Divorce is, by no means, an easy decision to make. Once your marriage is in trouble, you will have many factors to consider when deciding to either continue with an unhappy union or break-up. If you have children, they may be one of the primary reasons you resolve to stay.
Of course, no one wants to disrupt the lives of children, make them unhappy, or contribute to long-lasting problems. By nature, parents do everything in their power to insulate their kids from negative experiences; so, it’s not surprising that as many as one in four couples may only remain married for the sake of their kids, even though they may plan to split when the children are older or perceived to be in a better place to handle the splitting of their parents.
As loving and logical as it may seem to maintain a marriage to protect kids, is it actually a valid point?
Here’s three reasons why I say “staying together for the sake of the kids” isn’t a good enough reason on its own:
1. Couples who are unhappy have a difficult time concealing their dissatisfaction. Marital misery is almost impossible to contain, and will usually reveal itself through a variety of behaviors including impatience, cold or rude interactions, disinterest in one another or each other’s activities, avoidance of time together, and general apathy or negativity. Try as they might to pass off their situation as “normal”, hostility and a lack of genuine attachment are obvious to others- including children!
I recall my own observations of my parents growing up. My mom always seemed irritated with my dad, no matter what he did. They were unaffectionate and almost robotic with one another, and I always remembered the way they interacted and knew I didn’t want a relationship like that when I grew up!
Don’t think that you’re fooling anyone, especially your kids who are privy to see so much more of how their parents interact than anyone else. Do you think your kids want to see their parents angry, irritated, or tuned out more often than not?
2. If your marriage is struggling, chances are that you’re home has more than its fair share of conflict. An environment of conflict is not healthy for children. Children should not be subjected to regular physical or verbal aggression or disharmony. Your child should not have to feel as though they are walking on eggshells or endure the fear and sadness of seeing mommy and daddy fight!
Conflict in my home was one of the main reasons I decided I should divorce for my kids! I felt that it was unhealthy and unfair for them to have a daily front row seat to their parents who couldn’t get along. I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking it was normal to be intimidating and mean to his partner, and I didn’t want my daughter to grow up seeking this type of partner and reenacting what she saw in her childhood.
3. When you are in a situation that makes you unhappy (a job, where you live, your relationship, and so on), it’s natural to let the feelings about those circumstances effect every other area of life and how you feel and act. Marriage is a huge part, if not almost entirely, of one’s life. You live with this person, share time and resources with them, are affected by their actions, make decisions together, and everything else. If that’s not working, you will surely show it. Your attitude, perspective about life, and all else will be colored with sadness and frustration.
I recognized that I didn’t like who I was when I was with my ex-husband. I was extremely depressed, impatient, angry, lacking in enthusiasm and motivation, and generally counting the minutes for each day to be over. I found myself crying on the way home from work on Fridays because I knew I would have to spend a whole weekend at home with him. It got to the point where I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to live.
My kids deserved a mother who was energetic, warm, affectionate, stable, strong, and happy. I was completely unable to be any of those things while married to their father. I strongly suspected that I could be the mom and woman I wanted to be in a different environment away from the conflict and dysfunction. I also surmised that it wasn’t only me who could transform into the best version of self. I was sure that my ex would also be able to transform to an improved state of being away from me.
I was right on both counts! I was able to heal from my depression and rejoin the living, so to speak, by regaining my humor, confidence, optimism, and spark that had been missing for so long! My kids now benefit from having two strong and happy people for parents instead of two who could barely function to give them what they need.
Divorced parents aren’t on any child’s wish list, but often kids come to realize that divorce brought about necessary changes in their lives. Most of all, kids want to be able to have a loving relationship with both parents and to live in a calm and supportive environment. Even if living part time between two homes becomes the new reality, this is preferential to almost anyone to living in one home with two parents who can’t behave in a respectful, loving, or cooperative manner.
You, as a parent, have the power to give your child the parent and home they deserve. If you decide to do so by divorcing their other parent, then you may succeed in creating a setting where they can thrive by eliminating the stress and shadow of conflict because of a spouse you can’t get along with. You may also succeed in being able to model mature, rational conflict resolution, what a healthy relationship looks like, and how a strong parent takes care of business!
The flipside of these possibilities is that you may also deliver your child into a worse situation than ever before if you and their other parent persist in a spirit of not being able to put differences aside. If you divorce, don’t strip your children of two parents under the same roof who fight all the time for two parents under two different roofs who will fight even more about even more things!
Co-parenting is not easy. Parents often disagree about how to handle things or struggle with communication and other issues. If you and your ex can make a commitment to remaining child-centric and pushing your ill feelings for one another to the side to parent happy and healthy kids, you can finally achieve success for the benefit of your kids!
If you continue to battle even though you are apart, then all you will have done is perpetuated a culture of dysfunction for the duration of your children’s childhood! Think about that!
The choice to divorce or not will ultimately be yours. If it’s “for the children,” then make sure you make the choice that will actually have the most positive impact on their lives!
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