Last night I made the mistake of saying to B that I wondered if he was only staying married to me for “the sake of the kids.” I was the second time I have asked and in further contemplation I realized I didn’t truly want to know the answer. (Why I ask these difficult questions is a thought for another day!)
The first time I asked that very painful question was about a week into the “maybe” D.I.V.O.R.C.E. when B and I were talking about how difficult a separation would be for our particular set of kids. As we walked he said under his breath, “Well, maybe we will just stay together for the sake of the kids.” That answer has been bothering me ever since.
“Wait a minute,” I replied at the time. “I’m not staying in this marriage if it is only for the sake of the kids. I want and I deserve more. Our kids deserve more too. If that is the only reason you are here then we do not belong together and we had better wrap this thing up right now because I will not live in a lifeless/loveless marriage. I am too selfish.”
Unfortunately,I think parents often feel like they are doing their children a favor by waiting until their kids are grown and off on their own before they begin the process of divorce. But children sense when something is wrong and can pick up signals that they misinterpret leading to self blame or problems in their own future relationships.
Staying together “for the sake of the kids” also creates guilt for young adult children when it occurs to them that their parents sacrificed their own happiness for them in the form of trying to be the “ideal intact” family. No one wants to feel beholden to their parents in this way.
Another problem with staying together “for the sake of the kids” is that as parents we model what a marriage is suppose to look like for our children. If there is animosity, fighting or belittling a partner our kids tend to find themselves in the same sort of relationships later on down the line. And is that what we really want for their future?
I would like to think that if B and I remain together it will be because we have once again made our marriage the number one priority in our lives and that it will not be for “the sake of the children.” Because frankly intact is not better especially if truth, admiration, respect and love is missing in the equation. Especially truth.
Last week after intense questioning about why we were seeing a counselor, I told the kids that mom and dad were going to see a therapist because we had been married a long time and that we had forgotten how to communicate with each other so we were having the therapist teach us a better way of talking to one another. I also told them that we were going on date night because when you have been married as long as we have sometimes you forget how to have fun together and we loved each other enough that we wanted to spend time together having fun. And that is the truth and it is what needs to be told.
Several hours later after being told he needed to ponder the answer to my question, B came to me and said, “I have been thinking about it and on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 staying together ONLY for the sake of the children, I would have to say I am at a 2.5”
And with that I breathed a sigh of relief because it tells me that neither of us are staying together for just the sake of the children but instead for the sake of a relationship that we both care enough to work together to fix…219 days to fix this!