It’s not always a good idea to stay together for the children

Published on October 14, 2019

David and Ann have been married for twelve years and have three children under the age of ten.  David works long hours and comes back home stressed and tired. David and Ann have frequent arguments, and David becomes physically and verbally abusive towards Ann and sometimes the children.  Ann has been trying to hide her abuse from the children, but they can see that she is often tense and sad. Ann tries to protect the children from David, but he is much stronger than she is. The oldest child, Brian, often seems anxious and can no longer focus in school. Brian blames himself for not being able to protect his younger siblings.  The other two children are afraid of their father and believe that it is their job to protect their mother.  

This is a toxic environment for the children where they are exposed to abuse. The shouting scares the children, and they have been having nightmares. The children feel like they are walking on eggshells and try to hide so that David will not hit them.  Ann would like to go to couples counselling, but David refuses.  Ann has told David that she will leave him if he does not get help for domestic violence.  David refuses help and will not take responsibility for his hurtful behaviour.  The children are afraid of their father, but also love him. The conflict between their parents is confusing for them.  They would like their mom and dad to live separately so that both parents would not feel sad and angry all of the time.  

Ann is afraid to get a divorce because she is not sure how she would support herself. She is also concerned that the children will not adapt to divorce.  If she stays in the marriage, she is putting herself and her children at risk for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and low self-esteem.  It will not be easy for Ann to leave the marriage, but in the long run it will be better for her children. Hiring a strong legal team can help to ease the fear.  

Here are some examples of when divorce is safer for your children than staying married:


If there is domestic or sexual violence in the home, find an exit strategy to keep both you and your children safe.  If your children are scared, anxious, depressed, not eating or sleeping, get them professional help. Emotional abuse and verbal abuse are hard to prove in court and to the police;  these forms of abuse can be just as damaging or more damaging than physical abuse.  


Conflict is sometimes necessary and is not always damaging. Conflict that is respectful, where the issues get resolved, is ok for children and teens.  Conflict that is disrespectful, devaluing, dangerous, loud and frequent scares children and can lead to psychological problems.  You might want to consider divorce if no matter how hard you and your partner try to get along, you just can’t. You have attempted couples counselling, and it didn’t work.  It seems that every day, the tension and the conflict get worse. Children and teens can feel the pressure in the home, leading them to feel unsafe. 

Children have often said to me, “I am happy my parents got a divorce because now I don’t have to listen to them fight anymore.” 

Severe substance abuse

Substance abuse can result in neglectful, hurtful, dangerous and damaging behaviour. Make sure that your partner that is addicted does not drive your children around.  

Criminal behaviour

Ultimately, parents should be a role model for their children.  If one of the parent’s is breaking the law, this is setting a bad example for your children. Children whose parents violate the law are more likely to break the law themselves.

If you or your children are in danger of domestic violence, please contact the police right away. Plan an exit strategy that keeps you and your children safe. Never allow anyone to sexually, physically, emotionally or verbally harm you or your children.


If you have feel that you would like to talk to someone either as an individual or as a family then please do contact me on +852 2521 4668 or email 

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Category(s):Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues, Divorce / Divorce Adjustment, Ending a relationship issues, Parenting, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD, Relationships & Marriage

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Registered Clinical Psychologist (HK)

Dr. Borschel specializes in Attachment, trauma and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, and loss of finance. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

From Nov 2020 Dr. Borschel is only available for online consultations.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based therapy along with EMDR and Brainspotting enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help her clients to overcome anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology (HKSCP). Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), and the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA).

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