Will my kids be OK if I ask for a divorce?
I am man in my mid-40s and have been married for 21 years. I have three kids ranging from 8 to 17. I met my wife when both of us were just teenagers when neither of us had much dating experience. I fell in love young and dove into a life with her expecting to never look back. She is a good mother, and does not have faults that compromise her ability to be a good parent or secure partner. But we have spent much of the last five years in a downward spiral that has brought me to a place where I am left with absolutely no feeling of love or connection. The roots rest in part with us having come together so young and me being so immature at the time. Over time I have realized I grew up just trying to be what she and others wanted. But the outcome has been that she wants, sees, and needs a version of me that is pretty far from who I have grown up to be.
We have tried couples therapy, individual therapy, relationship books, re-working our lives to make more time, and a number of other practical things to re-connect and at the end of it all, I am beyond defeated and frankly becoming depressed with struggling to stay with someone to whom I feel no warmth or love. And iciness has increasingly been replaced by resentment and contempt. But she wants to keep trying, and I think she loves the person she imagines I will go back to being. She has even said she would accept a love-less marriage over divorce for the sake of duty. In most ways that is what we are currently, celibate roommates. I don't want this to be the rest of my life. And I don't want the kids to grow up thinking that this is how a relationship is meant to be. I want a divorce, but I am still deeply concerned that I am doing it to selfishly address my own needs at the children's expense.
I honestly want people that have experience with divorce and kids to give me some perspective. I am not contemplating divorce where infidelity, addiction, or abuse are at issue. We are stable enough financially that a divorce will cause strain, but should not fundamentally change the security and circumstances of my kids, my wife, or myself. And my kids are mostly thriving, albeit they have been increasingly anxious as they inevitably recognize the tension and conflict between my wife and I. And they can see frequently that I am not happy. I worry that they see themselves as the source of that unhappiness.
So the question is simple, will my kids be OK if I ask for a divorce? At least for me, it has become the central question I have to answer before I decide what to do next.
Thanks for your response. I do find that I am dealing with bouts of depression relating to my marriage. For perspective, we have always had a relationship that has had a great deal of arguing and a cycle of conflict and resolution. It usually reached a high-point and a unsatisfactory resolution that left me feeling exhausted and depressed that I felt unheard. But in a way that has changed the past 5-6 years. I started a business 10 years ago, and it has been quite successful. My wife as well runs her own business since 8 years ago. My experience of growing something independent of her also changed our conflict. For one, we were apart more, but I also got better at pushing back for what I wanted.
I'd love to say that we eventually learned a new way of being with each other, but instead the time apart and me being more direct about what I wanted lead to more arguments without resolution. And that gave way to eventually not even arguing for the most part. After a year of marriage counselling I have been left largely depressed seeing no realistic hope that she will want me to be anything but that guy that just gave in every time she fought it out to the bitter end. And we have tried weekends away, date nights, and plenty of travel with and without the kids. Though this past 3 months I have reached a point where the idea of being alone with her that long actually sounds awful.
And yes, I do get turned on by other women at this point in in my life more than before. The life I have built up around my business is a compelling place to be, and I would love to have a partner in my life that was a part of it (my wife is not) and understood why it matters to be like it does. This place I am in with her has left me wanting to experience love and connection with someone else. No telling if that would be the case if I divorced, but years of feeling unheard and deeply frustrated. I want love, but at this point I am OK with the idea of being single and focusing all of my energy into the kids and my business. Again, prefer to share that with someone else, but alone sounds better than continuing with my wife. But all of that is contingent on not screwing up what matters far more than anything else... my kids.
And yes, I have had a physical and do keep up with a therapist. She would agree that I am depressed at times, but physically in great shape. Just deeply unhappy with the current circumstances.
I have spent much of my free time working for my wife's business these past 7 years. And her business is important. I don't think I was suggesting otherwise with my post, only trying to give context for someone wanting to give good advice. I am hoping that someone on this forum can provide good advice and thoughts on my original question. Trying to box this into the "guy married to his career" trope doesn't really provide much help, and I'm a little disappointed that is the only part you felt like focusing on.
Does anyone else on this forum have useful feedback or experience with divorce and kids? Perhaps thoughts on how to communicate the situation to them? How to make sure that struggling parents don't create lasting harm for the kids?
I'm a couple of years older then your eldest. I'm going to try not make this all about 'me me me' but here's my experience and advise (which I hope is not obvious or patronising).
My parents split up just before I turned 18 (now 19) and now they are getting divorced and it's been a long process!
It was handled badly in the beginning, they didn't sit me and my siblings down (the normal way?) and tell us they were separating. My dad just moved out whilst I was at school, leaving my mum very distressed.
Long story short. For ages I was left in the dark as to what was happening, not knowing if they were going to get divorced or not, and they refused to talk to each other. That was the most distressing thing. The unknown.
I'm sure I dont need to say this because reading the above you've made it very clear your main concern is your kids and their welfare .
So if/when you do decide you are to get divorced, when it comes to telling them, tell them ideally with your wife, when it's good for you both and you have idea of what's going to happen. Be honest with them, answer their questions, be led by them a little on what/how much they want to know.
If they have different personalities and they are probably going to react differently.
In my case. I'm fairly introverted but wanted the answers, just to settle my anxieties and relieve the stress I was under. Although it was hard I had friends, bf and my aunt to support me.
My brother is introverted, he isolated himself, but was angry, and rebelled at school and he was the first to need Counselling. That helped a lot.
My sis is an extrovert, she was ok to start with as long as she got to see both my mum and dad, she was ok, settled in with the new routine well, but a after little while it soon caught up with her.
So be aware! Be empathetic. If they seem to not be coping then counselling should help. In the end, at different times, all three of us had counselling, so did my mum. My parents tried marriage counselling but my dad walked out.
There was a noticeable difference between my mum and dad which was, although my mum was upset, couldn't talk much and I felt quite distant from her to start with, she still showed she was concerned and was still caring. I understood it was just too hurtful for her to explain what was going. I was more patient with her.
My dad on the other hand was miserable (still is), I hated staying with him at the weekends because he didn't do anything with us, or made no effort to help us settle into the place he moved into. We were treading on eggshells all the time.
If you end up moving out, (sorry, I know I'm thinking ahead) or whatever way it ends up, it's going to be weird for them seeing their parent alone in a new place or at the family home. There weekends/evenings after school will be different for them. it take time to adapt, even tough people say kids adapt quickly, parent should still be sensitive. Try to make a new home as homely as possible. New room - decorate it to their way. Be fun and interact with them, show them what your like as a dad on his own. I think that's what I wanted from my dad and it was so frustrating that he didn't do it and just felt sorry for himself, and himself only!
So I think it's down to the parents attitude too, if you have a good one, your kids will too (there will be ups and downs) once they get used to things.
yes divorce or separation is stressful but if a parent deals with it badly or is bitter, or not nice towards the other parent, then it's really noticeable and kids don't like it.
The best thing that has happened is that I've become a lot closer to my brother and sister, before they were just annoying. We are a lot nicer to each other, go out together and talk a lot more. You might see your kids confining in each other getting/ closer coz they are in the same boat and at home they only have each other.
We are all beginning to accept the divorce and I don't think any of us will be damaged.
My mum is a lot happier too and I've got a very close/good relationship with her.
Your kids hopefully won't be damaged, it might take them a while to accept it, but as long as you and your wife are supportive to them and they know they can talk to either of you, then they should be ok.
Hope this helps and happy to answer any questions. To get a better idea maybe look at my thread (parents split up).
First just wow, that was an extremely helpful response. It has not been easy to get a good perspective on the divorce decision from the perspective of someone experiencing their parent’s decision to separate. Perhaps the closest I have found was a documentary called “Don’t Divorce Me, Rules for Parents on Divorce”, but your post is so much more practical and personal. And I think the role you have been placed in sounds very similar to the one I imagine my eldest would occupy.
And I’m very sorry to hear that your father has been so upset and sullen in the wake of the separation. I’m sure there are genuine feelings he is dealing with, but it can’t be what you and your siblings need. I can only really speak to what I want to be if we divorce. Namely, the strongest thing between my wife and I is a mutual love and prioritization on the kids. It is the part that has argued against divorce for a while now, and is still front and center in making a decision. If we divorce, I will hope that we set aside our issues and separately process some of the most difficult emotions arising from the transition, focusing on what the kids needs.
I also had a friend give me a piece of advice that I hope I have the discipline to follow. That was to never disparage their mother, no matter how much the emotions may lead you to want it. The kids love their mom, need their mom, and they don’t need to have that undermined by anyone, let alone their own father.
Your description of the different ways you and your sibs responded to the divorce is interesting. I think my eldest would respond much as you did. My middle would be like your extroverted sis in some ways, but my youngest would be a big concern. I suspect he would be anxious and seek a great deal of assurance that he is not losing any of his people.
My wife and I have actually had a couple difficult divorce conversations, and at the moment I think it is me that is likely to be the one that would initiate an active separation. In our talks, we at least both agree that counselling would be needed for all involved. And the divorce might not be a surprise to my eldest since he knows about the marriage counselling and can see many of the ways our relationship has deteriorated over the years.
All of it has made the kids anxious and has increased his role as the one often seeking to shield his brothers from difficulties we have. It is great that you and your siblings drew closer together as a way to support each other. I want to believe my boys can and would do the same.
So I do have a few questions for you if its OK.
First, what if anything would you have wished your parents had done before the separation? Either to avoid it, or to have made the event better for you and your siblings?
I know your parent’s situation and trajectory is probably different, but would you have wanted them to “stick it out” and live separate under the same roof instead of moving apart?
How much of the reasons behind your parent’s divorce do you feel you want to know or is helpful to know?
To what degree was it, or would it be helpful for your parents to engage friends, family, and neighbors to help you in the transition and family reorganization that happened?
And do you have practical suggestions from where you found yourself in the separation for how to keep the communication positive and effective between separated parents?
What were the things you most wanted your parents to preserve about the family experience after they separated? Holiday together time? School events and performances? Other things?
I know it's a lot of questions, so apologies. And again, thank you for such a thoughtful response.
Yes it is different and also my dad is narcissist, I have been learning about this personality disorder for a while now, so some of this is really wishful thinking!
I would of liked my parents to of been honest with themselves and each other and when things got to the point where they were considering a separation or divorce, I would of liked them to seek help first from a marriage counsellor. So then at least i know they tried to talk out there problems before jumping into divorcing each other. I also would of wanted them to have some idea as to what was going to happen next as in who was moving out. And reassurance, if I got that from them, then I would of coped a bit better.
I have re-read what you posted above and I really like the fact that you and your wife have tried have marriage counselling, individual counselling, try to see where you can improve things, you're talking even if they're not nice or dificult discussions etc . I think if I knew parents did that, then it would of helped me, even if I really hated the idea of them divorcin beause I would be blue to see that they would of taken everyone's feelings into consideration.
BUT if they were really unhappy then no I wouldn't of wanted them to stay together and become depressed. Or stick it out and wait for my sister to go to uni wait or to move out. Now I see that my mum happier, more confident, she does still have sad/stressful times, shes goes to counselling stil but shes doing all things she's wanted to do, and has moved up in her job. I've been going out with my bf for nearly two years and if I became really unhappy, then I would have to be honest and tell him, I wouldn't be able to string someone along and I hope he would be honest with me too.
Like I said I wanted to know everything when I eventually got to know what was going on but for a long time I didn't. My bro didn't really, he had his reasons, which i now understand a lot. So talk to them indivually, if you need too.
With Family, friends involving others - I had to go to my aunt, my mums older sister, and tell her and my mum and dad had split up, my dad had moved out and I had no idea why. It was almost a relief to talk to another memeber of the family and have some else know. She's a very strong character, she likes to put people in their places sometimes,with the best intentions but she didn't side with my mum...not to start with anyway. She really helped. This forum has really helped.. So yeah I think having someone to talk to and keeping friends family around is not a bad thing at all. Having a good support system is really comforting.
Im pleased you older son is looking after his younger brothers. To begin with my brother really didnt want to talk to me, he felt left out being the only boy and i got some really advice (still works) which was to make him a hot chocolate around bedtime and that really got him talking and it didnt have to be about my parents. The only thing was my sister caught onto this i had to do it with her too. That's a positive thing you can do too does have to e a sibling thing.
I wasnt ever in any school events or performances. i ended up going on holiday with my dad this year and then on one with my mum after, some else might have a better answer to that question.
I agree on the advice your friend gave you on not bad mouthing the other parent, i think you it goes for both parent not just the mum. My dad did with my mum and other memebers of the family with my sister and he didn't get a good reaction!
I hope i answered theses right!
Hello, I too am going through this. I'm 42 and have 2 kids... aged 12 and 6. My husband is disabled and can no longer have sex. I'm essentially his nurse and friend.
Last year, after more than a year of no intimacy or sex of any kind, I had an affair with someone whom I had feelings for in the past. We fell head over heels for eachother. But, I just couldnt leave my husband, and the other man supported me, but was devastated. So was i... that was almost a year ago since I said goodbye and I'm still very much in love with him.
My husband knows about the affair and has forgiven me, but I honestly wish he hadn't. It almost would have pushed me to a divorce.
I want to leave. Have my own life. I just feel guilty and I dont know if my kids could handle it, either.
I'm no help here, but just know you are not alone.
First, you have far better reasons to consider a divorce than I do. And I don’t mean that your husband or you have somehow fallen down on trying to support each other. But those circumstances represent a serious change in what you two signed up for.
And I will also say that for myself and perhaps your husband, finding myself in circumstances where I could no longer provide for my wife sexually or in many ways support the household, I would carry a great deal of guilt. I suppose I could only know if I were living that reality, but it is possible I would prefer my wife and I re-consider the nature of our relationship. It might make me happier.
I guess I would ask you what the ideal world looks like. Is there a future you can propose to your husband that includes your kids still having mutually supporting parents, your husband having the security and support he needs, and you finding your emotional and physical needs met? I doubt it would be a maintenance of the status quo, but it would require you to articulate it for yourself, and then likely have some really blunt and difficult conversations with your husband.
Maybe your past lover plays a role, or maybe not. Maybe it’s a divorce, or maybe it’s an open relationship. But if you are miserable, and do nothing about it, your kids will suffer along with you. And I have my doubts your husband will be happier for you doing nothing about it. And I think your kids could far more likely handle you being open and proactive about what you want and need, over seeing their mother locked into a place that is so clearly unsatisfying. Maybe there is a way to honor their father’s needs while also making a change that gives them an example of working for what you want. Only you know them all well enough, but kids want parents that are happy and there for them.