Over the weekend, I got an email from a woman who told me that she and her husband had recently had a fight and he blurted out that he didn’t even love her anymore, but that he was staying married “for the sake of the kids.” She had no idea how to respond to this. Of course, she was devastated. But, she also wondered if she should stay in a “loveless marriage” or if it would be more detrimental to the kids to divorce than to remain in a household where one of the parents didn’t love the other.
It was hard for her to separate her feelings about a divorce and her feelings about her husband. Although she was annoyed with him, she did still love him and she wanted to make the marriage work. If it were up to her, there would be no divorce. So, in the following article, I’ll tell you what I told her about how to view this situation right now, but how to also turn it around in the future.
Divorce Vs Parents Who Don’t Love Their Spouses From The Viewpoint Of Your Child(ren): First, I want to get how the kids fit into this out of the way. Sure, it’s detrimental for a child to grow up in a household where there is no love at all. But, this woman’s situation was not one where both parents did not deeply love their kids. Both of them adored their children – so much so that it was their kids that were keeping them hanging in there.
With that said, divorce is devastating to children. Honestly, if you had asked me as a kid if I would rather my parents get divorced so I would never have to see them fight again, or if I would rather they remained married, but combative, I would’ve chose the fighting in an intact family any day of the week.
Now, to be fair, my parents’ fights weren’t out of hand or physically and verbally abusive. There were a lot of great times, so when they did separate and eventually split up all together, I used to dwell on why they couldn’t focus on the good times as a stepping stone to working things out. I realize that parents can not live for their children, but I also feel that saying kids would rather have happy parents than parents in a loveless marriage is often not true – at least from the viewpoint of the child. In fact, what I believe that what the child really wants is for you to work it out so that you can all be happy again – together, as a family. And, there is often a lot of resentment once the divorce puts a lot of financial strain on the family and there are drastic lifestyle changes which often makes the kid feel guilty and caught in the middle.
I realize that there are people who will tell you that the divorce was better for them and their families, but, from personal experience, I’m not one of them. I now have two step parents who are both lovely people and I now have small, younger sisters. I am now married myself and I realize exactly how hard it is to keep a marriage going (in fact, I almost divorced a few years ago), but the child in me still can not forget how painful it was for my parents to split up, and every Christmas, when I have to celebrate with two families, it just honestly feels wrong. I realize this is selfish of me, but it is truly how I feel.
Your Children Don’t Want You To Stay Together For Their Sake, But They Want You To Find A Way To Become A Happy, United Family Again: My mother’s friends used to say things like: “aren’t you glad that your parents are happy again and that you don’t have to hear the fighting any more?” I suppose I was glad that there was no more fighting, but, what I really wanted was for there to be no more fighting because they had found a way to be happy again – together. I wanted for them to be happy together – not separately.
No one is going to argue that it’s not good for a child to grow up in a tense, unhappy home. But, before you divorce, ask yourself if it’s possible to change your marriage (and not the status of it) so that your child can grow up in a happy home that includes both of their parents. Sometimes, this isn’t possible. I concede that. There are some marriages that just can’t be saved, but I’ve seen countless seemingly dead marriages turn around because both parties were committed to making that happen and finally found the right tools to be successful.
Separating The Kids From Your Marriage: This is going to sound a bit strange when I say it, but often, while the kids are the glue that holds the parents together, they’re also often the thing that stresses the marriage the most. Stay with me while I explain. What I mean by that is that often children will turn two people who were deeply in love and focused on one another into two people who begin to focus more on their kids once they are born. You are now less lovers and more mom and dad.
I honestly believe that “falling out of love” or “not loving each other anymore” is more the result or neglect, not taking the time, and shifting priorities, rather than changing feelings or the fact that the chemistry is no longer there. Often, the chemistry is very much still there – but you’ve buried it under a sea of obligations. Often, if you push everything else to the back burner for a while and focus only on the marriage and giving your spouse the time, attention and appreciation you did when you were dating, you’ll find that the two people who fell in love are still in there somewhere.
And, quite honestly, the best gift that you can give your kids is two parents who love each other, and them, very much. But sometimes, you have to spend regular time away from the kids to give them this. They would much rather you be a little selfish and have regular date nights than to grow up in two separate homes.