Single Mom: What About Staying Together for the Kids?
Single Mom of four Kristen Chase answers a reader question about making the decision to stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the kids.
Since I’ve started writing here at Alpha Mom, I’ve received numerous questions about divorce, single motherhood, and all its many nuances. So I thought it would be helpful to share my answers to those questions as part of my weekly column. Of course, I’m no divorce expert, so please do not take my opinion a therapeutic recommendation, but if my experiences and observations can help others, then I’m happy to share it.
What about if you decide to stay in your marriage for your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts. -A
Well, A, you should know that you’re not alone in that question. I actually received that same one in various forms a few times over the last couple of weeks, so clearly it’s something on many couples’ minds. And in theory, I understand how it can make sense, and perhaps for some parents it could work.
Most of what I’ve personally read when it comes to marriage, divorce, and families really states that happy parents are the prescription for happy kids. So the inference is that if you’re happier apart, it’s actually better for the kids rather than staying together, being miserable, and fighting all the time.
But like I mentioned in my previous post about how I decided to leave my marriage, breaking up should not be taken lightly because there are a myriad complicated issues that could affect the happiness you hope to achieve by breaking up.
There are finances, logistics, and a slew other choices that could potentially make you more stressed than if you were staying in an unhappy marriage.
So really, you need to define what “unhappy” is as it relates to your marriage because it could run the gamut from abusive to annoying, which is quite a range of experiences.
That’s not to say you should stay in your marriage if it’s just annoying or moderately unsatisfying versus abusive. There’s no scale to tell you when the time is right. Everyone is different.
However, there are many cases in which I’ve seen couples stay together who might consider themselves to be unhappy, most of which have to do with both the parties agreeing to be cordial and appropriate, particularly in front of the kids. You’d need to decide if you would be permitted to date other people, if that was something you’d want to consider.
But even then, you’d need to take a hard look at what sort of example you would be setting for your kids in terms of what a marriage looks like, as well as whether it’s truly better for the kids, especially in the long run. So many of us tend to only see what’s happening in the here and now, and forget that there will be future consequences to deal with, which could range from resentment and disappointment, to the feeling that they were somehow deceived or lied to by you both.
I came to my decision weighing all the choices I mentioned above very heavily. I knew that I was in a good position financially, and because my ex-husband traveled so much for work, they were already used to not seeing him that often, which I assumed would be the case when we were divorced as well.
But very importantly, I wanted my children to see me as a happy person, even if it meant me being alone. Additionally, I no longer felt comfortable living unauthentically, which was my personal experience being in a loveless marriage.
Whatever your decision might be, I strongly suggest considering every aspect of what goes into fostering health and happiness for your children. In some cases, it might be best for you to stay together. But in others, while the immediate implications might seem high, in the long run it could make sense for you to break-up, hopefully as amicably as possible.
If you have questions about divorce and being a single mom, please feel free to email me at kristen[at]coolmompicks[dot]com. Your information will be kept completely confidential.