Joe has been in an unhappy marriage for 12 years. There was love there at one time, but that was so long ago he can’t remember what that feeling of love felt like. There has been no intimacy, no affection and he slowly, but surely, is feeling the impact of this disconnection. His relationship with his wife now feels more like roommates on the good days and adversaries on the worst days.
He quietly suspected years ago that the relationship would not last forever, but he had convinced himself that he could stay until the kids graduated high school so they weren’t impacted by a separation and divorce. But his youngest is twelve years away from graduating high school and that feels like a lifetime right now.
He’s feeling the burdens of worry and fear about the impact this next step to leave the marriage will have on their kids. The last thing he would ever want to do is negatively impact his children.
He felt stuck and I wanted to give him something more to consider…specifically, the problem with staying for the kids, and maybe provide an opportunity to soften the anxiety and worry he was feeling…
The Downfall of Staying for the Kids.
We all come by our beliefs and expectations about love pretty honestly; we learn the most through the example set by our parents and what we experienced in our families.
Maybe you married a woman just like your mom.
Maybe you are a man that engages with your wife in the same way your dad engaged with your mom.
Maybe you’re afraid of your relationship will ultimately look like your parent’s relationship and that scares the hell out of you.
This happens naturally because it is the lens through which you learned the most about love and marriage. The same will be true for your children as well.
Through our living example, we teach our children how to be a spouse or partner to another soul. We teach them what we should expect or settle for in relationships. We demonstrate to our children what ingredients go into a relationship and what normal looks like.
When we treat our spouse with kindness and compassion, our children see that. When we shut down or argue from our partners, our children see that as well. Their future choices about who to allow into their hearts and how to be in relationship with another person will consciously and unconsciously be based upon what they experienced at home.
So it begs the question, “What are your children learning about love and marriage based upon what they’re seeing and experiencing now?”
Our kids will learn so much more about how to live and how to love from our actions than they ever will with our words. This isn’t an area where we can tell them, Do as I say, not as I do.
Parenting is, by far, the most difficult job on the planet and some days it feels like no matter what we do, it’s going to negatively impact them.
Leaving an unhappy marriage may not be the right answer, but it’s not always the wrong answer either.
That’s why it’s incredibly important to either fix the parts of the marriage that are not working and make it feel good again or lovingly release it; because staying in the painful state of limbo is not serving anyone, including our children.