Divorced Parents Or Toxic Marriage: What Is Worse For Children?

What is better for children stuck in dysfunctional marriages? That their parents separate, or that they stay in a toxic relationship?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
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toxic marriage, childhood anxiety

The institution of marriage is touted to be the backbone of our society. It defines our way of life, and even our ambitions and aspirations. Girls are conditioned since childhood to grow into ideal wives, with their aspiration tweaked to “settling down” with a good man and rearing a happy and healthy family. Boys, on the other hand, are taught that it is their duty to bring in a suitable bride in the family, produce a male heir, and shoulder the household responsibilities ably. Getting married and having children are thus two of the most important tasks on any young man or woman’s checklist in India. The third is to sustain this family life and make a success out of their relationship. But what happens when a marriage fails? Moreover, what is better for children stuck in dysfunctional marriages? That their parents separate, or that they stay bound in a loveless alliance purely for their sake.



  • Many people stay in a toxic marriage for the sake of their children, but is that a wise call?
  • Wouldn't staying in a dysfunctional marriage normalise the bitter dynamics in the relationship for a child?
  • Why must co-parenting be translated as parents staying under the same roof?
  • Wouldn't it affect a child emotionally to see their parents unhappy all the time?

What is better for children stuck in dysfunctional marriages? That their parents separate, or that they stay bound in a loveless alliance purely for their sake.

On the surface, this might not even seem like a difficult question to many, especially in a society where we prioritise rearing children over everything else. After all, we think of ourselves to be parents first, and spouses or individuals later, don’t we? Even when it comes to marriages, kids are always a priority over relationship dynamics. Which means that a lot of men and women stay in toxic marriages for the sake of their children, to give them a proper upbringing, following a conventional set of guidelines. Co-parenting here literally gets translated into raising a child together under one roof.

Also Read: Why Is Marriage Made To Be A Coveted Trophy For Women?

However, staying in a toxic marriage for the sake of your children may not always be a good idea. Agreed that parents getting divorced is a painful experience for kids. It is traumatic for any child to watch their parents separate. A 2019 research found that minors between the ages seven and 14 at the time of the separation of their parents exhibit a rise in emotional problems by 16 percent, developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. But is staying stuck in a bad marriage an actual solution?


When a couple decides to carry on a bad relationship, they in fact sacrifice personal happiness. The animosity they feel toward each other doesn’t leave their relationship, unless they agree to take measures like counseling to deal with it, which may or may not work. Now imagine a child watching two of the people that they most love constantly dissatisfied and at loggerheads with each other. What kind of message does that convey to a child?

While every parent wants to do what is best for their children, they must understand that it is not wrong for them to think about what is better for them as individuals.

Also, children in formative years develop an understanding of adult relationships by observing their parents. A toxic marriage then may seem regular to a child since this is what they have been exposed to. They could end up assuming that it is normal for married couples to constantly fight, or not communicate with each other, or not share a bed. Won’t this understanding affect the child as a grown-up, and their own matrimony in future?

Also Read: Why Netflix's Marriage Story Is The Break Up Film Of Our Times

There is little to no solution for a relationship gone bad. Ideally when two people feel like they have no reason to stay with each other but because it is a convenient arrangement in terms of raising children, they must realise that perhaps it is the time to move on. Besides, co-parenting doesn’t translate into parents that live together. It means sharing the responsibility of raising your children. If divorce brings you mental peace and happiness, then wouldn’t it make you a better parent? Can an unhappy woman or man be a good, happy parent?

Having said that, one understands that marriages are much more complicated and the decision of how to deal with the one gone bad may differ from one relationship to another. But while you think of your children, please understand that there is nothing wrong with mulling over what is better for you as an individual.

Picture Credit: Trip Central

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

children and parenting toxic relationships toxic marriages marriage and relationships