Parenting Issues: Divorce or Stay for the Sake of the Kids?

By Greg Baer M.D.

April 11, 2024

Many couples stay together “for the sake of the children.” They suffer through horrible marriages for years, even decades, and, in many cases, as soon as their children are out of the house, they separate. 

Did they actually do their children a favor by staying together, or would it have been better had they divorced years earlier? What is the effect of divorce on children? 

Is Divorce the Cause of Problems in Children?

For many years it was accepted as common knowledge that divorce is harmful to children, and some studies have demonstrated that children from divorced families experience more unhappiness, mental illness, drug use, divorce, and economic disadvantage.

Other respected studies, however, suggest that children from divorced families may not have significantly more problems than other children.  

None of these studies, however, really help us make individual decisions about our own marriages. Suppose, for example, that we do a study of 10,000 families, and we learn that indeed, children from divorced families are 20% more likely to use drugs, have trouble in school, and spend time in jail. Would that prove that divorce itself caused any of those problems?

No, it would not, because we still wouldn’t know whether divorce was the cause of the problems in those children, or whether there were other factors that caused both the divorce AND the subsequent problems with the children. Such a study would not help you make a decision about your individual marriage. 

The Lack of Real Love®, Not Divorce, Causes the Problems

What children need more than anything else is Real Love®. Without it, they’re in terrible pain, and they respond with the anger, rebellion, disobedience, withdrawaldrug use, indiscriminate sex, and other behaviors we find problematic.

The unhappiness and unacceptable behaviors of children are all indications of—and responses to—a lack of Real Love® in their lives. 

Children from divorced homes have problems not because of divorce itself, but because they don’t feel loved—because their parents have been unable to give the children sufficient Real Love® before, during, and after the divorce.

It’s the lack of Real Love® in the parents that causes both the divorce and the unhappiness of the children.   

When two people are divorcing, they’re proving they don’t have enough Real Love®—for one another or for their children. On average, divorcing parents have less Real Love® to give than couples who stay married, and that is why we see more unhappiness in children of divorced families.

Children suffer from a lack of Real Love® in their lives long before the divorce. It’s true that events related to the divorce add somewhat to their injuries, but the vast majority of their pain is caused not by the divorce itself but by the Getting and Protecting Behaviors their parents have been using all along.

What we can’t know for certain—but seems very likely—is that two warring parents may cause just as much damage to their children by staying together as they would by getting divorced. We’ll talk more about that in a moment. 

Children need all the Real Love® they can get. If you’re already divorced, don’t waste time worrying about the effects of divorce. Just learn to tell the truth about yourself and find the Real Love® you can then give to your children.

Find Real Love® and Save the Marriage 

If you’re considering a divorce, the question is not whether you should stay together for the children. The real question is what you could do to increase the Real Love in your own life, so you can give that life-saving element both to your spouse and to your children.  

You also need to think about what the divorce will do to the Real Love® that will be available to your children—from both you and your spouse. If divorcing your spouse will significantly lessen the anger and frustration in your life, which will allow you to feel more loved and share that with your children, your children might actually benefit from divorce.

Many couples are so occupied with hurting each other—consciously or not—that they create an intolerably toxic environment for their children. When they divorce, they’re better able to begin the process of telling the truth about themselves, feeling loved, and learning to love others.

After divorce, some parents become more capable of loving their children than when they were in constant conflict with their spouses.  

This is not to say that we should use the welfare of our kids as an excuse for divorce: “Let’s get divorced because our conflicts our hurting the kids.” Divorce is still the last resort.

In almost every case—perhaps being married to a serial killer who is known to have murdered his last wife and children would be an exception—the ideal approach to difficulties in marriage is for one or both spouses to tell the truth about their mistakes, find the Real Love they need for themselves, and save the marriage. 

Real Love in Marriage

Find genuine happiness now and forever.


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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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