I was visiting my parents and their TV was playing a Dr. Phil episode about children of divorce. As I listened to him read a list of negative issues common to these children, I felt a deep heaviness. My children have several of those issues and in spades. In fact, my children had stronger reactions to my divorce than any children that I’ve known or even heard of. And according to Dr. Phil’s list, there is quite possibly more fall-out to come in my children’s futures and even in their own marriages someday.
Cue the guilt and the second-guessing. I made the best decision, right? As good parents, we often carry more guilt than we should. We love those little buggers and want to do right by them. Yes, I do believe that as an individual, I am worthy of being healthy and happy.
But as a parent, I will definitely be my happiest if I am doing what’s right for my children. And since divorce hadn’t touched my extended family and friends, I had no first-hand experience with divorce and its affect on kids. It really frightened me and I couldn’t get past the guilt about what it could do to my children. I was staying married. Period.
About 17 years into the marriage, I began to lose unexplained weight; I couldn’t eat and I would vomit after time with my husband. My hands developed tremors that never let up and I was no longer able to have any quality sleep because I developed Restless Arm and Leg Syndrome. On top of that, the occasional, undiagnosed pain that had started years before had slowly increased to a constant, very painful state.
If I had a body part that could hurt, it hurt. Headaches were a part of daily life, and I could tell that my carpel tunnel had flared up again as well. Even before the extreme weight-loss left me almost emaciated (88lbs at my lowest), my loved ones had grown frightened. And once these health issues flared up, they stayed for way too long. It was a scary, frustrating ride.
My body was giving me very important information, though. When facing major decisions, we need to check in with our body. It may sound silly or new age-y, but deep inside of you is clarity. Carve out some quiet time where you can be alone and ask yourself, and your body, if getting a divorce is right for you and your children. A positive answer will always make you feel lighter. Your body’s negative response will make you feel heavy and possibly darker. (You will not get accurate information if you’ve had drinks or taken prescription pain reliever. It’s easy to get a false sense that everything is OK as it is.) And like exercising a muscle, this becomes easier with practice.
Here are three questions to ask yourself before deciding to get a divorce:
1. Would I want my kids to have a marriage like ours? When my body had started shutting down (or at least that’s what it felt like), I decided I needed to reevaluate my situation. I came up with “big picture” questions that really diluted everything and made the truth easier to identify. I needed to step back from all of the guilt and drama and ask myself if I would want our children to have a marriage like ours.
This helped me to realize that I wasn’t overreacting to the events taking place in my marriage. Once I saw those events as unacceptable for people I loved, I saw them as unacceptable for me as well. And actually, our children could very well have similar marriages someday (although I truly hope not). We all know that children learn so much by watching us. Ending an unhealthy marriage could help them understand your true value and theirs.
2. Will you be happy with your spouse once the kids have moved out? When considering divorce while your children are young, it’s important to also take a look at what your life will be like when they have grown and left your home.
When it’s just you and your spouse, will you be happy, satisfied, fulfilled (and safe)? While we are so involved in the day-to-day business and chaos that comes along with an active young family, it might be easier to believe that you are happy enough.
When putting a great deal of time and focus on our children, there aren’t as many one-on-one moments with our spouse. Where will your marriage be when you have an empty nest? You will have invested several years of your life in the relationship by that point.
3. Are you where you want to be? Along that same vein, I think it’s only natural at a pivotal moment like this to take a look at why you are here. As in, why are you on this Earth? Maybe this isn’t something you’ve deeply considered before.
But, would it help to consider whether you can be the person you were meant to be if you stay married to your spouse? Will you be able to do the things you want to do and have the experiences your soul craves? In my marriage, I no longer felt like myself and I hadn’t for quite some time.
I was feeling increasing anxiety over the events of my marriage. And yet, a numbness was settling deep inside of me. I felt less “me,” and I suspected it was only going to get worse.
Throughout all those years of marriage, I can say that I tried. I really tried everything I could. Maybe I should have ended it long before I did.
My oldest child, now 18, is still carrying a little anger that I stayed as long as I did. I’ve tried to explain that I took the decision very seriously. I wanted the best for them and for me, and I knew there would be suffering for all of us if I left. I also knew there would be a larger amount of drama than in most divorces. She still maintains that in my gut, I had to have known that it wasn’t right to stay.
I can’t go back and change anything. If I didn’t lead us in the best direction in the best timing, I am truly sorry for that. Apparently, I could only move forward with the divorce once I was really certain.
I do wish that I hadn’t been so blindly insistent on staying. And I really wish that I had asked myself the right questions long before my body had to start screaming the answers. However, because I stayed I am the proud mother of four beautiful children. I love being a mom to these kids. Not every detail of our new life is exactly as I’d like it to be yet, but I have faith we’ll get there. Every day I’m grateful that I have my children and every day I’m grateful for my divorce.
More from DivorcedMoms