Divorce is only a clean break for couples who don’t have kids. Those who share children will remain part of each other’s lives indefinitely. Since a full severing of the marital relationship isn’t possible because of the connection that occurs through the children, those in unhappy marriages sometimes choose to limp along their relationship for the sake of the kids.

These parents usually think that their actions would benefit their kids, but psychological research indicates that they may do more harm than good by staying in an unhappy marriage. Kids are intelligent and capable of analyzing the emotions and moods of their parents, and they also often base their expectations for their own relationships on what they see their parents doing. In other words, getting a divorce may be a better option.

The longer you stay in an unhappy, unbalanced marriage, the worse it becomes

Unhappy and unfulfilling marriages don’t magically get better over time. While it is true that couples can reconnect and rebuild a relationship that has begun to struggle, that doesn’t happen without some kind of effort or massive impetus, such as an unexpected death in the family.

For most couples, once the relationships sours, it will only continue to decline. Your children will witness you and your spouse bickering and fighting. They may also have to hear you or your spouse talking poorly about each other or to other people in social settings.

Not only can those actions damage how your children perceive their parents, but it can damage their relationships with you and with future romantic partners. Your kids may grow to expect that being unhappy and angry at one another is normal in a marriage.

Divorce doesn’t have to damage your kids if you are careful about it

No matter how many things you and your ex disagree on, you very likely both want the brightest and happiest future for your children. That shared desire can provide come and ground for a co-parenting relationship and an uncontested divorce. The two of you have the ability to work together to minimize the amount of conflict that you’re divorce produces.

If nothing else, you can both commit to shielding your children from the conflicts you have during and after the divorce. Watching you amicably end your marriage and find your own happiness can teach your children important lessons about caring for themselves and managing conflict in their closest relationships as they grow older.