When I walked down the aisle and said “I do” over a decade ago, I knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, I knew from both my own childhood and the nearly 3 years I’d already spent with my partner that there would be hard times. Yet despite all the ups and downs we have experienced over the past 13 years, I always believed that the hard times were worth enduring for the sake of our children.
As I find myself in the midst of a divorce, though, I no longer believe that at all.
Yes, I’m fully aware of all the negative implications that divorce has on children. I know that children often blame themselves for their parents’ divorce and that it takes them a long time to adjust to their new lifestyle post-divorce. In fact, I recently read about a research study that proved children of divorce are less likely to finish college. This in and of itself would cause some couples to stay together for their kids.
Furthermore, I know that many experts say that children benefit from two parents in their lives and that parents feel more financially and emotionally stable when they have a teammate. I know that many divorced parents must work longer hours or take on second jobs to maintain the lifestyle their children grew accustomed to before the divorce.
But here’s the reality that any child who grew up in a home with parents who fell out of love: Nobody wins when you stay together for the kids.
My soon-to-be ex-husband and I really tried to stay together. But over the past 3 years, our kids have endured so much. They’ve seen us fight and experienced our frustrations. They’ve spent large chunks of evenings and Saturday mornings at a family friend’s house so that we could attend marriage counseling sessions. Worst of all, though, they’ve literally watched us go from greeting each other with warm hugs and kisses to barely acknowledging each other’s existence.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that my future ex is a terrible person or even a bad father. In fact, I think that he’s a really great dad when he’s not feeling completely defeated. However, I do see moments when we’re apart and firmly believe our children benefit from those times of separation.
When I’m not walking on pins and needles and devoting all of my energy to making my partner happy, I find myself more directly involved with my daughters.
Instead of rushing to clean up the house and make dinner, I spend time talking and making art with my children or having a Kidz Pop dance party in the kitchen as I throw something in the oven.
I see the same thing from my husband on Saturday afternoons when I attend my own therapy sessions. He takes the kids out to lunch, and they often find something fun at Target or our local bargain store. I see him smile when he plays Pokemon cards with our oldest or when he helps our youngest daughter feed her fish.
When I was in middle school, I remember how my friend’s parents fought nearly every time I went over to her house. You could cut the tension in that house with a knife! My friend always had a chip on her shoulder and complained so much about her father that I often felt uncomfortable.
As much as I hate all the stress that divorce entails, I would much prefer that to my daughters growing up in a house full of fighting and completely lacking in love.
Right now life feels a bit unstable, and I can’t decide how I really feel about the ending of my marriage. However, I do know this for sure: Once the dust settles, my children will experience love and joy with two parents who, although they will live in separate homes, will always make the best decisions with their health and happiness in mind. And this is why I no longer believe that it’s best to stay together just for the sake of the children.
Ultimately I don’t care what any expert says or what a random stranger thinks when I tell them I’m divorced. The only two people I care about are the little girls who I brought into this world.
Although I used to believe that it was better to stay with my partner for our kids, I don’t believe that anymore. I’ve seen firsthand how that kind of marriage impacts everyone, and I’m willing to risk so many other problems if that ultimately means that my daughters and I can live our own happily ever after.
Previously Published on Moms.com