Should I Stay in a Toxic Marriage to Protect My Kids?

Anderson & Boback Family Law
4 min readAug 14, 2021


Divorce is never an easy decision. However, should you have to stay in a toxic marriage for your child’s benefit?

I am sure that you could ask this question to many different people and receive a different answer from everyone. Some people are committed to staying in a marriage even if it is toxic because they took a vow on their wedding day. I will not go as far as to say that this is just silly, but my answer would be very close to that view.

5 Toxic Marriage Situations Where Divorce May Be the Answer

1. Some Marriages Can Be Saved

The question is, which ones are those? If you are merely bored or think your new co-worker is your new “soul-mate” then you might want to consider some counseling. I am a big fan of counseling and/or therapy to save your marriage. It does not happen a lot in my practice, but some people realize once they have decided to divorce that maybe the breakup was not such a good idea. We put those types of cases on the reconciliation calendar in the court system. I think if you can save your marriage in this type of situation, you should do all you can to keep your family complete.

My opinion changes when I see domestic violence or other harmful behavior in a marriage, however. If your spouse beats you, is there any type of therapy that can change that behavior? Maybe.

2. Sometimes a Spouse Just Needs to Get Out of the Marriage

In cases where a spouse is so demeaning, so disrespectful, or abusive, you need to get out. I see no reason to work on this type of relationship. Having your children watch how negatively you are treated will have a negative lifetime effect on them.

Do you want your daughter or son to see marital relationships work in this way?

Instead of talking about things, physical violence is used?

It is for this same reason that I do not condone hitting children, but that subject is for a different day. Once hitting starts, it rarely stops. That kind of anger and rage is not something your spouse will fix overnight. You need to leave and take your children with you.

3. Leaving a Toxic Marriage Can Be Dangerous

Many people that are the victim of domestic violence face more violence and aggression when they try to leave. That fear often keeps people in the home as they are too afraid to leave. Abusers may kill them or hurt their children, family members, and/or pets if they leave. A 2020 US Department of Justice study found in interviews with men who have killed their wives, that either threat of separation by their partner or actual separations were most often the precipitating events that lead to the murder. So what can you do to protect yourself?

4. Order of Protection

An order of protection is one way to protect yourself from an abusive spouse. With the filing of a petition for an order of protection and the subsequent hearing, you can seek relief from the court requiring your spouse to stay away from you and your children.

5. Growing Up in an Abusive Home

The biggest problem about people who stay in abusive marriages or relationships when they have kids is that the kids believe that violence is a normal part of a relationship. Even if your significant other is not hitting the children yet, they are witnessing a pattern of behavior that they will accept in their own adult lives. If children grow up, either witnessing or experiencing violence is the way to get their way or to resolve a conflict, you can bet that the children will behave in the same way. Children will pattern their parents’ behavior and if violence is used for discipline or to control a person, then children believe that this is the way to resolve conflict. You can often spot children in school who grow up with abuse in the home. Those aggressive children — the bullies on the playground — I’d bet they witness quite a bit of aggression in their homes.

Abusive partners tend to reinforce low self-esteem to make their victims feel unlovable. Victims are often told no one else would want them. The psychological damage on victims of abuse is immense and may result in victims having trouble making decisions, feeling dependent on their abusive partners, suffering from depression, or using drugs/alcohol for coping.

At all costs, I would recommend getting out of this type of toxic relationship — marriage or not.

Leaving a Toxic Marriage When You Have No Money

In my work as a Chicago divorce attorney, a lot of people I speak to have a problem leaving an abusive partner because of a lack of money. An abuser will often keep their victims from obtaining or keeping employment for just this reason. Or there might not be enough money in the household for daycare, so the victim is unable to work. You should know though that there are many agencies out there that assist people just like that. There are many people willing to help, but the victim has to take the first step. It is not an easy step, but once the step is taken, you will have not only saved yourself, but saved your children from a lifetime of abuse.




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