Dealing With Divorce: How It Affects A Family (Especially Children)

Have you wondered how divorce affects a family?

We should see divorce as one of the greatest calamities imaginable.

Think of the multitude of misunderstandings. Think of the breakdown in communication, trust, and friendship. Consider the heartache each of the individuals in the family feels as anger and suspicion build. Add the horrendous polarization fueled by divorce court. Divorce is considered 2nd in disasters that cause human suffering after losing a child.

That means war, disease, financial ruin, and everything else does not come close in the arena of horrendous.

Dealing With Divorce: How It Affects A Family (and especially the children)


Now imagine what it would be like when couples are dealing with divorce

  • The protective family unit, once so precious, no longer exists.
  • The mutual reliance and bonding love each person felt disintegrates, right in front of you.
  • Family friends have to choose sides, relatives are confused, and children have no idea which way to turn.
  • Property collapses, income now diverts into two separate streams, common resources are divided and skimmed off by lawyers, and petty fights break out over trivial objects.
  • The misery takes a long time to peak and the internal suffering lasts a very long time.
  • Some turn to drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships and other masking behaviors.

Let Me Guess: No one would ever divorce if we could see into the future.

If the mainstream was knowledgeable about the actual results of divorce and shared it with us, we could compare children growing up without experiencing divorce versus the destruction divorce caused. I know no one would ever divorce if they could see the difference between their children when living in a harmonious home as opposed to after a divorce.

FACT: The media and psychologists, both of which have the same divorce rate as everyone else, downplay the impacts of divorce on children.

How could they face the truth?

It wouldn’t be possible for couples to divorce if they really knew what happened to their children, never mind to themselves.

There is a saying I coined:

“The effort required to change one’s self is like a speck compared to the suffering one experiences if they don’t change the course of their marriage.”


The effort required to learn how to be happily married is microscopic compared to the inevitable suffering caused by divorcing. How divorce affects a family is well understood, and completely preventable.

That is the irony.

Avoid the pain by avoiding divorce.

Believe it is possible.

The reason so much divorce exists is because the general approach to marriage has been, and remains to a great extent, that anyone can marry, you just need a marriage license. But it isn’t true. Hardly anybody can achieve a successful marriage if they just wing it or go with the flow.

Consider this:

Suppose you had all the materials for building a house, but you never learned the trade. How would that house look? Imagine further you did not even have a plan for the house. All you had were the materials. Do you get the picture?

You already have all the materials for a fantastic marriage.

Yes, you do!

But you had, and have, no plan, no marriage skills, just plenty of expectations. It is like desiring a mansion and having all the materials, then you realized that you don’t know how to build a foundation, walls, or run the electricity and plumbing.

Does that make sense to you?


Let me explain. Ready?

First of all, the key to a happy marriage is marital education, plain and simple.

So what if that isn’t considered “normal”?

Look around you.

What do you see in terms of happy marriages?

Why do you think that is?

Do you think it would be different if schools taught marriage, and individuals knew what they were doing right from the start?

Of course it would be. And it can be different for you.

When people are in a troubled marriage, we recommend using our marriage help course. Maybe not every single marriage can be saved, but almost every marriage can. We first tell them to study before trying anything. Learn about marriage, not just what to do if this or that happens.

Your family will be safe and secure if you learn about marriage. I know you just care about your children and yourselves. And for now, that is not selfish. It is okay.

Clearly, good people don’t need a degree in psychology to recognize that children in a family with divorced parents go through living hell. But unfortunately, as a society, we became great experts at rationalizing in order to do what we want to do, or to avoid realities we cannot handle.

Many modern psychologists live in denial and some outright lie about how divorce affects children, and it is hard to tell which is which. Many psychologists are themselves victims of a broken home, so it would be brutal for them to admit their lives have been impacted so dramatically.

But logic supersedes any superficial study anyone can come up with. Logically speaking, from a child’s point of view, the two most trusted people in their life disavow their love, connection, and loyalty to each other.

Their most trusted role models have their most important confidence builders ripped out from under them, and all psychologists talk about are the kids’ adjusting.


  • How adjusted can people be who live through trauma as children?
  • How adjusted do you think you would be if one of your kids died?
  • How adjusted would anyone be after any major disaster in their life occurred?

The question that always comes up is:

Aren’t our kids better off with our separating, because all we do is fight?

People who have divorced, family law lawyers, or many psychologists will all agree children will be better off, but they are wrong.

The only time separation or, in extreme cases, divorce benefits children is if one parent is dangerous. If one parent is a pedophile, for instance, you have to get a divorce. If one parent is a drunk who beats people, you have to separate.

But in most cases, your children will not be better off with a broken up family.

The generally accepted rationalizations are as follows:


But we are so unhappy!

Yes, and you can do something about that.

The trouble is that until we came along nobody reduced marriage down to a science. So no collection of people had a universally applicable approach to marriage that was simple, concise, and had reproducible results.

But now, you can fix your marriage!


My children will do better because nobody should be in the middle of a war zone


This is the lamest excuse ever (except when there is battery, obviously).

Parents shouldn’t fight, and when they get educated, they will learn how to not fight at all. But even if there is an occasional eruption, this is still the world, and we should learn to defuse arguments and get along.


Not all kids suffer

Pointing to those who come from broken homes as examples of how divorce can possibly not be traumatic for kids is moronic. Of course there will be examples of success after divorce, that isn’t the point.

The point is kids from divorce are impacted.

How they handle it is unique to each child.

But who would intentionally test the limits of their own kids?


You can’t use statistics to run your life

The statistics are real and sobering.

There is vastly increased attempts at suicide, much more drug use, far earlier sex, much more poverty, bad grades are the norm, less success in life, etc. Nobody wants to think they will be contribute to stats, or their kids’ lower productivity and suffering. But the numbers are so high it is hard to ignore.

So, what does that tell you?

It should tell you that most people are not only impacted. Logic tells us that every child is impacted, and most children are impacted beyond any tolerance.

Many will find ways to excuse themselves and minimize the obvious results, so they can go forward like sheep to a slaughterhouse in the divorce court. Often the part of rationalizing we get very good at is pretending the results aren’t as bad as we know they will be. So please do a little soul searching. Please look at the alternative.


You have free will

No matter what choices you make, the truth is it is your choice, and your choice alone.

You can choose to improve your marriage. Most people don’t understand how much easier it is than getting a divorce, so they don’t even try.

Why don’t people in troubled marriages generally know how hard divorce is on kids, and how much easier it is to fix their marriage?

Who do we get to ask for that kind of advice?

  • Divorce lawyers?
  • Psychologists (who are often divorced)?

Regardless of why you divorce, your children will suffer

This is obviously not meant for people married to child abusers and what not.

Children of divorce suffer because a fractured family does not provide everything an intact and harmonious family will provide, not by a long shot.


Don't listen to those who teach you how to live after divorce; they're the blind leading the blind. Click To Tweet


The chances of divorce are so radically lowered when you understand how to be married that you will find the effort you need to repair things is slight compared to the suffering created by divorce.

The world still has a “the world is flat” mentality when it comes to marriage. But here’s the big kicker, you can have the most clear-cut tools for success with just a little effort to study marriage.


Do you want to know what happens to kids who come out of a divorce?

Look around.

Do you see a world of selflessness, individuality, and morality?

Or do you hear about declining social standards and fewer deep connections?

With a 50% divorce rate, we live in a world of divorce as the norm.

Your children will never be as well off as they could be than if you and your spouse choose to stay together, raising your children in a secure home.

Divorce affects children who then affect their children.

REMEMBER THIS: The psychological scars will not be healed by the time they become married and have their own children. Their children, your grandchildren, will be raised by parents who are not yet “whole.” Thus, your children’s experiences of abandonment will impact their own parenting.

Let’s look at the actual, indisputable effects of divorce on children, which is an ongoing disaster that will last their whole life and be passed on to the next generation.

During the separation process, children are wooed, threatened, and abandoned, all at the same time. You will pay lip service to “putting your kids first,” but will never follow through. The divorce process is brutal, and it forces parents into taking hard positions against their spouse.

The reality is parents always use their children.


Parents want to win, so they will use their kids as confidants, messengers, weapons, spies, and excuses for anger and viciousness. Everyone denies it, but ask any divorce lawyer if this is untrue.

Those who claimed their children didn’t get involved, hid behind a facade to cover up their shame.

The divorce process includes a child’s two primary sources of protection turning on each other. It is filled with experiences that mold the child into what type of person (and future parent) they will become.


Listed below are what a child internalizes during this process

  1. Children come to believe marriage security does not exist.
  2. They believe love is conditional and unreliable.
  3. They are taught all people can’t be trusted and words are meaningless.
  4. Children believe parents are liars, cheaters, and quitters.
  5. They are shown marriage is no better, or even worse, than any other give-and-take relationship.

Children are pushed into becoming skeptical, distrusting, and selfish adults. This is where people declare:

“Aw c’mon, not every kid, and not to the degree you say.”

But why risk it?

Would you throw a non-swimmer into the deep end because “not every kid will drown”?

Are you going to risk your own children, rather than make the effort to save them?

Obviously, parents unintentionally throw children under the bus. Most people’s behaviors are subconsciously driven. Our minds automatically learn from experience what we must do to survive in this world. The subconscious mind remembers everything and calculates the best way to react to future situations based on past experiences.

What you’ve heard or read won’t make much of a difference.

It doesn’t matter what someone tells you.

If everyone claims fire won’t burn your hand, you might test it out, but only once. Then, the actual experience of your hand being burned will establish a habit of caution. You will, henceforth, avoid touching a fire ever again.

The power of experience is not easy to override.

You can tell your kids all the catchphrases you want about love and loyalty during and after your divorce, but their actual experience and the effects are all that will stick.

They will never fully trust the idea that love lasts forever, because their own parents proved, by experience, that it only happens in fairy tales.

They will never truly feel secure in ANY situation they encounter because their own parents betrayed them by turning on each other.


Allow me to explain:

From children’s point of view, the parents — YOU — are their only defense against danger. They have nowhere else to turn, and no reasoning exists for what happens to them if the parental focus shifts.

If you neglect your maternal/paternal obligation, they are screwed!

You and your spouse are bodyguards obligated to protect your children. They aren’t equipped to handle the abandonment of divorce, nor should they be tested.

It’s selfish and destructive to abandon your children. It’s even more selfish and destructive to blow up your marriage just because you are too lazy to learn how to be married.

The effects of divorce on children are devastating, and as bad as it is on your kids, you should not consider divorce just because of your kids. Granted, people are better at escaping than suffering, but you don’t have to do either. Your marriage can be saved.

Let’s use your child’s inevitable suffering as incentive to rehabilitate your marriage, rather than a martyr’s reason to stay together and suffer.

I promise you this: Your marriage is salvageable. Your marriage can still become everything it was meant to be.

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Paul Friedman
Paul Friedman
Founder & Executive Director
Paul has written two books, produced several video programs, regularly speaks on marriage, and continues to guide the growth of The Marriage Foundation to help enrich the marriages of as many couples as possible around the world.

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