Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Article by Atri Das
Illustrations by Roshmija Biswas*
14 July, 20
“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.” — Erma Bombeck
No matter how blunt the statement seems, a deeper dive will give you the stark reality of what marriage means! It’s not only the union of two souls but a lifelong treaty to love, like and support each other. With it’s rosy days, comes the thunderstorm which may last for ever and destroy everyone associated with the marriage, if not handled properly.
Marital disputes have not been an unfamiliar incident to the society. They are much beyond than only disagreement between the partners. The couples' determination to prove themselves right works adversely on their children, often blurring their perception on who is right and who is not. Children are said to be the worst sufferers in these types of conflicts. And by children it is not reduced to the list of sufferers to only the minors but include adolescents too. For children it’s more like facing the entire storm, often becoming the punching bag and for teens it becomes a wrath, a nightmare to last a lifetime, often falling prey to poor relationship handling themselves, later in life!
The ‘Monkey see, monkey do’ policy: How it works!
Children are used to take a "monkey see, monkey do" policy of learning according to one of the studies conducted by Yale. Albert Bandura introduced this concept in the year 1977 through a Bobo Doll experiment and quoted "Most human behaviour is learnt from others through observation and modelling.” As per his experiments it was concluded that children learn and adapt quickly the behaviouristic characteristics through observation. It is similar to what Yale suggested about observational learning which simply means the process of mimicry. Younger the child, more chances of learning through observation, whether we talk about positive or negative behaviour.
Long term effects:
While children may not be affected witnessing these conflicts in the short run, it may leave them anxious and unresolved if we talk about a long-term view. They become prone to developmental and emotional problems as these conflicts successfully and unconsciously invade the child's emotional security zone. Further they may fall prey to habituation and normalise the actions performed by the parents during conflicts like cursing, beating, shouting, throwing and breaking objects etc.
As per the observation learning theory children may internalise the verbal and physical aggressive acts and assume that these actions are completely normal in a conflict-ridden situation rather than having a more rational or calmer approach to the problem. Older children may feel threatened and confused about the life with either of the parents, specially when they are left to chose any one to live with. Choices may become material driven rather than an emotional bonding like need for school fees, daily expenses, materialistic demands and the like which in turn lead to long term damage of self esteem and detachment from the other parent. This approach-avoidance conflict may snowball into severe stress and take a toll on the overall normal functioning for the child or teen.
Lastly children may also strain their relationship with their parents which may create a void and could potentially last their entire lifetime. Not only hatred but also indifference may arise out of the entire conflict situation which in turn leads to abandonment of parents in later life.
Common feelings experienced by children in the long term due to marital conflicts
When we talk about feelings, it’s mostly the negative ones which surfaces due to parental conflict. Here are a few most common feelings associated with marital discord which also has some long-term implications:
Fear: uncertainty about future, getting hurt, abandonment
Anxiety: future disruptions or further conflicts
Irritable and low mood: due to constant negative environment which may also lead to depression
Regret: of being born to such parents
Hatred: towards parents and negative attitude towards marriage
Jealousy: about peers for having better life and better parents
Ignorance: may seep in after being exposed to the situation for a long term leading to indifference
Frustration: inability to with stand the conflict and aggression any more which may also lead to anger out bursts
Low self-esteem: poor self-image and poor problem-solving skills
Feelings of insecurity regarding physical, emotional and material needs
Avoidance: avoiding people in order to steer away from discussion based on parental conflict. This in turn may lead to different addictions where the child finds solace
Desire to leave home early in life to avoid further confrontations
Lack of resources and support
And Hey, Young one! If you are reading this then…
Have faith in yourself and your parents, all they need right now is some love and kindness.
Remind them how they both put in so much love and hard work to bring you up!
Ask them to avoid the bitterness, wrath, anger and din and converse rationally about the problem. You might urge them to accept and forgive each other.
And for those who didn't get the chance to resolve this with your parents, may you lift off yourself from the regret and reparent yourself changing the toxic patterns. May everyone find peace!
If as a parent you are reading this then…
Try to be calmer in your approach, sort out things when your child is not around and more over seek help. There are several instances which may overwhelm you and take drastic decisions and impulsive actions. Try and take a time off and think it over!
Sometimes asking for help and suggestions may open up a whole new world of possibilities and clear misunderstandings! Your child needs a good life, and as parents you can help your child feel safe, secure and loved! Just like you want from your partner….
“Maybe it won’t work out. But maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever.”
Facing concerns about your relationship?
*All illustrations are original work and may not be copied for business purposes. Anyone interested to use may write a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org