Wondering if you should stay together for the kids? Here's what you need to know, from psychotherapist, rabbi and New York Times bestselling authorM. Gary Neuman. Have questions? Ask in the comments.
Too many therapists think they have the easy answer whether to stay because divorce is often destructive to children or leave because if the parents are happier, the children will be better off.
The facts speak for themselves. Divorce wreaks havoc on children's lives. It often doesn't do much for adults either. Second marriages have higher divorce rates than first marriages. And just when you thought it was safe to date, third marriages have a higher divorce rate than first and second marriages. It isn't long before ex spouses realize that they will be eternally intertwined managing their children's lives together.
These facts should not convince you to stay in a marriage at all costs, but to try again and again to save your marriage for the sake of your children. Couples commonly divorce after years of turmoil and fighting. For children, divorce is never the beginning or end. Children whose parents are marching toward divorce have already spent most of their lives trying to cope with their parents' painful dissension. Then when divorce strikes, they lose their sense of family, the very thing they held onto in order to cope in the first place.
Spouses get to that place of exasperation, feeling there is no way out other than divorce. It's that feeling of, "anything is better than this." Whereas many who divorce don't necessarily want to return to the marriage as it was, they do wish they would've done things differently or tried again to save their marriage. After seeing their children's post-divorce angst or their own, they often wonder if there was a better way.
Consider these options when trying again to save your marriage:
Try something new. Many people tell me they've tried saving their marriage a thousand times. But trying some technique a few times, seeing that it isn't working, and then trying the same thing another 997 times isn't advisable. What haven't you tried yet? Therapy is an obvious answer. Have you gone to therapy? Did you go for long enough? Often, couples stop after a few sessions. It's counterintuitive to think that a relationship in crisis can be saved through a few hours of therapy. Consider other forms of therapy, whether a marital weekend or DVD program, self-help books, a week away without the kids to discuss things uninterrupted.
Have a conversation with your spouse. Couples end up arguing for years, being unable to discuss their issues or future with any calmness. Have a meaningful heart to heart conversation alone with your spouse that begins with something like, "Our family and love is too important to end it this way. Let's consider all of our options."
Don't keep hoping without taking action. It's the reason spouses are so frustrated. They argue and never find any resolution. Hope is crucial to a better marriage but it doesn't work like some magic potion. What are each of you doing to change?
Create realistic expectations. If things are going to get better, it'll take time. But you should feel changes along the way.
Make saving your marriage your new job. Face the fact that if you were going to save your work or your child's well being, it wouldn't happen by giving it some "extra" time you steal away when everything else is done. Saving marriages is an enormous task and just isn't going to happen with a little more focus. Give it the love and attention it needs.
Note: All of this doesn't apply to any spouse in an abusive relationship. If divorce is the option you take, learn everything you can about how to help your children through it; it'll make all the difference in their world.