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The Chicago Tribune asked its readers, "Should couples stay in unhappy marriages for the sake of the kids?" I felt compelled to respond and here's what they printed:
As the author of the book, Divorce Busting, and someone who has a keen interest in the impact of divorce on families, I am eager to respond to your question, "Do you think a couple should stay in an unhappy marriage if they have children?"
First of all, the question implies that once a marriage is unhappy, it will stay that way. This is an unfortunate assumption. We have come a very long way in the last few years in deciphering the formula for making marriages successful and happy. Couples can now take valuable relationship skill-building classes where they can learn how to transform an empty, unhappy marriage into a more loving one. It isn't magic. When you have children, you owe it to them to leave absolutely no stone unturned if you are considering dissolving your marriage. Once a marriage dissolves, so too, does the family... forever.
Research tells us that children benefit from divorce only in those situations where there is extreme abuse. It is estimated that only one third of the divorces in our country fit this criteria. In all other cases, children lose out on many different dimensions when their parents split. Even when the adults feel happier as a result of divorce, research shows that there is no "trickle down effect" in terms of how the children fare.
With only minor exception, anyone in an unhappy marriage can do something about it. You don't have to and shouldn't live in misery. Once you choose to bring children into the world, divorce isn't a solution to an unhappy marriage. Fixing it is.
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