What’s Better for Children: An Unhealthy Marriage or Divorce?

25 September, 2021
Q Which is better: growing up with one parent or in a family where parents live together but the child hears and sees their constant dispute?


In this counseling answer:

In the first instance, I recommend you seek counselling as a means to try to rectify things in your marriage.

Staying together may only be hurting them more and teaching them bad lessons about marriage.

If you choose to apart, then it’s important to get all the necessary supports in place for you and the children.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

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This is a question that many parents ask themselves when contemplating a divorce. In many cases, this can be the sole reason why parents choose to stay together rather than divorcing; for the sake of their children.

On the surface, it may seem like the best option, but many a time it is not.

Raising children in a 2-parent family is better than a single parent family as the children receive the support from both parents. This is most ideal.

What's Better for Children: An Unhealthy Marriage or Divorce? - About Islam

However, when the parents are openly not getting in, then the children are usually the ones to suffer the most for so many reasons.

Seek Marriage Counseling

As a result, in the first instance, I recommend you seek counseling as a means to try to rectify things in your marriage.

This may work, but not always. In which case, they should both be wary of their behavior towards each other in the children’s presence. They must know that they will experience some level of trauma as a result.

This may be in the form of delinquency and rebellion, sadness and depression, guilt, and feeling it is their fault. This may even impact their future marital relationship further down the line.

This can be easier said than done if the couple is in the verge of divorce. Even if any heated arguments are kept behind closed doors, attitudes can be exhibited in more subtle ways that children can pick up on. This can influence them in much the same way as the overt arguing can.

Taking Anger-Out on Children

Additionally, when parents are not getting along, they often take their anger and/or sadness out on their children.

They are unlikely doing this deliberately, but when emotions are heightened, it can be easy to lash out on the children.

This may come across in a way that is a bit short and snappy, being less involved, or being emotionally distanced to name a few. Parents in this situation should be aware of this and consciously try to avoid this for the sake of the children.

They need to minimize the impact on the children who are completely innocent.

They should try their level best to make things work for the sake of making things work for the children. However, it doesn’t always work. In fact, things may even get worse and the impact on the children alongside this.

When Divorce is the Best Choice

Frustrations and negative feelings may continue to increase and the overt and covert signs of disagreement between the couple reach new levels.

In this case, the parents need to seriously consider the negative effect on the children. Perhaps they can be better parents to their children separately than together.

Staying together may only be hurting them more and teaching them bad lessons about marriage.

It can be a very difficult choice to make. Couples may cling on to an unhealthy and unhappy marriage longer than necessary to try and make things better for their children, not realizing that it is actually being more damaging to the children for them to stay in a failing marriage.

If a couple chooses to try and make things work, then they must be very conscious of the above effects.

If they choose to part, then it’s important to get all the necessary supports in place for them and the children, ensuring to constantly reassure them to ensure a more successful adjustment to a new way of life.

May Allah help all parents in this kind of position and guide them to make the decision that will be best for them and their children.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees are liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Hannah Morris
Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)