Relationship expert on ‘the right time’ to walk away from a relationship even when you have kids

It's never a good idea to stay in an unhappy marriage - especially when you have children,

Parents fighting over a child
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A relationship expert has revealed the hugely negative impact that parents staying in an unhappy marriage can have on their children and shared that it is never better to stay together for the sake of the kids. 

Navigating marriage while also dealing with the everyday needs of your children can feel like an impossible task. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The harsh truth can be seen in the statistics. Divorce enquiries reached a record high earlier this year and terms like 'gaslighting' have become ever more mainstream. 

But when a relationship breaks down, it's often not just you and your partner who you have to worry about. There's also the matter of the children. Many believe it's better to stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the kids' wellbeing but now relationship expert Paul Carrick Brunson has put a firm stop to that sentiment.

During an appearance on the Lorraine show, Brunson was asked by a viewer whether or not it is better to stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of their children. He quickly responded with a firm 'no.'

"This is a tough one because I understand the desire to stay in the marriage because you think you’re doing it for your children, but it’s actually not the best option, most of the time,” he said.

“If you are in an unhappy marriage, I guarantee you your children know. And chances are there’s conflict, or maybe there’s no emotion at all, and what you’re doing is, your child is learning how to model their behaviour on you, and what they see their parents doing.”

Sometimes, the problems can be fixed by learning how to explain the mental load you're experiencing to your partner or to learn how to better deal with family conflicts, but oftentimes, it's best to step away from the unhealthy environment so your children can thrive in better conditions. 

The truth of the matter is that kids will pick up on the negative emotions you and your partner are experiencing and this can really impact their own mental health. “This ultimately leads to depression, stress, anxiety, and worst of all, it leads to them conducting their relationship the same way," the expert said.

“So I advocate for divorce in a situation like that. You can create a more stable environment for your child and you can model proper behaviour, which is self-love. Don’t feel shamed to stay in a relationship. Pop culture makes us feel like the worst thing in life is being alone. No. The worst thing in life is being in a relationship and still being alone.”

The struggle is one many parents go through. Co-parenting has been a hot topic throughout 2023 and there's plenty of advice out there for parents who are going through a divorce, such as our roundup of 7 rules you need to know before you take your kids on holiday after a divorce

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.