I hope you had a great weekend. It was a long weekend in Canada, Victoria Day Weekend to be precise, and it was wonderful to rest, relax and regroup. My kids went back to school this morning after a 6-day break (hallelujah), I went back to the gym, and life returned to normal.
I was chatting with some moms last week about quite a heavy topic, and it took me back to something that happened a couple of years ago. I remember it clearly – at the time, I was grabbing a salad for the road and on the way to my son’s school to serve hot lunch to 650 students. Never one to skip a meal, I was waiting for my salad, when I bumped into an old friend’s sister. I actually found out on Facebook that this old high school friend had recently separated from her husband. Unfortunately, they also had two young children. I proceeded to ask the sister, “How is your sister doing?” To which she replied, “My sister seems much happier and he seems much happier too, so I guess good for them, but I’m not so sure about the kids. I have a different point of view than her. Who’s happy? Who is living in marital bliss? Sometimes you have to suck it up, and stay for the sake of the kids.”
In fact, we hear things like this quite often: couples divorcing after 25 and 30 years of marriage. When you ask many of them why, often they’re quick to answer, “I couldn’t break up my family. I stayed for the kids.”
Is this right? Is this wrong? Is it fair for two miserable people to stay together for the kids’ sake? Depending on the different people you ask, you’ll get a variety answers.
After meeting my friend’s sister in the cafe that day, I started to speak candidly with a few divorcees, and I learned a lot. One separated woman told me, “Trust me, it was worse for my children to live in such chaos and fighting. The kids are thriving now that my husband and I are finally separated. We both have made a conscious effort to create a calm environment in our respective homes, and the kids see that we are finally happy. Albeit happy without each other, but happy nevertheless. And we make the kids our number 1 priority. We come together for the sake of the kids. It’s not easy, but we try our best. We will always be connected through our children, so even though I harbor tremendous resentment toward my ex-husband, I make it work.”
I also spoke to another recently divorced father at the time, and he painted a very different picture. “My children feel displaced. They are doing horribly. They are shuffled around. We do our best to get along for the kids’ sake, but my ex-wife can barely take care of our children now. She’s too busy living her own life. I receive numerous disturbing phone calls from my kids asking me to pick them up from their mother’s house, as she is not properly caring for them. They feel confused, and they are suffering in school. I should have stayed longer and sucked up my unhappiness. I almost wish we could have quietly lived separate lives, but at least I would still be there, and could see them daily. I made a horrible mistake by breaking up my family.”
Wow, that is painfully sad.
I have to tell you, I see both point of views. Now, I’m NOT talking about staying in an abusive marriage, or staying with a serial cheating spouse. I am talking about staying in a loveless and/or toxic marriage.
For myself, I believe in marriage. I take the vow that I made almost 13 years ago very seriously. Call me old fashioned, but personally speaking, if I were unhappily married, I think I would stay for the sake of my kids. I couldn’t go down without a fight. Therapy, whatever it would take to keep us together. I’m just being honest. And for the record, my husband feels the EXACT same way as I do. Aren’t we just perfect for each other?? 😉 He always jokes, that even if we hated each other, he would never leave. He says he’d sooner live miserably together. His reasoning; he couldn’t go a day without seeing our boys.
But then I also see the flip side. When we marry and decide to have children, we envision a family staying together forever. But what if the marriage starts to crumble? I’m not so sure it’s better for everyone to live in a highly anxious and tense environment either. Someone once said to me about this topic, “Would you really want to set the example for your children that your own happiness is not worth anything? That your needs don’t mean or count for anything?” Also, an interesting point. This is a complex issue, one that I truly feel needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
So the burning question is:
“Your relationship is falling apart, or maybe it died long ago. But your children depend on you both for love and security. Should you split up or stay together for their sake?”
I decided that for today, I am not going to give any tips or suggestions. Instead, I think this is a VERY subjective issue, and would like you my readers, to weigh in on this heavy ‘on the fence’ topic. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. What would you do if you had children and were living in an unhappy marriage… stay or leave?
FYI, you are always able to comment anonymously, without an email address or name. I’d like to know your point of view.