You've been unhappy now for a while. It's been so long that you've forgotten what happy looks like. Some people have no idea what you're enduring. On the outside, you two look like a happy couple. But to the people who know you well, they know the full story and there are no pretenses there. You're unhappy, and it shows. Even when you think you're putting on a good show for the kids, you're not. Even if your children can't put their finger on what's wrong with Mommy exactly, they know that their mother is not happy.
And most likely, although I know you don't want to hear this, your kids see you in an unhappy marriage, especially the older children who have the outside world to compare your situation to. But because you're a great mother, you stick around in this unhappy situation, believing wholeheartedly that you must be doing the right thing by staying married for your children. You feel by choosing unhappiness for yourself, you are choosing happiness for your children. Besides, how could you do it by yourself anyway? It would be impossible. You settle for your miserable marriage because you've told yourself it could be worse. They could be worse. You could be worse off. Your kids could be worse off.
Although you don't mean to, you're lying to yourself and hurting yourself . . . and your kids.
Your Depression May Become Your Child's Depression
According to a 2009 report by National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, parental depression has been linked to children's early signs of having a "difficult" temperament and less self-worth, among other negative factors.
Staying in an unhappy marriage so that your children can stay happy may be completely false. If you are unhappy and for a long period of time, how do you expect your children to be isolated from your pain? Do you want your children to feel responsible for your sadness? It's not like they will understand the source of your malaise until they are older. Don't do this to them — or yourself.
It is possible to run a home by yourself. I was a stay-at-home mother who now is the sole provider for my daughter. It takes time to build your income if you're not already working, but if you take it step by step, it is possible to leave a marriage and manage a household alone. Is it easy? Not in the beginning and it's still hard sometimes, but so is parenting. So is life.
If you're working, review your personal finances and your marital ones. See how (if possible) you can pay off debts, work on your credit, and set money aside. If you're not working, take a look at your former résumé. Can a friend help you spruce it up? Look at the job market. Keep tabs of open positions. Do not give up because you haven't worked in a long time. Anything is possible.
Moral of the story: only you are strong enough to decide which is harder: being miserable and trapped, or being free and struggling. Remember: the struggle will end, but the misery, most likely, will not.
Have You Sought Help?
Your marriage is bad. Have you two sought counseling? Have you pursued individual counseling? Perhaps there is some hope of making a change in yourself or in your marriage. Only you know. Talking to your partner is the first step, and if you've already spoken to them and they refuse to go, why don't you go alone? Perhaps you may find the courage you need to make good life changes, whether that includes your current partner . . . or not.
Pretending It's Paradise Is Wrong
Living each day as if nothing is wrong is toxic for your children. Envision them as adults. Would you want them to view the same situation as acceptable? Would you want them to stay? If the answer is no, you need to remove yourself from the unhappiness as well. Teach your kids that no, this isn't OK, and this isn't what love looks like — when it's healthy.
No matter what you choose — marriage counseling, divorce, or your own individual therapy — it doesn't have to be this way. You are in charge of your destiny. Show your children that caring for yourself and your heart is important so that as time goes on, they will do the same.