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Should Fighting Couples Stay Together For the Family?

Should Fighting Couples Stay Together or Call It Quits?

When it comes to the "D" word (divorce), the first question that usually spews out of the mouths of concerned friends and families is: "Can't you just stop fighting and stay together?"

Good question — in a simple world. But life on the not-so-perfect family front is complicated. Just ask the 120-plus readers who weighed in — emotionally and passionately — on the question: "Is it better for a husband and wife who are fighting to stay together or be apart?"

Christine F., who grew up in a family she describes as a war zone, is one member with an unequivocal reaction: "No!"


Consider her rationale:

"I was the child of divorced parents and I must say that my mom tried hard to hold the family together, but I was truly happier when they split. There was a sense of peace in the house and we were all happier. I had the same experience (sadly) in my own marriage, and my daughters (now 11 and 13) have said that they felt that they noticed a distinct sense of happiness and calm in our house after their dad left. Too often we try to hold a family together because we know how hard and sad it will be, but it is to the detriment of our children. We must remember that children thrive in an environment of love and peace — not just one [with] two parents."

Not exactly the answer most would like to hear to the question, especially the moms who have tried everything to stop the fighting.

But, like many of the 120-plus moms who responded to this question, I, too, have learned the "you can lead a horse to water lesson." That is, sometimes no matter how hard you work at a ceasefire, there are more complicated factors at play. Sometimes, despite your best efforts to reconcile and keep peace, you have to wave the white flag of surrender, admit defeat, and exit.

The "Three A's" and Other Reasons to Split

"I agonized over this for years and years," said Suzanne T. "I fought hard to make my marriage work and be happy. We had a perfect-seeming family. But we put up with things no one should ever put up with — my ex's alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and inability to hold a job. It has taken a long time for my children and me to recover from our fantasy about what a happy family we were — our memories are very affected by my attempts to suck it up and put on a good face. Someone once told me that there are three "A's" you cannot ignore in a marriage: addiction, adultery and abuse. I wish I had listened sooner."

Ultimately, said Amy G., "putting aside your own happiness for the sake of the children is just unhealthy." In stark contrast to the conventional wisdom that parents should stay together for their children's sake, she believes that a mom should put herself before the children: "You have to do what is best for you, not for the kids. If the marriage is toxic for you it will be for the kids . . . kids can feel it."

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Should you stay or should you go? It's a tough question. But I think moms facing this dilemma should be pondering a different question. If you stay, forcing your children to duck in the shadows of parents who are constantly sniping and inflicting hurt on one another, doesn't that send your kids a terribly harmful message? If we moms are role models for our children, shouldn't our ultimate guideline be: do unto others, and make sure they treat you with respect, too.

I've been the recipient of "the question" way too many times. And I have learned to reply in a way that many moms who are under constant siege can relate to: "Yes, I could have stayed, but it was too painful to do so."

Sure, it would be great if the fighting would stop. But sometimes, the only way to end the battle — and hold on to your self-esteem — is to draw a line in the sand; say this is unacceptable, and walk away toward a new future. Maybe the best answer is to leave so that you can create a safe home for your children, one where peace reigns.

Would you stay or go if you and your partner were constantly fighting?

Join The Conversation
JennaGoldsworthy97423 JennaGoldsworthy97423 5 years
I am really dissapointed to see an article like this being promoted.I believe that abuse is definitly a reason to divorce but I truly believe if we were advertising and promoting how to have better marriages and how to deal with unhappy marriages,that would be more helpful.I am from a home of divorces and as horrible as it is when it gets to that point I wish my parents had made a decision to to do whatever it took.I no ho hard marriage can be and many many times you think it would be so much easier to leave it.The question I pose is, is it easier to leave then to look at ourselves as much as our spouse?There are always going to be situations for divorce and I would never stay or watch my friends or family stay in an abusive marriage but there are too many divorces where this is not the case and kids are growing up without one of the parents or in just as messy divorced parent relationships.It is not on, that this day and age that divorce is almost discussed as a part of marriage.
MichelleHubbyMadsen MichelleHubbyMadsen 5 years
I did all I could before leaving. Left when I was emotionally beaten down. I couldn't have my daughter believe that relationship was right. I want her to someday have it better. I've had people tell me I'm going to hell for it! My God forgives! My God doesn't want us in abusive relationships even when we are never hit! Thank you for writing this article! GOD BLESS!
JillSinklier JillSinklier 5 years
When my husband and I married nearly 17 years ago, he was suffering from depression. Neither of us realized the severity of it. The first 12 years of our marriage were a roller coaster of emotions. His depression never let up, and it caused him to be overly critical, angry, sad, anxious, judgmental, and verbally abusive. We fought more than we didn't because I didn't understand how the depression distorted his thinking, and I thought I could reason with him. The fighting was very upsetting to our two children, and as our son got older, he became very critical of him as well. I stuck with my husband through it all out of love and commitment. During the 12th year, he hit a low and admitted that he couldn't live that way anymore. With my encouragement, he sought help. He found a counselor, was diagnosed with dysthymic disorder, and was put on medication. During the years that he took the medication, he learned how to live again without depression...something he had not done since he was 16 (he was diagnosed at 34). Almost a year ago, he quit taking he medication, and he is SO MUCH BETTER! He still has off days, but they are very scattered. Our marriage is now amazing! He is my best friend, and I continue to support him each day as he does me. I am so glad that I decided not to give up. I tell this story not to upset or bring guilt, but to encourage. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, but it is not an emotion, it is a decision. You do have the option to stay. I'm so glad I did.
SuzanneDelzio SuzanneDelzio 5 years
We divorced when my kids were 8 and 5. I thought it was going to be the end of the world, but the kids and I were all surprised at how happy and peaceful we were without him. I moved close by, left him in the big house, and the kids went there every other weekend, which was plenty. Now my kids are 15 and 12, and they're thriving: nice friends, good grades, upbeat. Maybe serial monogamy is the way to go. That said, I only started dating now, 6 years later. It all went to the kids, which I think was a good thing.
katylamport katylamport 5 years
I can say my spouse and I will fight and get pretty mean to each other in a weird way to relieve stress. The longer we do this around our kids the more they know that is all we are doing. I love my husband more than anything in the world. And he may not be the most supportive spouse (not many are) but I know for a fact that no matter how mean he may be in the heat of the moment... deep down he loves me more than anything... should my kids see us fight to relieve stress... probably not... but at the same time when is too much sheltering for our kids? If we shelter them too much are we creating a mythical ideal of a future for them? My husband and I believe that our children should be exposed to real life as much as possible to better prepare them for their own real life situations.
MeganGainor MeganGainor 5 years
I know all about fighting with your partner. That's all we started to do after my daughter turned three. My now ex-husband was a heavy drinker and always high on some thing. I didn't want my daughter around that stuff so I left and took my daughter with me.
ViennaCong ViennaCong 5 years
I understand the Christian way of thinking but don't be ignorant. There are many marriages who if they would stay together will cause major damage and even death. If you read some responses here there are people in suffering and pain. Do you want to walk away from them? Do you want to close your eyes and account and say God I didn't see that. I understand if there is violence then divorce is a choice to not be beaten or hurt each day. Christians unite and know you are leaving the children and mother's suffering. You should think of this as an opportunity to reach out to those in need and offer the word of Jesus. Not to close your accounts, walk away and pray the suffering ends for them. These women are not saying they want to look for a better looking husband or a man who only makes lots of money. I pray for all those who walk away without helping because you are not doing God's work.
BarbVerrastro BarbVerrastro 5 years
To those so quickly to unsubscribe because of the article, my heart goes out to you. Sometimes, families in trouble need the love and guidance and encouraging words of others. So instead of retracking your subscription, maybe offer your point of view. You never know who is reading it and how it could impact someone. Soi say, as a Christian, divorce is a tough consideration and not God's plan, however, seeking God's word and Christian counsel may help. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors so I say I'm sorry for what you must be going through and I will always pray and not judge.
MichelleBartlett82657 MichelleBartlett82657 5 years
I was married for 20 years to a selfish self-centered jerk. If that's not tring hard I don't know what is. There probably would never be divorce if people did not change but guess what life experiences change people. I don't even know this person anymore and I was 27 years old when I married him and dated for 4 years. I never got to have anything I wanted like maybe new furniture, a washer and dryer, etc for many years. All my money went to paying for musicial equipment and vans to carry it. After he had 8 guitars I started putting my foot down because now we had 2 kids. I felt they were not getting the things they needed like a real bed to sleep on, not a cot, and the son had that till he was 8. Couldn't keep a job. He would get very nasty to me and I would have bruises to hide and not tell anyone. Then the drug problem and when he threw our daughter down the stair for saying something about his pot smoking at school I was done. Shortly after that I found out he was with another woman and he beat me up and left. It's been 3 years I have carried on just fine without him good riddens to his garbage. I don't see this as quitting on the marriage I did beleive in forever I did all the suffering and he got what he wanted, so he quit, not me, it was his problem and choices he made not mine but he lost all respect from me and our kids.
CherylAttaway CherylAttaway 5 years
Please remove me from your list. Promoting the destruction of family is NOT what I care to read about.
AnishaOliver AnishaOliver 5 years
And another thing. I watched my mother be avoided by my dad and m broher and I were too so I refuse to go through this again. I suggested counseling but he says that it won't help if I still feel the same way about the situation but I could say at least he tried. But this is the end. I just need to try very hard to get myself together financially so I can leave because if I stay who knows if it will happen again and he might hur the kids and I may not be so lucky next time. I'm not taking any chances.
AnishaOliver AnishaOliver 5 years
I understand this situation and the dilemma because I am going through this right now. I said it was over and that I'm leaving but I'm still here because at work my hours were recently cut and I am not financially stable to get my own. Until two weeks my husband and I would have minor disagreements as any married couple but this time we had a good day preparing for he move to our new place picking out paint for the kids room. I mean a really good day or should I say a good week but later on that night he started acting a little strange. He went to bed before I did annd when I decided to I climbed into bed and he jumped up out of his sleep, put his hands around m neck and was choking me then contiuously slung me around our bedroom like some common criminal. My neck and throat was swollen almost shut and I had bruises that didn't allow me to return to work for a week. This has never happened before but in my mind if you do it once you will do it again. I want to leave so bad but I have no place to go. I later asked him why he did it and he keeps saying that he doesn't know and for me this is even worst because it makes me think he did it for fun. Things like this never happen for no reason. What do you suggest I do??
Angie19506 Angie19506 5 years
Time for this Mom to take "Circle of Moms" off my email subscription! Promotion of Divorce is just horrible and not what I believe in. Goodbye COM
marionbrown77892 marionbrown77892 5 years
I'm in the awful position of wanting to get out of a marriage with 3 boys due mainly as I woke up one day and finally admitted to myself that it was over n that If I didn't do something now I would never be happy n that in turn would adversely affect my boys! My husband loves me but I am no longer in love with him! I left b4 due to his bullying and aggression issues but after he had counselling and I grew 2 trust him again (after 3 years!) I went back in august 2011. I think I've just outgrown him as we were very young when we met! We just have nothing in common n I'm a very ambitious and independent person n he carnt cope with it! I hate myself for wanting out n so I want other womens opinions to help me decide wot2 do!
elkeknupp elkeknupp 5 years
If my mom told me my husband tried to have sex with her while she slept, I would be packing my bags! Good God, how long will it take till he goes into his daughters room? Get out Lisa!
LeslieOnder LeslieOnder 5 years
About someone brought this out ... I"m a divorced mom too with two girls and I have always said I did the right thing for me and them. My ex was an alcoholic and cheated numerous times and I tried for 16 years to get him to see how great we could have it and he just wouldn't have it ... so when I called it quits, then he finally wanted to do something about his alcoholism and deviate ways. Too late I said, I'm gone! Emotionally I was drained and I didn't have the energy to work on it any longer and my mom is from the "old school" where you stayed together for the kids ... BS I say ... why put yourself or your children through that unnecessarily ... I didn't turn out all so bad, but maybe just maybe I would have turned out better if she would have left my father earlier instead of later !
JessicaKozel JessicaKozel 5 years
Wow lyndsey, you couldn't be more wrong! Those older couples that have been together for 40+ years are so because they go well together; like salt and pepper. For a lot of couples, its just not that rosy. You start out great, you treat each other with respect, and then time passes, you get more comfortable, your flaws start to show, and they don't sit well with your spouse. Then you start to annoy each other, and then nex thing you know that 'love' you thought you had, was really an infatuation with something the other person has, like good looks, great in bed cause its something new or lots of money. But the glamour wears off, sometimes too late. Theres no way in hell I'd waste my time going to councelling and forcing myself to fall back in love with someone that I can no longer stand to be around. What sense is that? Teach our kids that once you make that promise theres no going back no matter what?That you're stuck with one person for the rest of your life no matter how unhappy you are or lonely? Thats a great lesson! :S Sure won't be taught in my house! My ex and I got along great at first until his bad habits and lazy attitude showed me what kind of future I have to look forward to. A pothead that couldn't hold a job even if his life depended on it, has a huge problem with authority and respect and thinks he deserves the world, and then some. I realized it all too late, and had to walk away with a kid, but my life is so much better, I am with someone I truly love, we have our ups and downs, but nothing to leave each other over. Sometimes you have to go thru a couple stones to find your diamond in the rough :)
AprilBeck84980 AprilBeck84980 5 years
Lyndsey, if your business partner swears at you, screams at you, says everything is your fault, hits you, keeps money from you, threatens to kill themselves, coerces sex from you, belittles your children, and keeps doing these things even after apologizing and finally cheats on you, would you stay in business with him? Sometimes it's not about happiness, but about staying alive.
BrittneyMendoza BrittneyMendoza 5 years
Both parties have to be willing to work it out. If both are not committed it will not work. Don't ever rush into marriage!!!! For me and my husband failure is not an option. Until death tears us apart.
AprilBeck84980 AprilBeck84980 5 years
My kids (7,5) have told me they are glad I married my husband and to not get back with their father.
NadiyahFlorence NadiyahFlorence 5 years
@Lisa Please leave him as soon as you can. Your marriage is extremely unhealthy. It helps no one and hurts everyone. There are abuse hotline that will direct you to people who can help you restart your life. You can search for a local agency through google. Do not chance your safety or the safely of your children any longer please.
VeronicaTate VeronicaTate 5 years
What about verbal and emotional abuse followed by "gaslighting" (look up term on Wikipedia), "glossing over" and apologizing or pretending nothing happened or minimizing what happened.... making you question yourself??
NadiyahFlorence NadiyahFlorence 5 years
@Lisa, there are abuse agencies to help you. Google it please. Staying with him will help no one but will hurt everyone. Your marriage is extremely unhealthy.
ReneeDuBose ReneeDuBose 5 years
The thing I find interesting about this article is it's only the man that's at fault. My parents divorced when I was 2yrs old. My mother was the abusive one. To him and to me later. Although, I believe he gave up on her. The emotional and verbal abuse was a result of years of drug abuse. She needed help and everyone either ignored it or gave up completely. I'm not a religious person and feel that prayer can lead to delusion. No offense to those that do, just a personal opinion and choice. I think in today's society divorce is a convenience. This is not to say that some situations warrant it. I know how hard it can be having been in my own share of extremely abusive relationships. People are too quick to hitch up and call it quits as soon as it's not convenient, "the same as it used to be", or it's not easy anymore. I want to reiterate, this is not including those relationships that are a truly lost cause. And how do you distinguish? Well, that's a question we're obviously all trying to answer. Trying to understand that person you fell in love with and how you both got to this crossroads is a first step. Next, being straightforward and stronger than the other person. Understanding why they're doing this to themselves and others. There's a reason, a history, a path that lead there. It won't be pretty, that's not what life is about. Sometimes people are blinded by those reasons and giving up isn't the solution. Usually, they need help and unconditional understanding. I was left to my mother's devices because everyone gave up on her and she spiraled downward into her hatred of herself. I will always be a little damaged from that, but I try to do my best. For myself, my husband, and my children.
JamieThomas26956 JamieThomas26956 5 years
I do think kids should see normal arguments. If not, it will give them the false sense that everything is always perfect and that you don't have to work for anything. I grew up in an abusive home both verbally and phyically. And although my mother thought she was doing the best thing for us kids, I didn't agre with her. But mot moms stay in situations because of fear of lack of money and/or housing. Some women are strong and determined to do it on their own while others can not. But being fair across the board, I have meet some men who have married some "crazy" women. And they are also in the same boat we are in at times to, by trying to stay and make it work. A thought good only in theory at times. Good luck to everyone, no matter your situation. May you have patience and God and the best decisions for everyone in your heart and mind.
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