Should a couple stay together for the children?
This question came up recently in a discussion with a few friends.
One said emphatically that a couple should not stay in a relationship that doesn’t work because it ultimately hurts the kids. The other believed that all relationships, unless abusive, can be salvaged and should be, for the sake of the children. She argued that children having one home as opposed to two is preferable, and both parents should put the children first as their top priority, forsaking their own emotional needs.
Although I love my children more than life itself, I believe that staying together “for the sake of the children” is a huge disservice to both ourselves and to them.
As our marriage was approaching its end, my ex asked me to stay in our marriage as a pseudo business partnership for the sake of the children. I chose to end the marriage so that we could both have the opportunity to model for our children what a healthy, loving relationship looks like. I did not get divorced lightly. I fought hard for my marriage for two years, but ultimately the issues were insurmountable.
Since my youngest was three at the time we divorced, he would have had an entire lifetime of watching two people with no real relationship share a house as co-parents. And I didn’t want to model that for my sons.
I want them to be whole, loving, emotionally available men who know that love is a partnership and a joy when both are participating with open hearts. That love is a verb. That both partners are responsible for the success of the relationship. The kind of men whose wives adore them, and whose children look at them and say, “This is the type of man I want to marry.”
I know this is possible. These men do exist. I know many.
And my boys are on their way.
I am still single, but they see that I am happy. And their dad is happy in his new marriage. They are even navigating life with a new half-brother.
And I am pursuing my own dreams while also being their mom.
I am showing them that life is big and beautiful and their dreams are accessible, by modeling this and encouraging them.
And by watching me, they are learning that life is not about finding a partner to fix them, but to be whole in themselves—and then finding joy in relationship.
By watching both of their parents live their lives, they are seeing what is available to them. And I believe they will be better men for it.
I know for some, there is acrimony between the ex’s. Sometimes third parties are involved, and there is resentment. And it’s not pretty.
But life isn’t always pretty.
There are always lessons for us to learn as we travel through life, and our children chose us for their life lessons. We are their stewards and guides and we are here to help them become who they are meant to be. If more is needed, there is also professional help available to help them navigate the bumps.
Ultimately, our children love us and want us to be happy. Doing so is a gift we give to them, as well as to ourselves.
If your relationship is truly over, go.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kendra Hackett
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Wee Lakeo/Flickr