Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For the Sake of the Kids…Really? - by Elizabeth Allen

How many unhappily married couples with children have you heard recite the overcooked excuse “We’re staying together for the sake of the kids”? How many of you are saying that even now in your current lives? Let’s take that one step further – do you really believe that staying in a toxic, loveless, dysfunctional relationship is actually healthier for your child than to forge ahead barefooted over burning coals (from which your soles will heal) toward something or someone who will be infinitely better? And what if forging ahead means being a single parent?

“I can’t do it – I need his help with the kids. It’s just not worth the hassle.”

“My parents fought all the time, in fact I’m sure they hated each other. But I turned out all right. I believe it’s more important for my child to have a mother and a father together than for me to be happy.”

“My kids adore their father. They’d hate me if I left him and I couldn’t bear that. At this point in my life, what difference would it make? Besides, who’d want me now?”

“My kids deserve a mother and a father. Moreover, what gives me the right to be selfish? Their needs are more important.”

"We've been together too long. Why rock the boat now?"

“I can’t be alone. I’d rather be in a bad marriage than none at all. At least it’s familiar. After all is said and done, I know what to expect anyway.”

And so on and so on…

My parents stayed together for our sake – the magic number being twelve. They stuck it out until I, the youngest, turned 12 and then went their separate ways. So was it better that two people who battled daily with the ferociousness of Siamese fighting fish lived in the same house and kept up appearances? Gee, let’s see. I don’t recall feeling the love from them as much as anger, grief and desperation. I picked up some vicious verbal strategies when it comes to arguing which would have served me well had I become a lawyer. I observed how two people who have no respect for each other act and I learned how the two most important adults in my young life pretended to be something they weren’t. And I learned to see through the pretense.

Kids know. I don’t care if they’re six or sixteen, boy or girl, functional or autistic – they know when their parents are faking it and when their mother is unhappy. They want their parents to be happy, even if it means living apart. Is it really selfish to extricate yourself from a harmful relationship? I say no. It’s selfish to stay.

Why are we willing to sacrifice our very lives - step in front of a charging bear if need be – to protect our children? But when it comes to breaking up the family which may, in greater likelihood actually fix it, we stall. It’s that hesitation, that lapse in gumption that could mean the difference between evolving into a well-adjusted person who witnessed their mother make tough courageous choices and persevere or evolving into a clone who ends up in and settles for the familiar no matter how bad it is.

For the sake of the kids? Really?

Go ahead and rock the boat. Tip the freaking thing over if need be. Your kids will swim and be stronger for it.

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Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I agree with all of your reasons for couples to divorce in each scenario you describe. But in my case, is it better for my son, who abhors my toxic Mother-in-Law, to have to spend overnights in a dysfunctional house (because my husband would be living with her), where she yells at, berates and verbally abuses my son as my husband backs his Mother up? Or better for my son to spend 90% of his time with his very non-dysfunctional mother, in a home he feels safe and secure in, with parents who are entirely civil to one another because we only discuss household or other similar issues? My husband is hardly around and sees my son 2 afternoons a week and spends one full day (not night) on the weekend. We will be getting divorced sometime this decade. But I'm not rushing it because I strongly and rationally feel that even though my son senses that something is not "right" with our family arrangement, it is much better than being "forced" (i.e. court ordered) to spend overnights and full weekends in a toxic home with toxic family members. As much as I agree with you, my son is staying here with me for as long as possible. His therapy bills will be far fewer in the long run.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Of course I realize that there are always unique circumstances - yours especially! The way I see it, you are clearly running the best interferance you can between your son and the toxic charging bear. I congratulate your candid honesty and bravery.

5:19 AM  

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