Staying for the Kids

Every day I speak to men that are really struggling in their marriages and one of the most common things I hear is the word stuck. I feel stuck. There are several reasons we feel stuck, but one of the most common themes is the kids. I hear things like “I’m staying for the kids” or “I don’t want my kids to grow up in a divorced family” or “I don’t want to screw up my kids forever” and “I don’t want my kids to hate me.”

One of my clients, who I will refer to as Joe, has been married for 15 years and has two young children. There was love in their marriage at one time, And at one point he felt like things were really good between them.  Now, he can’t really remember what that was like, or when it was.

He’s sunk into a place where he stays at work longer then he needs, does not speak up when he would like, and generally feels alone. He feels like his wife is no longer interested in him, does not value him, and more than likely does not really care if he stays or leaves. They cannot talk about anything without it ending up as an argument. They sleep in separate rooms. There has been no sexual intimacy in years. They do things as a family but there is no connection other than the kids.

Now, most of the time, what we view as normal in a relationship or right is what we experienced and saw at home.  If you go to see a coach, therapist, counselor, one of the things that they’re going to ask you is what your parents relationship was like. They ask this because most of what we pick up in this life is based upon what we’ve seen and experienced ourselves. It turns out that Joe’s parents were very disconnected from one another. They lived separate lives under the same roof and they didn’t seem to really like each other. They argued quite a bit, and eventually did not speak a whole lot to one another.  So it’s not surprising that Joe found himself in a similar relationship.

Right now, he thinks that he might be able to make it another 10 years. He thinks he puts on a great front in front of the kids and that they both try to act “normal” when they are doing family things. He thinks they do not argue all that much in front of the kids and that they try not to let them see that. Sometimes, though, they do. The kids know they sleep in separate rooms but he said that they think it is because daddy snores too much and keeps mommy awake. The kids do not ever see any physical affection and rarely see much interaction between them at all.

He has told himself that he is going to stay in this marriage until the kids go to college and leave home because “that’s the right thing to do.” That time is a good 8 to 10 years away. I understand how he got here and why he thinks that this is the right thing to do. I don’t have judgments of what is right, wrong, good, or bad because it’s not my place to determine that for anyone else.  Joe has to find his answer for his own life, and find peace with whatever decision he makes.

The thing is, kids are more wise than we tend to acknowledge. They notice what goes on in the household. They see and feel your sadness, anxiety, pain, and distress  just as much as they feel your genuine joy, happiness, ease, and excitement.  That being the case, ask yourself these questions: What are children learning about love and marriage based upon what they are seeing and experiencing at home? Would you want your son or your daughter to be in a relationship like the one you are in right now?

Do you want to stay stuck and not find out if your marriage can be saved and feel good again? Do you want to continue to do nothing, and wait, or find out if you can lovingly release your marriage in the best way possible? Do you want to unintentionally teach your children the very thing that you don’t want to teach them?

These are good questions to answer because if you don’t take a step one way or the other either you learn nothing. Children will mirror your energy and the energy of the relationship. When you are happy they are happy. When mom and dad are thriving and enjoying life, the kids are too.  But, when you’re anxious and upset or fighting and angry in front of them, they are picking that up.

A strong argument could be made that children having two homes with parents that are happy and emotionally healthy is better than one home with two parents that are not the best versions of themselves that they can be, that do not speak to one another, where the emotional environment is toxic.

I know there are a lot of voices around you telling you what is right, what is wrong. What is good for the kids and what is not. So if you make the incredibly difficult decision to leave your marriage, do not be so hard on yourself. That decision also gives you an opportunity to show your kids that it is never too late to create a happy life for yourself. That it’s really important and your responsibility to do that for yourself.  By choosing to leave your marriage, you may be giving them the best lesson they could see about love and relationships, simply by respecting yourself, respecting your spouse, and respecting your heart.

If you would like to find out if you can create a marriage that feels better, or if you need to lovingly release yours in the best manner possible, I invite you to schedule a complimentary Exploratory Session with me. Decide once and for all if you are going to stay in your marriage and move forward and stop feeling stuck.