It’s the hardest decision anyone will ever make:
Should you stay in your marriage … or should you end it?
For many years, I toed the party line. I followed the National Marriage Project, which reports on the state of marriage in America. I made note of the research stating that children are happiest in two-parent homes. I nodded approvingly at bestselling books that claimed any marriage could be saved if you were committed enough.
Yet my research had a gap. A HUGE gap. Because I missed the exception to the rule.
Some marriages shouldn’t be saved.
Spouses who continue to fight for these marriages end up losing everything: their physical health, their mental health, even years off their lives.
I mean that literally. The research is conclusive. The longer a partner stays in the marriage, the shorter his or her lifespan (as measured by telomeres, the protective caps on the end of DNA).
But what about the children? Aren’t they better off if their parents stay together?
The answer is no. These children grow up worse off than children from one-parent homes.
The kind of marriages I’m talking about are abusive marriages.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Most of us don’t think domestic violence has anything to do with us. If our partner doesn’t hit us, then our relationship isn’t abusive. Case closed.
But abuse goes much, much further than battering. Abuse can be financial, emotional, or sexual.
If you’re afraid of your partner, then chances are you’re in an abusive relationship.
If you live in a state of high anxiety, because your partner has made it clear they’re in control and you should be grateful they tolerates you, then chances are you’re in an abusive relationship.
If your partner tells you that you deserve their rage-filled reaction because you provoked them, then chances are you’re in an abusive relationship.
If your partner claims you’re the abusive one—you’re manipulative or scheming, you’re looking for a way out of the relationship, you’re going to cheat, you disgust them—then chances are you’re in an abusive relationship.
Abusive relationships not only break down your self-esteem and increases your chances of developing depression, but they take a toll on your health. You may find your hair starts to fall out. Wounds heal more slowly. You bruise easily. You get colds more often, and they last for ages. Your bowels can clog up.
Even though you believe you’re hiding any relationship problems from your kids, you’re not.
Toxic tension lingers in the air. Kids are like little energy sponges. They pick it up.
Pay attention to your pets, too. If your pet starts to demonstrate behavioral problems or health issues, then it may be absorbing the negative energy in the home.
The latest research has found that
Kids aren’t hurt so much by divorce as they’re hurt by parental conflict.
Fighting with your partner is what scars your children. Even if it all happens off-stage.
Furthermore, children exposed to abuse or a power imbalance between Mom and Dad while growing up are more likely to enter into abusive relationships themselves, either as a victim or aggressor.
If you suspect you might be in an abusive relationship, get help.
Most countries offer a National Domestic Violence Hotline. Placing a call might just be the bravest thing you ever do, if only to clarify that your relationship is rocky but completely normal. The volunteers staffing the phones will help you figure out what’s going on and what you can do next.
Please note that most hotlines will not accept phone calls unless no one can overhear the call. This ensures your safety.