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Imagine a scenario in which parents are fighting because one is no longer in love with the other.

They eventually decide to divorce, instead of living together but no longer as a real couple. The parent who's still in love with the other is leaving the household, the no-longer-loving parent is remaining with the kids.

When, what and how should the children be told about it? The children are 5 and 7 years old.

Should the kids be made aware that one parent is still loving the other, who is however no longer interested in the marriage? Or should the boys simply be told that the marriage is in crisis, without specifying the actual reasons?

My fear is that simply stating that the parents do not love each other any more will not be the truth and will put exceedingly the blame on the loving partner. This is a crucial issue as the non-loving partner is facing a personal crisis and partly rejecting the parenting role.

  • Why should the children be burdened with their parents' emotions towards each other? Children may feel pressured to play a role they shouldn't (like counselor, or advocate) if they know too much. At 5 and 7 they should just be told the facts that relate directly to them. – McCann Dec 8 '16 at 22:15
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This is so hard, my heart goes out to you.

BOTH parents loved each other to have kids. It's a good thing to remember that and to support your partner. That will show your children that even though you aren't married any longer, you'll always be a supportive family.

It doesn't matter who did what or feels love for someone else.

Tell your kids you love them and they will spend time with both of you. Tell them that you are still parents together, even if you aren't living together.

Remind them that there are many definitions of 'family'.

The best advice I can give (btdt) is to forgive your partner and forgive yourself. Kids take their cues from you. You've made a mistake (or quite a few) and this is how you move on after a mistake. You forgive, apologize, and try to make it work for everyone.

I still love my ex -- just enough. I want him healthy and happy and to be a good parent, so I support him in those areas. We do our child's birthday together in a restaurant. We live close enough that our kid can be bussed to either home but from their only school. We take turns doing holidays. I have a weekend and a school week. He then has the same. We text each other about our daughter and call if it is more complicated.

He had an affair and I was pissed as hell. I can do nothing to change it and as far as our daughter knows -- all that happened was that her parents failed at their marriage. She is old enough to know all about it, but unless someone else has told her the gory details, they were kept from her. We reassured her that she had nothing to do with our marriage break up and that is the truth.

She has tried to pit one of us against the other to get her way, but we always just text to make sure that Dad/Mum did say she could do whatever it is.

Now that you edited:

My fear is that simply stating that the parents do not love each other any more will not be the truth and will put exceedingly the blame on the loving partner. This is a crucial issue as the non-loving partner is facing a personal crisis and partly rejecting the parenting role.

A parent who is partially rejecting their parental role is not acting in the best interests of their children. These aren't an 'unsuccessful' experiment. There is no return policy on having one child let alone two.

So, I'd try hard to just love the children, encourage them and step up your game. It will be harder being a single parent, especially for children suffering a loss.

Please try not to explain or denegrade your ex. Of course you are angry, but the kids will suffer more if they see you angry. So it's fine to tell them that you are sorry it happened. It's fine to agree that you wish their parent was around more often and doing with more with them, but it is not fine to say that the missing parent is 'bad' or 'wrong'. Let the children ask for themselves and tell them that you can't answer or that you are unable to explain it.

The children will be angry with you if you make your 'ex' into a bad person. They will decide that for themselves.

Family counselling (Kids plus you and with ex if possible) with an impartial professional is great.

As I said, this is so hard and you have to do more at a time that you are not only grieving, but also doing more of the work. However, this is what good parents do.

Please keep us posted on how you are doing. We all have had experiences that may help you on your journey through this one.

Best of luck.

  • My issue is basically whether we should make the kids aware that one parent is leaving the household despite still loving the other as the latter is no longer loving and caring for the former. Otherwise I am afraid the kids would believe the leaving parent is just deserting them. – Joe_74 Nov 30 '16 at 15:25
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    Is the parent leaving THEM? Or just you? Will the parent still be parenting? If not, that is a different question. – WRX Nov 30 '16 at 15:28
  • The parent who's still in love with the other is leaving the household, the no-longer-loving parent is remaining with the kids. – Joe_74 Nov 30 '16 at 15:32
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    Sorry, I am still confused. It doesn't matter who is leaving IF they will still be parenting. My ex doesn't live with me, but we are still parents and we both parent our child. Even if our daughter lived full-time in my home and saw her dad all the time, that would work. Whether one adult loves the other adult is not the question. – WRX Nov 30 '16 at 16:01
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    I think we have a language barrier. You are not the parent but related to one of them? I am guessing. Never blame the other parent or take the blame either. It only matters to the children that the relationship did not work -- you do not owe them the answer or reason. You BOTH/ ALL support them. You say, "We both love you very much and we always will." The forced person still gets to be a parent. It takes work but action works better than words. – WRX Nov 30 '16 at 16:23
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Should the kids be made aware that one parent is still loving the other, which is however no longer interested in the marriage? Or should the boys being simply told that the marriage is in crisis, without specifying the actual reasons?

This will depend on the children, but you should very much avoid pulling the children into any conflict between the parents, because that will put them into a loyalty conflict (since they love and need both parents), which is very unhealthy for them.

So use an answer that does not go into details, such as "we no longer love each other as we used to", or "we disagreed too much". If the child then asks further questions, you can still decide whether you want to tell more. At any rate, more details will only be appropriate for older children (at least school age).

My fear is that simply stating that the parents do not love each other any more will not be the truth and will put exceedingly the blame on the loving partner.

An answer is not "not the truth" because it does not have all the details, and it should never be about blame.

An answer like "we no longer love each other as we used to" is the truth - even if one partner still has more love left than the other. And I do not think a child will understand it as blaming one or the other partner. At any rate, for the children it does not matter who is to blame (if that is even a meaningful question, which is debatable) - to them it matters that they have parents who are there for them and who love them, and that's what both of you need to make sure.


To address your specific situation:

My issue is basically whether we should make the kids aware that one parent is leaving the household despite still loving the other as the latter is no longer loving and caring for the former. Otherwise I am afraid the kids would believe the leaving parent is just deserting them.

Yes, there is a real risk that the children may believe the leaving parent is deserting them.

However: This is independent of why the parent is leaving.

The leaving parent must make sure they can still fulfill their parenting role - by visiting regularly, by a suitable custody arrangement, by sharing custody, whatever. Then it does not matter (as much) that the parent is leaving, because they are only leaving the partner, and not the children.

You can tell this to the children as appropriate, but as usual, deeds speak louder than words, so still being there for them is the most important part.

  • Thanks for the thorough answer. An additional issue is that the non-leaving parent is now in deep crisis, and thus the fact that the kids will feel deserted from the more stable parents might put them at substantial risk. – Joe_74 Dec 1 '16 at 12:16
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    @GiuseppeBiondi-Zoccai: That is of course a real risk - and all the more reason to quickly find a suitable custody / co-parenting solution. Children can (better) deal with a parent "with issues", if there are others in their lives (such as the other parent, grandparents, daycare) who are more stable. – sleske Dec 1 '16 at 12:25
  • Thanks for the input. Do you have any suitable reference? – Joe_74 Dec 1 '16 at 12:26
  • @GiuseppeBiondi-Zoccai: No, sorry, just personal experience and common sense. But if you are at all uncertain about the situation, I very strongly urge you to find some type of counseling or advice group. Such situations are very stressful, and you need all the help you can get, both from friends and professional help. – sleske Dec 1 '16 at 12:30
  • The leaving parent is deserting them. They are breaking up their family to peruse their own happiness at the expense of their spouse and children. There is no way to sugar coat it, I cannot imagine a time that I would consider putting my own personal desires ahead of my duty as a parent and i cannot understand anyone that loves their children being able to justify doing so. – user1450877 Dec 9 '16 at 12:00

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