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Me and my wife have a two year old son and he is amazing and I love him wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately the relationship between my wife and I has frayed to the point where I no longer see a good outcome. Some of the issues are old, before him, and have been brought back up because of added responsibility and my unforgiving work schedule.

I cannot imagine not seeing or hugging my son regularly, when I am away for work he always asks about me and misses me.

Also I am worried about the effects his mom and I splitting will have on him.

But I am worried that if we do stay together in a fairly functional but basically loveless marriage, it will teach him the wrong lessons.

Is there a benefit to him to stay or go? Are there any resources for parents who would not be getting full custody on dealing with that?

Thank you.

  • The statistics are clear, children do better when their parents are together and the impact is greater upon younger children. Also there is no such thing as an amicable divorce according to the latest research. dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2095181/… – user1450877 Sep 10 '14 at 15:15
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    @user1450877 The idea was not about having a "good divorce" or a bad one. The question was is it better to be divorced rather than face an increasingly dysfunctional marriage. – user158010 Sep 10 '14 at 15:36
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    related: parenting.stackexchange.com/q/8906/3934 – Chrys Sep 10 '14 at 19:35
  • Lots of things impact how children of divorcees feel, I saw this article this morning: newsweek.com/… I suspect this US centric and has to do with financial de-stability after divorce for high-income single income people (more common in US than EU). Note that this is not entirely in agreement with the other study: It says financial stability is more important than parents staying married. I suspect there are many studies with different outcomes in this field. – Ida Sep 10 '14 at 22:58
20

I am divorced with several kids.

Twice.

My €0.02 (or should I be allowed to add €0.04?) essentially boil down to this:

It's hard work. It's hard for you. It's hard for the children. But.

IMO, the most important issues to consider are these:

  1. Have you tried marriage counsel? Sometimes this works out.
    (I won't be saying anything else about salvaging your relationship. Still, it might be worth a try.)

  2. You have a child together and you will be your child's parents for the rest of your lives. No matter what happens to the two of you, there is no going back to wholly separated lives. Never ever. If you both manage to remember this, then it might not be all that bad for the child. Breaking up will very likely still hurt, and you might fight. Then remember that the both of you are one set of parents and will be forever. Be forgiving to each other. Help each other. Try to be friends, even if it's hard. Because your child needs cooperative parents, even if they aren't lovers anymore.

  3. A child has a mother and a father, and a child is better off with both a mother and a father. That's actually a very simple fact. No matter if you dislike or even hate each other, whether we're talking about next year or in 15 years, your child needs both of you to be self-assured. ("Where do I come from? Do my parents even care about me? Am I loved?") And it needs to learn from both, because both of you (voluntarily or involuntarily) teach different things. You need to work out a schedule where your child regularly spends time with both of you. When the child is a little bit older, slowly start to consider its own wishes regarding the schedule.

  4. Never speak badly about the other parent in front of a child. Never. Ever. Even if the other parent sues you, tries to take the child away, ruins you financially, or kills someone in cold blood: It's still the other parent of your child, and thus one of the two most important people in the world for your child. For children, parents are gods. If you take this believe from your child too early, you damage it.

There is things where a child of separated parents will have an advantage over its peers: A child might be allowed to do something when staying with one parent, while the other forbids it. For something else, it will be the opposite. One household might be vegetarian, or religious, while the other isn't, one parent might emphasize nature, the other worships technology... In essence, your child will not only live in two households, but in two families, with different values, ethics, and morale concepts. Don't worry about the mental gymnastics required to do this: This happens all the time when kids visit their grandparents and they can easily deal with it. However, the result of a more diverse upbringing is that a child might be more flexible, more understanding, can more easily adapt, isn't as limited in its believes how a family "works". That can be very handy later in life.

Well, here's wishing you the best, whatever that might be.

  • We have tried counseling in the past, suggesting it was needed actually triggered some angry words, fortunately not in front of our son. I agree with never speaking badly of the other parent. I did not think of the different cultures between the houses, I think he could adjust to that though. – user158010 Sep 11 '14 at 17:38
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    @user158010: Talking about counseling triggering angry words just underlines the need. The question is whether it will help when you do it. I had marriage counseling twice in my life. It helped tremendously once (despite her first sneering at the idea), and it failed badly the other time. You never know. – sbi Sep 12 '14 at 18:35
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I'm so sorry about your marriage. I can tell you, from experience of having my parents be in a loveless and very very volatile marriage, in which they stayed for my and my sibling's sake, that it is better if you separate.

Your child will be happier with separated parents who are happier themselves, and are cordial and civil to one another, than with married parents who are bitter and angry.

I grew up in a conservative culture, and divorce wasn't really an option for them, but they fought all the time, and it really traumatized me, and affects my relationships to this day.I'm in a happy marriage and love my husband dearly, but everytime he gets upset with me, I overreact because I am so insecure and have a deep rooted distrust for the institution of marriage.

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    That's a very good data point, but it's only one. There's people who grew up with divorced parents, and they wish it was the opposite. (I do happen to be on your side of the fence, BTW. I just wanted to point out that there's other opinions on this which are just as well deserved as ours. There's no Proof By Anecdote.) – sbi Sep 10 '14 at 22:19
  • Thank you for the kind comments and for the advice. That is about where my head was at when I asked the question. – user158010 Sep 11 '14 at 17:34
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    @sbi Agreed, it is only one data point. I wasn't saying at all that OP should definitely divorce, and that the kids will be immediately be happy as a result of the divorce. I'm only saying in my experience, children, even very young children, understand more than you think, and are really affected by parents fighting or being unhappy all the time. I would have preferred being the child of divorced parents, tough though that would have been, than being stressed and anxious all the time through the majority of my childhood. – Ellisa Sep 11 '14 at 20:23
  • @Ellisa: And I didn't say you said that. :) I can appreciate your POV on the matter. I, too, have known couples who should have separated decades ago, to the benefit of everybody in the vicinity. – sbi Sep 12 '14 at 18:40
9

When I separated from the mother from my child, he was 1 year and 10 months old. I was also thinking of staying together "for the sake of the kid", and she too, so nobody had courage to break up.

I had this on my head for a long time, and this single moment decided everything in my head:

I was absorved in my thoughts about how unhappy I was, and that I should stay on it because of the kid... While I was having those thoughts, my son was in front of me playing on his sand box and offering me in a very lovely way his toys, so that I could play with him together... He was offering it to me, but my mind was not there... I think I didnt even see that my kid existed, because I was so deep on those unhappy thoughts. At this exact moment, I got aware of my son, and I thought:

"Oh my god! He has been trying to play with me since a long time, and I cant play with him because I am always stuck on those thoughts. He will grow up thinking its completely normal to be unhappy in life, and in 30 years from now on, when he is stuck with a woman and completely unhappy, I will ask him:

-If you are so unhappy, why are you still with her?!?!

I knew that his answer would be:

-Because I learned it from YOU"

At this moment, I got a shock and saw that this would be the most terrible thing to teach him in life: that unhappines is just OK. It is NOT OK to be unhappy, and I decided I would never teach him that. For me, happyness is the most important thing in life!

I also thought its better to happen now, than to wait some years.. It would be a waste of life, and it would be much harder for him, because he would already be fixed on the current family routine.

So I just separated from the mother, I live just 300 meters far away from my kid I see him a lot now: Every Wed, Thru, and every two weeks also Friday, Sat and Sun. I have ALL THE ENERGY OF THE WORLD for him now (before I had almost nothing). I have never loved my son so much before! Now I can enjoy him and be myself, without being bossed around by the mother.

If you need some book on the topic, I enjoyed the following:

  • The guide for separated parents, from Karen & Nick Woodall. This book has a very beautiful atmosphere, and if in the future you are feeling very bad about your decision, you can refer to this book to get strength.

  • Two homes, from Claire Masurel. This book will be for your kid: its a very beautiful book with drawing for kids, with a story of a kid who has a home with his father and mother, and showing the nice ways that their parents love him, wherever they are

  • The family book from Todd Parr. Its an illustration book like the above. You dont really need it, but its fun, talking about many ways a family can live.

If you just look the book from Claire on Amazon, you will probably find reccomendations about other books that you will like too.

Just some stuff that I didnt take into consideration at the time, and that maybe you should are:

  • End the relationshp in peace: Go to couples therapy, and certify that the feelings around you are healed and that they will not come back to haunt you in the future, because you will never be able to stop seeing your ex completely.
  • Be aware that after you brake up, maybe your spouse will find another guy who will spend time with your son too. Maybe you will get jealous/lack of trust about the guy, and maybe you cannot control too much what is going on... This will make you quite anxious.
  • Consider if the mother will be likely to move out of the city (and how far) after you break up... then it will make visitation a difficult topic, and this might cause you great psychological strain on you
  • Is your job flexible enough that will allow you to see your kid? Can you find a flexible job to help you?
  • Talk to people who experienced that first hand. Dont read too much. Talking to people feels more real and certain than reading books or asking on internet.

I hope I helped.

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    I find especially the second part of this answer, where it gives advice for how to deal with the situation, should it arise, very good! (And I can recommend the Two Homes book, too. :-).) – sbi Sep 11 '14 at 19:28
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I'm not married but my daughter is almost 2 and I am in a similar situation. My ex is moving out this weekend in fact. It's taken us over a year to come to the decision that it's for the best as we are both unhappy in the current situation and as much as we try not to, we still argue a lot.

Even though I am not my ex's biggest fan (but by no means do I hate him) I am still absolutely adamant that my daughter continues to have a good relationship with him and sees him regularly. We have come to the decision that he will stay with me and my daughter 2 nights a week so he can put her to bed etc and he will have her 2 full days per week (this works for us because he works different days to me). I felt that this would be the least disruptive to her current situation as she won't be staying anywhere different etc. The arrangements depend largely on logistics and practicalities. We've said for now that this arrangement will stay in place as long as it's practical etc. and when my daughter is old enough to voice her own opinions we will listen and re-arrange accordingly.

I just wanted to share my situation as it may give you some ideas for your own situation. It really depends on what has happened between you and your wife and if you can make any amicable arrangements. In my personal opinion I think it's more important for parents to be happy and co-operative with each other than to live in the same house miserable and gathering increasing resentment. If you do decide that separating is the way to go, there is some good advice in this booklet that I found:-

https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parenting-plan.aspx

It helped me to think about what is most important for my daughter and to try and compromise and make things fair so that everyone involved (especially my daughter) is satisfied with the outcome.

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    I only now saw this answer. Thanks for giving yet another POV. If my experience is anything to go by, you might want to start thinking about different arrangements. It will take some time, but at some point the two of your night start to lead lives too independent and different for being really comfortable to share an apartment. IME, what seems good at the start, when you two might still be quite close, might seem unbearable 3 years later. But you will have to find out for yourself if that's the case for you. – sbi Mar 9 '15 at 16:59
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As alluded to in the answers and comments here, there are many takes on the answer to this question. The answer as to why is direct: each child is different and so the impact on each child will vary.

I dare say that no matter how "strong" your child is, should you divorce, you will be asked why you don't get back with mommy. When I was asked, I heard the question as, "This hurts, daddy. Help make it go away."

I heard a statistic a long time ago that every person annoys you in something like 7 ways and that when you change partners, you simply change the 7 ways, so you need to decide if you really just will not deal with what is annoying you now.

Sometimes the answer is, "Yes, I will not deal with this." And with children, we come to your question, "But I will suffer it if it will be best for my child, so what do I do now?" -- we'll do anything for our children!

I do not see the question as one to be answered by studies or anecdotes, but rather your personal ethos. The path you choose is an example you choose to teach your child(ren), and in the matter of divorce it is an example set for a lifetime. Now as parents, we know that there does not exist a path without challenge and that it is not whether or not we experience a challenge which matters, but how we choose to address it. (e.g. Staying or leaving are both paths with their unique challenges, neither easy.)

With that philosophical analysis as context, one may rephrase the question and I will be so bold as to state it through my eyes which may not correlate with your own (but will hopefully allow you to come to your own restatement):

Do I raise my child to learn how to get through life or to pursue happiness even when the choices seem formidable along the way?

Again that is my restatement of the question in the context of the above which exposes my own ethos, but to reiterate, the answer to your question is one only you may provide -- I hope my commentary helps you to find in yourself your path forward while being true to yourself.

  • While I agree that people should not abandon a relationship when the going gets tough and that our son would be better off with two well adjusted parents I do think there is a bit more nuance to the question. For example, if one of the seven things that annoys you is your partner's light snore you can count yourself lucky, if it is that they will punch you when they are angry, that is completely different. – user158010 Sep 11 '14 at 17:42
  • I agree that your example does teach your children though. I hope that my son will learn how to be respectful even when you are angry and what types of relationships to steer clear of. – user158010 Sep 11 '14 at 17:44
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    I strongly disagree with that answer's tone which seems to imply that it would be the best for the child if the two just clenched their teeth and got their stuff together. However, as Elisa already wrote, this might not be the best. – sbi Sep 11 '14 at 18:09
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    @sbi I guess we'll just have to disagree then. I hold to my advice of choosing what to do based on your ethos and not stats or anecdotes. – Sylas Seabrook Sep 11 '14 at 19:55
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    I can't understand why this got downvoted. Each answer in this thread has merit. Here is an unusual answer with a lot of merit and integrity. It's just different. It's always useful to see another side of things. +1 from me. Glad you have your own viewpoints and aren't too wary of sharing them. – anongoodnurse Nov 29 '14 at 5:57
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First and foremost, with proper love and support, I'd suggest that children are very good at dealing with change -- though of course they may prefer not to have to deal with such change.

At this point whether or not to divorce may be a choice but in an unhappy marriage things have a way of changing such that one party or the other will eventually force the divorce because they want out or in fact have found someone else that they want to be with and need the divorce to allow that. I'd suggest do the split up while it is easy for both of you to be amicable about it.

Also, once split, you may want to negotiate a period of delay before either of you introduce someone new to your children. Try to let them get past their concerns about the last challenge before throwing more at them. Basically, make their transition(s) as easy as possible. Keep in mind, a very large percentage of families go through this and there is not much stigma associated with it anymore.

The best advice I can give is make sure that the divorce, assuming it happens, is done in the most amicable way possible. For example, my own divorce consisted of a handwritten agreement between the two of us and cost us the court filing fees as we went there together and filled out the necessary paperwork. We discussed and agreed reasonably on everything possible.

For the children it's important to know, and be told from time to time, that both of the parents are going to continue to be around and that both parents will continue to love them very much. It's also vital that they don't imagine they had anything to do with it -- sometimes kids will imagine that they somehow caused something. So, they have to be told this explicitly as well.

As mentioned by @sbi, you must do your best never to talk badly about your ex or any family that the ex later becomes involved in. Children will pass this back and forth, even without meaning to, and even if they did somehow manage not to they may well feel conflicted due of their love and loyalty to both parents. However, it is certainly okay to let them know that no matter what happens that you will always be their father.

My daughter, the younger of my two children, would tell me that she wished we could still all be in one house or in the old house. It broke my heart. While I could agree that it would have been nice if things had worked out that way it wasn't possible. After a while I told her that it makes me sad to think about that -- so while she can feel that way I'd prefer if she didn't tell me so very often.

Some additional things to consider, many of which depend on age, are how close the two you may need to live in order to preserve daycare, schools or other attributes for the children. This may not be permanent but if you can minimize impact in other areas (such as new school, having to make new friends, going to a new day care, etc) it will help the children.

In a practical sense, you'll also have to teach the children to understand that different houses will have different rules. My ex and I keep very different schedules and we are very different with respect to the importance of timeliness. Surely a challenge as bed time and waking times change upon going from one home to another, but personally, I consider their ability to be flexible and adjust to different settings to be a valuable life skill.

You might also have to deal with your employer a bit. If your employer wants to be family friendly they will have to accept at least a variable schedule upon some type of shared custody. For example, in a week by week custody switch you can work tons of hours one week but lighter hours the next. Travel, if necessary, would hopefully be on weeks you don't have the children. I hope your employer will be understanding.

I'm not sure of the age of your children but I've answered in terms of the age of my own children through these events. As an important consideration, I'd suggest that both parents being happier (whether single or in new relationships) provides a much healthier example of how to live your life than demonstrating that life is about being unhappy until the children leave.

Also, a final note, work through your finances carefully. Having to maintain two households is more expensive than a common home. Whoever may end up paying child support will feel the pinch. Daycare and babysitting costs are likely to go up. You may find that more food spoils as you need to buy items for them before arrival that may not all be consumed while they are there.

While finding it financially challenging to split up may not be a reason to stay together you will both need to be realistic about what lifestyle you will have if you do so.

1

I am divorced, but we managed not to make it traumatic for our daughter at all. We bought a book together for the last time. I would recommend it to you, but unfortunately it's in German and I don't know an equivalent book in English. ("Glückliche Scheidungskinder", literally "Happy divorce children", by Swiss paediatrician Remo Largo.)

Some things I learned from this book:

  • Children are never afraid of their parents separating - they are only afraid of losing one of them.
  • Children are not afraid of not seeing one parent for a week - they are afraid of not seeing one of them for much longer periods.
  • Children suffer from quarrels between their parents.
  • Children are scared by the prospect of a separation or divorce if they have reason to believe that this will lead to them losing a parent or the parents quarreling (see previous points). They are also scared by the prospect if it is made scary the way this is often done: First the parents try to hide their plans from the child or children, though it's obvious that something ominous is going on. And finally it's presented as if it were bad news.

It is important to understand that if it is necessary, a separation is a good thing. If both former partners are reasonable, a separation ends the quarreling and makes life much nicer for the offspring. For this it is critical to properly disengage. That you once loved someone and feel betrayed now doesn't mean you have to hate the person. If you can't form an efficient child-raising team with a person you once felt sufficiently compatible with to marry, then how could you ever hope to cooperate with random people at work?

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