"Divorce is devastating for kids."
"It's so hard living between two homes. Sharing your kids is torturous. How difficult is it for kids to feel as if they're in the middle?"
"One home and one set of parents are much better than two homes and multiple new partners or stepparents that might just be — gasp — awful."
"Divorce means kids will grow up to be adults who never commit. Divorce means kids will grow up with issues and scars. A married family is so much better for kids"
"Just stick it out. It can't be that bad. Right?"
Have you heard any of those phrases before? Have you told yourself any of those phrases before? Have you bought into the idea that staying in a marriage is better than leaving it? Have you bought into the fact that a broken marriage together is better than starting over, divorced and apart, for your kids?
I believed those things. My ex-husband believed those things. We found ourselves ridden with guilt and pain over how bad it was going to be for our daughter that we forgot to pay attention to how bad it was for her with us staying together. We forgot to consider what being unhappily married would do to her because we were so convinced that getting a divorce would be her Kryptonite — leaving her a sad and lost child only to grow up into an even sadder and more confused adult. We hadn't thought about what the big picture might be if we stayed together, unhappily.
Right before we decided to separate, our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter stopped to interject between my ex-husband and me saying, "Cool it, Daddy."
He wasn't yelling. In fact, we justified ourselves by saying we never yelled or fought nastily in front of her. No, the tough fights were always at night when she was asleep. But it didn't matter: our daughter saw it all. She saw through our "we're not really fighting" fighting, and called us on it. At two-and-a-half years old!
Think about it. How many fights, undertones, shades of unhappiness and darkness, and then some do your children witness on a daily basis? How many times do your children see sad, angry, depressed, irritable, or distant parents? While your broken marriage goes on, how many times and days are you missing out on being happy and truly able to enjoy your kids? How many times are you wasting moments being stressed by a toxic relationship instead of being incredibly focused and calm, able to enjoy your life?
How many times have you wondered how you can make things better with your partner, only to discover that you have tried everything and yet still are failing miserably? How many times do you think "It will get better in time" and then look to see that days, weeks, months, and years even are gone, unable to be gotten back?
And as you feel these emotions and wonder when will it get better and when will life seem easier, your kids are doing the same thing.
They are wondering:
Why are Mom and Dad so unhappy?
Why do my parents fight so much?
Why are my parents so distracted?
Why can't my parents be like X, Y and Z's parents?
What have I done wrong to deserve an unhappy family?
Why can't we be happy?
Why can't I make my mom and dad happy? Aren't I enough? Aren't we enough, as a family?
Staying together is unraveling your kids.
Staying together is wasting seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of your kids' lives.
Staying together is robbing your children of the chance to have a healthy and happy childhood. It is teaching them to stay together at every cost of sanity and mind in a place of toxicity and negativity. It is teaching them to settle. It is teaching them to sit with depression, anger, and frustration and bear it all.
It is not offering them the picturesque view of married life as you're imagining it. It's offering them a world of instability and pain. Or in other words, hell.
Perhaps it's time to start thinking about divorce for the kids' sake.