blink-182’s song, Stay Together For The Kids, rose to #7 on the punk charts in its debut year, 2001. The video is searing and disturbing, mirroring the emotional peril kids in divorcing families feel as a wrecking ball destroys their home even as the band sings on. The lyrics speak of a child’s helplessness watching parents who, “Rather than fix the problems/They never solve them/It makes no sense at all.” Years later, we can still ask, should we stay together for the kids?
Is Staying Together the Best Gift You Can Give Your Children?
Sages from all along the spectrum of thought advise the same thing: The best gift you can give your children is parents who love each other
You can find this sentiment everywhere, from The New Age Parents to conservative Christian writer Ron Hutchcraft. What if, though, you and your wife cannot give your children that gift? What if, despite all your best intentions and your attempts at fixing the problems in your marriage, you have no love to give her, or the other way around?
You are faced with the stark choice of keeping the marriage intact so that your children return home to a cold but complete household or dividing the marriage so your children alternate between two incomplete but happier homes.
Every Virginia marriage is unique, and nobody but you and your wife can decide what is best for everyone, but just about every expert up and down every scale (religious, economic, psychological, political) says the same thing: keeping a weak marriage intact for the sake of the children does the children no favors.
A Woman’s Viewpoint
Scary Mommy puts fine points to it:
- Give your children an early, healthy view of successful people, so they grow up to find love and happiness for themselves
- True love is worth taking risks by walking away from an unsatisfying marriage
- Marriage is not an uneasy truce drawn up to keep battle lines apart; it is supposed to be happy people working to support one another, even if from afar
She goes on to write that keeping a marriage together in name only does nothing to eliminate the anger, confusion, betrayal, pain, and loneliness of a loveless marriage. Just as your dog senses your emotions, you telegraph them to your children, too. Think what unconscious messages you are sending by staying with someone you do not love.
A Man’s Viewpoint
The Good Man Project is even more blunt, saying sticking together is “the WORST idea ever.” The reasons?
- Your children learn the false message that a marriage is about separateness, not togetherness
- You and your wife can continue to be lazy (blink-182 nailed this) — You sit and simmer rather than deal with the issues
- You opted for mediocrity instead of a happy, fulfilled life; you are showing your children that settling is okay
- You are living in fear, on purpose and for all the wrong reasons — You’re not taking risks, you’re retreating
- Your kids will be unhappy being around unhappy parents
Though we don’t subscribe to the false doctrine of equal time for opposing views because “both sides are right,” some researchers claim divorce itself is far more scaring than an unhappy childhood among unhappy parents. That school of thought, seen in work by Judith Wallerstein among others, says children of divorce will:
- Develop a fear of abandonment
- Face great uncertainty about their future
- Become apathetic and listless
- Display magical thinking
- Lash out at all close adults
- Undergo dramatic mood swings
Yet experts at LiveAbout who catalog these experiences say they are short-lived, not permanent traits carried into adulthood.
In science, a dichotomous key helps identify natural objects through a series of Yes/No questions. The same can work for decisions you make about your marriage.
- Is abuse (giving, receiving, or witnessing) part of your daily life?
If yes, the marriage is harmful to the children and needs to end. No child should be exposed to or suffer abuse. If no, consider the next qualifier.
- Can you and your wife communicate?
If no, then the marriage is unlikely to heal itself through stony silences and the icy chill of an emotionally dark home. If yes, perhaps you can talk about fixing the problems in the marriage instead of abandoning it, so consider the next qualifier.
- Can the marriage be repaired?
To answer yes, both husband and wife must be willing to engage in the hard, wrenching work of dealing with every issue cleaving them. If either partner answers no, consider the next qualifier.
- Can you afford divorce? This is as much an emotional question as a financial one. Divorce can be the clean break you both need to end a ruinous marriage and salvage happiness for your children. What price do you place on your children’s happiness?
Get the Family Lawyers for Men Involved
Just as teenage crushes and office infatuations ebb and flow, so too do desires for divorce in rocky marriages. As Psychology Today says, the first Monday after the New Year is nicknamed “Divorce Monday” because of the spike in call volume every January. Couples made their way through December’s holiday stress; they make resolutions to move on in the New Year.
Be absolutely certain divorce is the best path forward for your children, for you, and even for your wife. Then proceed surely, calmly, and legally by trusting in a local, experienced divorce attorney. Avoid confusing your children. Be sure of yourself as you go from separation to divorce.
Whatever choice you make, The Firm For Men is here to represent you, Virginia’s men, in family law matters. Contact us online or call our offices at 757-383-9184 to speak with experienced Virginia family law attorneys ready to help you.