woman taking off wedding ring

“I mean the truth is, we can’t stand each other. But we stay together for the kids.

I’ve written this anonymously because it’s not about me. It’s not about my partner. And I don’t want anyone to think it’s a cry for help or a lament for my own marriage. It’s not. It’s just a strongly held opinion that if the kids are your only reason for staying together, it’s not enough. And it’s actually unhealthy for your kids if you stay together.

I grew up in a family where divorce was not an option. My parents hated each other for most of my childhood, and my siblings and I were the reason they stayed together. My parents often placed us between them — we were mediators for their conflict and counselors for their heartaches. They told us that family (us) was more important than their happiness.

It was miserable. Because they were miserable.  

And it’s not just a generational thing. I hear the exact same thing over and over again, now, from friends who are in unhappy or abusive marriages. “I am miserable. I do not feel safe. But I am staying for the kids.”

I’m under no illusions that a marriage relationship needs to always be happy. It’s not always. But when a relationship brings you nothing but prolonged misery, something needs to change. Kids are very perceptive, and they pick up on every dynamic in the household. More often than not, they either feel responsible for your misery (and take on guilt), or they do whatever they can to take away your misery (again, assuming more responsibility than is theirs to carry).

If there are dynamics of abuse, and you stay “for the kids,” it teaches the kids that abuse is OK, that you are not worthy of better, and that your safety (and sometimes theirs) is not worth more than “the family unit.” The parenting dynamics that we witness as children often become our own struggles, mirrors, and frameworks.

Sure, there are lots of places where we do need to press through conflict and discord in marriage. There are seasons — lasting years, even — that are hard. This is the reality of two imperfect, opinionated humans living together and trying to raise imperfect, opinionated little humans. But when the kids are your ONLY reason for staying together — when you can’t realistically see hope for a changed future or when you aren’t able to remember aspects of your spouse that you still love or when you can’t find glimmers in the present of things that are good — maybe it’s actually healthier for the kids for you to separate.

Your happiness impacts theirs. Your safety impacts theirs.

Is divorce an option any of us want? No. Is it the ideal we dream of when we’re little? No. But sometimes, it’s the healthiest choice for all involved.

Marriage has to be about more than just the kids.

They deserve better than that. And so do you.


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