Staying together for the kids

Posted by: on Nov 15, 2011 | No Comments

Have you ever stayed in a relationship that was a train wreck, just for the sake of the kids? Or because you thought you needed time, money or a plan before you could leave?
There are many who endure this awfully depressing existence in the hope that riding it out until things are more organised or better timed might make the separation process somewhat less traumatic.
There are perhaps some with a more sinister motive, scheming to set themselves up, effectively blind-siding their (ex) partner with a cunningly seamless transition from coupledom to singledom in one fell swoop.

According to new numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there is a phenomenon afoot among older married women. Referred to by relationship experts as the ”post-HSC” divorce, this trend is growing among women in their 40s and 50s who keep the family together until the youngest child has finished exams.

The wife then begins working on plans for her freedom, feeling she has completed her domestic and parental responsibilities as much as practicably possible. Divorce rates among Australian women in this age group are climbing faster than in any other bracket.

Relationships are an emotional game of chess in which we weigh up the pros and cons before making our move. And children can provide an easy justification for a lot of the decisions we make, but is either rationalisation (staying or going) a factor that should hold weight when it comes to the ending of a relationship?

If the marriage/relationship is dead, what influence, if any, should be given to the wellbeing of the children?

I stayed in a marriage a lot longer than I should have. Mistakenly thinking I was doing the kids a favour by allowing them more years in the home environment they were familiar with.
I was somehow justifying they were happier and would be able to cope with a marriage break up when they were older and I could explain it to them in more adult terms.

My counsellor asked me how long I thought I was going to persist with such a set up, feigning/faking the “happy family” scenario to the outside world while denying my own unhappiness.
I remember when I said the words “maybe another five years” there was an awkward silence.
She looked at me, and I at her, for what felt like an eternity as I came to the embarrassing realisation I had just confessed to essentially throwing away my own life for some self-righteous idea that the kids were better off.

According to whom and compared to what?
My counsellor put her head down and wrote something in her notepad. I imagine it said something along the lines of: “Delusional. Fanciful notions she can make the world right against all odds. May require reality check.”

One of the unusual repercussions of this blog-writing business is that I get a lot of emails from people I have never met. These people like to tell me their entire life story and expect that somehow I might be able to shed some semblance of rationality on their dilemma given my own messy ramblings.
Such an acquaintance has confessed to staying in an unhappy marriage for his children’s sake, despite violent verbal altercations between himself and his wife that are witnessed by the children.

Surely leaving is the best option? Simple, right? Not when you’re living it, according to Adam*.
Sometimes Adam goes away for a few days or sleeps somewhere else and returns in the morning to help with the kids. But not one of us can pass judgement on Adam for persisting with the marriage.

He believes there is always hope.
And I believe until you have exhausted all avenues, only then can you feel at peace that you gave it your all.

Heidi Davoren’s Dirty Laundry blog is published in the Sydney Morning Herald. You can link to Heidi’s blog here

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