Can Low-Conflict Marriages and Divorce Hurts the Kids?

If the title of this post isn’t a great example of an oxymoron – I’m not sure what would be a better one? It seems that most divorces result from a tremendous amount of conflict in a marriage – maybe even a ginormous amount of conflict. Yelling, cheating, screaming, insults, accusations, door-slamming – these are the things we hear about when most couples finally get to their respective divorce attorneys and none of them could be classified as ‘low-conflict’ situations or marriages.

Yet, there is such a thing as a low-conflict divorce that can result from a low-conflict marriage. When the two parties decide that they would prefer to live separately and proceed to amicably and equally divide both their assets and their time with the children. When there’s enough money to have two homesteads equidistance to the kids’ schools. When there’s the possibility to still take family vacations even with new spouses and step-siblings in tow. All of these things are possible and follow the low-conflict marriage and divorce path, but while they are possible they are not probable.

While it’s nice to dream about the majority of divorces being low-conflict and resulting from low-conflict marriages, the reality is that conflict is part and parcel of divorce. In fact, one could ask how there could be a divorce without conflict? A follow-up question is how a marriage could survive if it’s high-conflict? Since we have all seen examples of both, clearly the answers are yes. But how does the amount of conflict in a marriage and divorce affect the kids?

Numerous studies (and this one in particular) have concluded that kids of low-conflict marriages and divorce are WORSE off psychologically with higher incidences of depression and anxiety than those who’ve escaped high-conflict environments. Psychologists explain this phenomenon by saying the low-conflict children “feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them.” It’s shocking to them because they didn’t see or hear their parents fighting, arguing, and yelling at each other. The children may feel that the divorce is a personal tragedy so there’s no sense of “relief” when their highly dysfunctional parents do separate and subsequently divorce.

So the question now is what do you do about your low-conflict marriage if you seek to divorce? You cannot start fighting with your spouse in front of your children in order to artificially create conflict to counterbalance the long-term effects of the low-conflict divorce on your kids. Have you explained to your kids the basic problems of the marriage? Have you sought family counseling so the kids learn about the marital troubles in a safe environment? How have you worked with your ex-spouse to soften the psychological blow of divorce for your kids? It’s important to share this information because the kids matter.

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