I’m only going to say this once, do NOT “stay together for the sake of the children.”
My grandfather once said to me that he believes “Divorce is child abuse.” I believe he thinks this because of all the grief that he’s seen happen to children because of the arguing, fighting, and coordination it takes to raise children in a loveless and irresponsible relationship. However, I disagree that divorce is the worst thing you can do to a child. I believe the worst thing you can do to your children, as a joint decision, is to argue, fight, and be irresponsible in your loveless relationship…and no, I don’t mean divorce. You don’t have to be divorced to behave that way. There are many loveless marriages, relationships, that exist in exactly the same way. In fact, I’ve met several children who told me bluntly, that they wished their parents had gotten divorced and moved away from each other. Furthermore, there exist many divorces in which the adults behave in a way that is as loving as possible with their ex-spouses, for the sake of the children (as well as to live a more healthy and fulfilling life for themselves). You can be divorced and not call your ex names in front of your children and refuse to argue in front of them. You can refuse to play the telephone game, using your child as the messenger. You can instead, pull up your big boy/girl pants and talk to the person who’s hurt you. Yes, “for the sake of your children.” The children whose parents were in irresponsible marriages whom did not get divorced are often guilty of all these same things. Just because you put a different name or label on the relationship doesn’t mean the behaviors or feelings of that relationship is any different than as if you’d called it something else. It isn’t just the divorcees who are guilty of these behaviors. You can be a forgiving, kind, and loving person to even the people you divorce, but sometimes that requires having a healthy space and requires limiting to your emotional distance to them.You can forgive, but still recognize that being in a marriage is not the healthiest thing to do with the person you divorced. Not for you, not for them, not for your children, not for your family.
Divorce doesn’t make you a failure, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. It means that you were mature enough to recognize that the relationship you were in wasn’t healthy, and could not be fixed without more negative than positive consequences to and for all parties involved. Stop demonizing people for trying to live their lives the best way they know how. Stop judging people for a kind of hurt you might never know. And stop speaking for the children, who now as adults, can tell you that you were and are quite wrong. Despite the hurts it caused me, not only do I believe it was the best thing for my sister and I, but that I’m happier that both my parents are free. As a daughter, THAT is what I want for my parents. That is what I wanted for my family.
You know what I think is “child abuse”? Teaching people and their children that divorce means they have lost their family. This is what happened to me, due in great part, to the strong influence that the Catholic religion had on my family. The church continually said (and sometimes still does) that divorce meant that couples were choosing to “destroying their family,” making them cease to exist. The idea that divorce is such a powerful sin that it is worthy of being excommunicated from the faith, kicked out of the church, from your community, your family is to me, barbaric. That divorce is something of which to be greatly ashamed, when in fact, I think it is the religion and its community who should be ashamed. As if couples and parents don’t grieve and feel guilty enough with a divorce, the last thing they need to have all the people they love turn their backs on them. How are they supposed to continue being good parents without the support of their community? How are they supposed to be good parents and set a good example for their children, when their self-esteem has been so unrightful torn from them? Is it really about the children? Then fucking act like it!
Luckily, modern society and even most religions, have begun to turn away from this behavior and attitude (in general), because they are beginning to realize that what unrealistic expectations it places on people, and how unnecessarily cruel it is to treat someone that way simply because their marriage was no longer feasible. As a child, hearing how ashamed my mother was, my grandparents (and how my grandfather STILL believes divorce is “child” abuse), and father felt, is what truly fucked me up. I wanted to defend both my parents, and more than anything was afraid that divorce meant, “I have lost my family.” My family at that time, was everything that I associated with love and stability, and it was all that made sense to me (and the same is true for most children). I felt completely powerless to change anything and that my life was out of control. That I had lost everything good and stable in my life. In truth, my family was very hurt, no one escaped unharmed or unchanged. It was as though we were all re-born, harder but hopefully smarter. However, my family was not “destroyed,” all those people still exist, not unchanged, but they are still there, and they all still love me. I did not “lose my family,” it simply looks different than it used to. It took a very long time for me to figure that out, no thanks to the church.
For one thing, my mother is happy. It tooks years of struggle, depression, and therapy, but she found herself again. Eventually, she even found a wonderful man to share herself with, who’s a much better match for her. My father too, while still struggling with what he wants, has experienced other partnerships and forms of love. He has been able to learn and grow. My sister and I have more realistic expectations of what a marriage should be, and more importantly, when it’s important to walk away because the relationship is toxic. I may not have had that without my parent’s divorce. My outlook on love and romance is not less hopeful, it’s smarter. And I’m not sorry for it. In fact, it makes me feel more confident in whom I pick as a partner. Meanwhile, I have a larger, happier, more emotionally stable family to support me if I ever do struggle with my relationships, or with anything else in life.