Co-ParentingCollabortive DivorceCooperative DivorceUncontested Divorce

The Risks of an Unhappy, but Low-Conflict Marriage

By May 2, 2019No Comments

In unhappy, low conflict marriages, parents can operate under a kind of truce. In these relationships, the balance between satisfaction and distress is in constant flux, and energy to maintain balance can wane.

Risk of Crisis
Life can become the constant struggle between anxiety about divorcing with children and fear of an unexpected marital crisis if things go on. Increasing precariousness develops undetected. How long before a triggering event tips the balance onto divorce?

Risk of Damage to Parent-Child Relationship
These marriages are not necessarily bad for children if spouses can behave normally and enjoy being parents together. But, if unhappiness impairs their ability to parent, the marriage is not serving the children well. Damage to parent-child attachment adversely affects children in future attachment relationships; healthy relationships with parents is a predictor of healthy future relationships.

Is the marriage helping the parent-child relationships?

  • Are parents managing conflict, safely communicating, and working together? Is home life structured and predictable?
  • Can children express emotional needs safely with parents, and can parents respond? Does the marriage create obstacles to this exchange?

Could parents better serve their children separately? 

  • Would separating promote order and routine? Would distance and structure between parents diminish conflict?
  • Would separation allow the children space to develop relationships with each of their parents, albeit independently?

Risk of Long-Term Emotional Damage Due to Unexpectedness
Whether due to crisis or scale-tipping, a sudden divorce is traumatic by its very nature. Divorce in low conflict marriages is almost always sudden because these families exude marital stability. The sudden and total loss of worldview is difficult of children to recover from long-term.

The chaos that follows usurps parents’ ability to prepare their children adequately. In crisis, parents are barely able to stabilize matters and control damage. Without preparation, the children will certainly be left emotionally unprotected and likely harmed emotionally.

The Benefits of Adequate Preparation
No matter how small the possibility of divorce, if it does occur, damage to the children could be high. Spouses who recognize their precariousness can take steps to prepare their children and themselves for the inevitability of divorce. The collaborative divorce process — a structured problem-solving process — is an appropriate way to begin this process of preparation and decision-making.