I need to start this post off with a confession. I know very little about relationships with children involved. I do not have a child. I am clearly on the outside looking in. With that being said.....
I hate to see my family and friends in relationships that are clearly dysfunctional- constant arguments, physical altercations, verbal abuse. I especially hate it when the children of these couples have to witness the dysfunction. The most common reasons I hear for continuing these relationships are "We gotta stay together for the baby." or "My baby needs to grow up with both parents."
In my opinion, these are just excuses. Yes, it's true that children who grow up with relationships with both parents do better in life. BUT the two parents don't have to be in a relationship with each other for the child to have a relationship with each parent. Putting the child first means doing what is in his or her best interest. Sometimes, that means ending an unhealthy relationship with the other parent, no matter how much security you feel that relationship gives you.
There have been so many studies done on how witnessing domestic violence (both verbal and physical) effects a child. You may think your child is too young to understand what is happening but I can tell you from personal experience that that's not true. Children, even very young ones, who witness domestic violence may (among other things):
- act out and become very aggressive (ex: hitting, kicking, biting)
- excessively seek attention
- have nightmares
- exhibit out-of-control behaviors
- have poor anger management or problem solving skills
- bully others
- participate in more high risk play (ex: jumping off high things)
Now, if you have other reasons for being in the relationship, be honest with yourself. If you're afraid that you won't be able to find anyone else, say that. If you think that people will judge you or look down on you for being a single parent, say that. If you don't want the other parent to end up with somebody else, say that. If people don't approve of your relationship and you're afraid to prove them right, say that. If you're afraid of being alone, that is something you need to admit to yourself and work on. But do not use your child as an excuse for staying in an unhealthy relationship because witnessing domestic violence is much worse than having parents that are separated. You need to love yourself and your child enough to remove yourself from that situation. All three of you will be much better off in the end.
I know people will have a lot to say about this post and I welcome the feedback. If I'm wrong, let me know. As I said at the beginning, I am on the outside looking in.