Is a Parenting Marriage Healthy for Your Children?
Parenting marriage, a concept first coined by licensed therapist Susan Pease Gadoua, is an alternative to traditional divorce arrangements. Sometimes called platonic marriage, it develops out of love and dedication to a couple's children." While there is no longer a romantic relationship or a sense of couplehood between two parents, there remains a strong sense of parenthood. Two people who aren’t in love and are moving on in their personal lives live in the same house to act as a team for their kids. A parenting marriage is similar to a partnership or business arrangement with healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids as the positive outcome.
The love and support from a parenting marriage can come in other arrangements. When many couples divorce, they no longer live together but do co-parent together. Is living together in a parenting marriage healthy for children? It has pros and cons. We’ll look at both so you can begin to decide if this type of arrangement is right for you, your former spouse, and your children.
Benefits of a Parenting Marriage
For some people, a parenting marriage is an excellent fit for their family. What this new relationship lacks in romantic and sexual intimacy, it makes up for in parental love.
This deliberately forged family relationship can be quite healthy for children. Kids can blossom because of:
- Continued family bonding
- Activities are done with both parents present
- Reduced tension between the parents
- Equal affection from both parents together
- Kindness and respect between parents (and an end to strained, conflicted interactions)
- The ability to have one home, one that feels like theirs as opposed to “mom’s house” and “dad’s house”
Divorce and physical separation can be hard on kids. A parenting marriage can avoid these pitfalls:
- Difficulty adjusting to seeing only one parent at a time
- Parental difficulty spending an entire day or days without seeing their kids, a struggle that can make kids feel guilty or otherwise upset
- Effects of single-parent stress can be felt by kids
When a married couple stops loving each other, it’s hard on parents and kids alike. For some families, creating a parenting marriage is the best option. In these cases, this arrangement is positive and healthy for kids.
Platonic marriages aren’t right for everyone, however. Some people find more drawbacks than benefits.
Parenting Marriages Aren’t for Everyone
Even when parents dedicate themselves to creating a cohesive, supportive home for their kids, they still will experience conflicts and difficulties. Living together, but emotionally and physically distant, can cause negative feelings and thoughts that interfere in positive family interactions.
It can also be a challenge for parents to watch each other move on, building a life with different friends and eventually dating. Children watch and listen to everything, and they can pick up on the tension. Some parents don’t want to subject themselves or their children to this; therefore, they decide that a parenting marriage is the wrong arrangement for them.
Parenting marriages are unhealthy in other ways, too. Sometimes the most well-meaning parents find it nearly impossible to keep negative feelings out of the way. Even subtle tension that continues to creep in can harm kids in multiple ways:
- Decreased academic performance
- Increased behavior problems
- Feeling trapped, anxious, and guilty if parents inadvertently create an emotional tug-of-war to win the status of the favorite parent
- Risk of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem when they must become the peacekeeper of the family (and find that it doesn’t work)
Trying to maintain a parenting marriage, if it isn’t right for you, can damage both parents’ and children’s mental health.
If you’re intrigued by the benefits of a platonic marriage and want to avoid the drawbacks, the following tips can help guide you in building a healthy parenting partnership.
Tips for Creating a Successful Parenting Marriage
Building a parenting marriage that works for you and your kids takes planning, work, and the joined effort of both parents. If you’re successful in planning, your likelihood of success is high. Use these tips to build a strong foundation for your home and family:
- Discuss and plan all aspects of your arrangements, including values, parental goals, parenting style, discipline, financial responsibilities, and more
- Establish ongoing open, honest communication
- Formally agree to give each other the freedom to pursue other relationships
- Consider working with a couples or family therapist to keep yourselves and new relationship healthy
- When your plan is established, have an open discussion with your kids so they understand the family dynamic and continue to trust you.
A parenting marriage can be mentally healthy for children when you establish open communication among family members. Approach interactions as a unified team. Finally, keep in mind your ultimate purpose: the wellbeing of your children enhanced by having both parents present in one place every day.
Peterson, T. (2020, July 4). Is a Parenting Marriage Healthy for Your Children? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, March 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/co-parenting/is-a-parenting-marriage-healthy-for-your-children