I haven't posted in a while, but I have a thought that I want to share. Here's the first draft of the essay inspired by commentary over on polyamory...
How Staying Together For the Kids is a Crock of Shit:
I don't ever EVER want to hear somebody tell me that they're staying in their bad relationship for the sake of the children, or to keep the family together.
I really hate it when people say that.
My parents were together for over 25 years when they finally decided to break up and get a divorce. I was in my early 20s, my brothers were both still teen-agers. We were all still living in the house at the time. Mom came to me in tears telling me that she was divorcing my father. She clearly expected me to yell or tell her I hated her or something.
I did nothing of the kind. I said, "It's about time."
She blinked at me in surprise. "What?"
"It's about time, Mom. You're about five years overdue for this."
She was confused; wasn't I supposed to be devastated that she and my father were *gulp* DIVORCING!?!
I had seen my parents becoming better and better at hurting each other, and not even on purpose! I had learned about co-dependency and adult children of alcoholics, and had been through counseling myself as a kid. I had seen the relationships I built crumble down because I was trying to emulate a pattern that does not work. I had experienced the triangulation and was tired of it. I was watching my parents drift further and further apart and yet still trying to keep it together.
Living in that house was a nightmare.
Nobody was an alcoholic, but my father was raised by spectacularly dysfunctional raging alcoholics, with multiple siblings. Mom came from a family that is a textbook example of co-dependency.
They were both stuck in this rut of trying to make the relationship into something incompatible with the other person.
They'd been smart enough to put me in counseling and seek professional help when my anxieties were overwhelming me in school and I started to become a neurotic, they'd gotten family counseling at the time but didn't continue it because I was better. (It didn't occur to them that they might want to continue anyway for themselves...)
My brothers were kind of pissed about the divorce. The older one suddenly got happy about it when he discovered that the divorce decree stated that Dad was responsible for making sure the boys went to college, and that he was financially responsible for their housing and a percentage of their tuition. (Sadly, I was too old to be included in this deal.)
My youngest brother was still about 13 or 14 and was the one who took the longest to come around about it. He went to great lengths to reach out to our Dad and became very close with him.
I later on pointed out that he probably would NOT be as close to Dad if they'd stayed married. Dad was becoming the ghost that lived in our house. He was sleeping in the mostly unfinished basement/workroom, we never knew when he was home, we never knew what he was doing or where he was, and he wouldn't talk to us. I remember one day I was sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and my mom, both of my brothers were in the room, too.
Dad came in and we greeted him. He kind of looked around the room and greeted my boyfriend, but not any of the rest of us.
And that greeting kind of freaked my boyfriend out.
Both of my parents are remarried.
Both of my step-parents are remarkable people, and I love them both very much. My father found a woman who is strange enough to understand him and listen more than she talks. She is by no means a pushover, but knows when the wind is blowing that the flexible tree remains standing after the storm. She is wise and talented and amazing.
My mother found a man who was her great friend, and the two of them are deeply in love. He's affectionate with her and amused by her quirks (instead of irritated by them.) He speaks his mind and listens to her thoughts. They dream the same dreams and work together to keep the money situation on an even keel.
Both of my parents are involved in healthy, loving, beautiful relationships. And now, I'm learning how to do that myself!
If you say that you're miserable in your relationship but are staying in it "for the kids", you're a coward and a fool.
You're a fool because you're ignorant or deluding yourself: Do you seriously think you can keep that misery secret from your children? Your children see everything; know more than you give them credit for. The only thing you will teach them is that either they're not good enough to have a healthy relationship (because you don't have one) or that your misery is THEIR FAULT. Look at your relationship, look at what it is doing to you and doing to your partner. Is this the life you want your kids to lead when they grow up and fall in love?
You're a coward because your'e hiding behind your kids. You don't want to upset them. You don't want to deal with the aftermath of the large life-changing event of divorce. You're afraid of what your ex might do to prevent you from seeing your kids, or you're afraid that your kids will hate you for divorcing your spouse.
Let go of your fear.
Fear is the mindkiller after all, and you need your mind clear and focused to deal with the issues at hand.
Your children love you and love your spouse. They can still love both of you if you live in separate houses. It's possible that they may love you even more for being courageous. It's possible that without your spouse present to make you crazy that you will be able to love your children even more, too.
Consider that if you want to keep the family together, both partners HAVE to change. Not one, not just you, but both of you. And you cannot CANNOT change your partner. Ever. You have no control over them or their behavior. Influence, yes, but the pair of you are going to need counseling from a professional in order to get out of the hole of hatred, and resentment.
You are both going to have to become different people, and be prepared for the fact that your kids are going to rebel against the new order either way. Get help and stay strong and DO it, one way or the other. If you do not, you doom your kids, actually.