one to stay, and actually hurts everyone.
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Interestingly, I had “selfish” on the brain in the process of writing the response, but removed it because I figured my explanation was enough. LoL. It’s funny you picked up on my vibe.
I agree 100 percent that the action can represent selfishness, as opposed to selflessness.
You are right again, whenever someone I know directly or indirectly, references staying for the children, they tend to check out of the relationship partially or entirely. As you explained, that particular action is not necessarily a noble or selfless one.
I believe a relationship worth salvaging is worth salvaging. However, you will do more harm than good, in my opinion, when you only remain for the child’s sake. The vibes between you and your partner will become rather evident to children. I believe this destructive behavior, can become normalized in the eyes of the children, where they assume the poor examples set at home is representative of a “normal” romantic relationship.
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I think you and I are speaking the same language on this on.
In the work place, I’ve seen people who know how to do “just enough” to not get fired. That’s another one I see in relationships.
People who clearly don’t want to be there, but they do “just enough” to keep things going.
Me, I have no interest in that. Life is too short. If someone doesn’t WANT to be with me, quite frankly I don’t want them in my life.
If you are going to be in a relationship, why wouldn’t you do your best to make it great?
I’m a big believer in long term relationships, and I’m not one to cut and run when things get tough. But relationships need to have both parties putting in effort.
When that effort breaks down there can be a number of reasons, and some of them have nothing to do with the relationship. So I believe people owe it to the relationship to give it time and see if they can get through the tough times.
But after a while if it’s not working, or only one person is trying, then you owe it to each other to walk away.
Don’t stay for the money/lifestyle. Don’t stay for the kids. If that stuff TRULY mattered, you would put in the effort. If you aren’t putting in the effort, then that signifies that stuff doesn’t matter, and at that point one person is just using the other one. that’s not love.
And the worst part is (as you said) the children learn from this and believe this is normal. No, staying for the children but checking out on the relationship is the ultimate act of selfishness, and it destroys many lives.
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I believe we are. LoL. We recently attended the baby shower of my two-year-old goddaughter, and we all joked about my friend’s gift as a professional slacker, while we were working in high school. He can do absolutely nothing, but does it so professionally at his work, it appears to others that he is working diligently. I said something similar to your conclusion, “He does just enough to give off this aura, where he appears like an upstanding employee.” However, to us, we knew this guy was quite the professional slacker.
Life is far too short. You are right yet again. Remaining in a loveless and empty relationship, represents a slow death in my opinion. It is sexually, physically and emotionally draining. Each day in their presence is like seconds from your lifespan draining, bit-by-bit. I refuse to live in such a toxic relationship.
Today, some people believe in receiving everything from their partner, yet desire giving nothing in exchange. I see this on Instagram often. It’s about what he can do for me, never touching on what they bring to the table. I then wonder, “If you require these things, what exactly can you deliver of equal or greater value, apart from your physical presence?” A number of these women on IG baffle me. They genuinely believe sex is somehow the equivalent, of adding their share of the relationship. HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. “…and at that point one person is just using the other one. that’s not love.”
In other words, a relationship requires participation on both ends. When you simply want, and refuse to give, the relationship cannot thrive. When you remain in a relationship for reasons not related to enhancing the relationship, it cannot thrive. “But relationships need to have both parties putting in effort.”
Such a vicious cycle isn’t it? My parents stayed for the sake of me and now I am doing something similar. I am unsure what you mean by “working it out.” Does that include therapy, because I know for certain my husband will drive the therapist insane so that’s out of the way. As for talking, I still haven’t gotten a full grasp of my mind so I just don’t want to fall in the hole of “everything I am doing is wrong.”
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by working it out I simply mean improving the relationship. That can mean different things for different people. It may include therapy, individual, couples, or both. It probably involves taking a hard look at the relationship and finding a place where both people feel valued, and care about each other.
I understand that there are financial and social implications that often keep people together then they really don’t want to be.
My main argument was (and is) that kids aren’t stupid, and children learn about “love” from what is modelled to them. If a couple can’t stand each other, and/or they are living life as two individuals without love for each other then that is what children grown up thinking is “normal”.
Love isn’t all hearts and flowers, but it should have mutual respect and caring. Kids should *know* that their parents love each other, because they should see it.
When a couple stays in a bad situation thinking they are sacrificing “for the kids”, I believe they are actually doing more harm than good to their children.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I think people should get out of the relationship. Rather, use the children (who are a bond that both of you share) as a way of trying to see past the hurt and resentment, and see if love can still exist.
If love can be rebuilt, then staying for the kids was worth it. But if it can’t, and no on is trying? The I don’t think it helps anyone.
Just my 2 cents.
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Thanks for responding zombiedrew. I think my kids already know the situation because they have asked me why we always fight. I’ve always let all our differences and arguments go because I grew up in an environment where my parents always fought and thought arguments could be avoided if partners didn’t fight. But now, it ends up harboring resentment which seems even worse because it’s a built up.
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I think many of us grow up with the belief that conflict is a bad thing. And that, perhaps more than anything is something that cripples us later in life.
This is something I’ve personally struggled with, but a few years ago I came to the realization that conflict is not only “not a bad thing”, but conflict is actually critical to a healthy functioning relationship.
When you are scared of conflict, you avoid it. And avoidance is one of the unhealthiest things you can do. Avoidance leads to people holding things in, not letting their opinions be heard, and over time leads to a build up of anger and resentment.
When people talk about communication as being at the core of any relationship, conflict is a big piece of that. Conflict simply means you don’t agree – but that’s not a bad thing.
Learning how to discuss things that you don’t agree on, and working though those sorts of issues understanding that some can be resolved and others are just differences in who you are are keys to mutual understanding.
That’s something I wish I had learned and understood earlier in life, but better late than never.
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I’ve been avoiding conflict like the plague in my life, because I’ve seen first hand what it can do when two people fight. My parents fought all the time and it was usually because my father wanted to make a decision but my mother would never support him. Then a fight would ensue where my father would throw a fit, yell, and things are thrown all over the place. It was the same pattern over and over and over again. It only ended with his death sadly. As I told my husband this tale, he believed that’s why couples should always support one another no matter what. He told me that is why my parents were always arguing. So for me, he has compared everything wrong in our relationship to my parents. saying we are repeating the same pattern. It’s just terrible. I dread talking because I don’t like to talk about my mistakes. and his well, he says them but they are laced with guilt.
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I think there is good conflict and there is bad conflict.
People are different, with different backgrounds, ideas and beliefs. That will naturally result in conflict.
If someone approaches the world with the idea that “thier” thoughts and beliefs are the correct ones, then you lay the groundwork for bad conflict (and your parents situation doesn’t sound great).
Another approach is that we are different, with different backgrounds. And my way of doing things isn’t necessarily the right one, but neither is yours. Or I suppose they can both be “right” and have their own merits. My approach having merits doesn’t mean yours is necessarily wrong.
Conflict doesn’t have to involve throwing things, and it doesn’t have to involve yelling. Conflict is really when two viewpoints collide, so instead of calling each other names and belittling each other maybe it’s better to try and understand each other. Doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily agree with you, but if two people can understand where they are each coming from then maybe some of those differences can be seen as “acceptable”.
Doesn’t mean they aren’t frustrating, and doesn’t mean they aren’t annoying sometimes. But caring for each other involves respecting each others opinions, even when they are ones we don’t necessarily agree with.
Btw, I completely disagree with the idea that couples should always support each other no matter what. I should never call you out in public or embarass you in front of someone else, but if I disagree with something my partner is doing then there’s no way I should have to support it. I should be able to tell them I disagree, and why.
Just my belief.
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