Kids or no kids, we have all come across stressful seasons within our partnerships where weeks, maybe even months, pass by that are riddled with conflict and little evidence of a meaningful connection between us and our partners. During this time we may find ourselves wondering, "Why am I here?" and "How can we ever work this out?" Maybe in our heightened struggle we find ourselves thinking "I just can't take this anymore."
When we find ourselves in such patterns of conflict, sticking it out, for our kids or other reasons, may be more harmful than we think.
Here are five potential risks of simply “sticking it out.”
1. High-conflict environments are often more harmful to the outcomes of children than experiences of divorce. Research shows, what matters more than living together with both parents versus in a split home is how much intense conflict the child is exposed to.
2. Couple conflict is pattern forming. By "practicing" this pattern of conflict with our partners for months, or even years, we are making the healing work of therapy a much more difficult process than if we head the conflict off with some tune-up sessions early on in our relationships.
3. Children are far more aware of conflict between their parents than we might like to think. Sometimes the fear of what will happen if mom and dad divorce can cause children difficulty focusing at school, making friends, or may even lead to the development of physical symptoms and ailments.
4. Kids beliefs about what marriage is and what it should be are shaped very early on by their own experiences of how their parents interact as a couple. If we stay in a relationship where there is abuse or unmanaged conflict, our children are learning that type of interaction is acceptable for their own intimate relationships.
5. The availability of couple or family therapy, pastoral counsel, self-help resources, and couple workshops/retreats make it far less reasonable for couples to stick it out in misery when help is only a click or a phone call away. Whether you find yourself in the beginning stages of conflict or deeply immersed in it, I want to empower you to pursue a more peaceful, connected, and fulfilling life with your partner or your family.
For questions, comments, or to learn more about how you can receive help with couple or family conflict, email me at email@example.com, or call 469.322.9389.
Sammy Jo Diffendaffer, M.S., LMFT Assoc.