Divorce can be harder to get around if the parties involved are worried about the effects it will have on their children. No one wants their kids to grow up in a broken, dysfunctional and divided home. Despite this fear, according to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States will end up with a divorce at some point [1]. Back in the day, divorce was a difficult and almost forbidden path to tread. Divorced parents were given the evil eye, as though they’d done something unforgivable.

Nowadays, it’s become a culture, and it’s not as bad as it seems.

Actually, it’s better for your kids if a toxic marriage is dissolved than for them to witness the tensions and emotions that’ll fly around in an unhappy home. Children who have to grow up in full glare of a toxic marriage usually end up being dysfunctional and socially challenged adults.

Here are four ways by which a toxic marriage can put kids through deep emotional suffering [2]:.

An Unstable Sense of Self

Living in the midst of so much parental war will leave them with serious internal battles. They won’t be able to make solid decisions for themselves most times. Children who grow up in such unhappy families will most likely suffer from insecurities, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, inferiority complex, and a reduced sense of self-worth. They’ll wonder why they were unlucky enough to be born into such a messed up home. Spending time with their friends who are from happy homes may worsen this internal turmoil.

They crave love and affection, but they are afraid of letting anyone get too close to them. They want to mingle, but they’ll end up spending a lot of time alone. They may be talented and gifted, but they’ll suppress their potentials and wallow in self-loathing. They lack internal peace and it leaves a lot of deep-rooted scars in their hearts.

Chronic tension and anxiety

A child’s brain doesn’t stop developing until the mid-20s [3]. Within this period, they tend to make memories quickly and build personalities based on their experiences. Parents aren’t usually aware of the fact that even if they move onto new fights every day, the old ones remain with the kids. The kids aren’t aware of the fact that they are internalizing these conflicts and making it a part of who they are.

They’ll grow up remembering all the times when they were crouched down at the foot of their beds, crying and praying and hoping that the shouting would just come to an end. They’ll live with memories of the times when as teenagers, they’d try to get in between their parents and stop a quarrel from getting physical.

They’ll spend many days and nights worrying about the possibility of their parents getting separated.

These kids will grow up with a constant sense of anxiety and tension, always expecting the worst to happen at every moment.

Fear of intimacy

They’ll develop a dread for human contact and interpersonal relationships. They are most likely going to be the dysfunctional partner in their future romantic relationships. They’ll always be on the defensive, harboring a lot of fear of the prospect of anyone getting too close. Their parents weren’t always in contempt of each other. There was a time when they were in love and joyfully happy. They trusted each other. They basically lived in each other’s skin.

 How did they get to the point of not going through a day without fighting?

The kids who witness such pain and hatred in their homes would be averse to the idea of forming intimate relationships with people. They’ll try to keep their hearts in cages to prevent them from being broken.

Mood swings

Your kids will suffer unstable moods and depression when they are constantly listening to you and your spouse fight, quarrel, and bicker. One minute, everyone is happy and laughing. The next minute, insults are flying all over the place like missiles. Your kids will have little or no control over their moods and dispositions. They’ll feel helpless to stop the sudden waves of sadness and anger that’ll crash through them periodically. If these issues aren’t treated, they could spiral into self-harm, substance abuse, full-blown bipolar disorder, and possibly develop suicidal tendencies [4].

It’s better for you and your partner to be separated than to continue living in a toxic marriage. If there’s no hope of peace and harmony ever returning to the home, then it’s best to save the kids all the emotional and psychological trauma and go your separate ways.

Before considering divorce as a final option, it’s advisable that a couple try counseling and therapy [5]. This will enable them to set their feelings in perspective and understand things they may not have known about how a marriage works.

If you want to take this route, be sure to get recommendations on a good therapist before you book appointments. An unqualified or untrained therapist can worsen the situation and increase the problems.

If the problem is mostly stemming from one partner, perhaps a drug addict, an alcoholic or a cheating spouse, individual therapy will also be necessary in this case. The problem won’t go away if they don’t fix themselves first.


  1. Research on Marriage and Divorce. APA.
  2. Why Staying In a Toxic Marriage Is Worse for Children than Divorce. Riley Cooper. The Power of Silence.
  3. Is 25 the new cut-off point for adulthood? Lucy Wallis. BBC News. September 23, 2013.
  4. Bipolar Disorder and Self-Injury. Web MD.
  5. Why Bad Marriages Are Worse for Kids Than Divorce. Sean Grover. Psychology Today. March 31, 2017.
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