Six months ago, my husband and I decided to split up after 14 years of marriage. When we first starting discussing our options, we both told each other how relieved we felt by the idea of going our separate ways. We had given it our all, but after struggling for over six years, we were both feeling tiny pieces of ourselves slip away. The sadness looming over us was leaking into our work and personal lives. We both had trouble concentrating. Our fuses got shorter by the day, and we found ourselves arguing about trivial things constantly.
Our relationship troubles were starting to have a negative impact on our three kids. It was hard to do anything as a family and enjoy it. The tension between us was so thick we weren’t able to enjoy things we used to look forward to, like family trips and dining out on Saturday afternoon. I began to dread family time, and I know he did, too, and we were both torn up about that. Seeing them affected by our marital problems was what made us realize we had to do something to restore the peace in our family.
We stayed together longer than we should have, because we were both paralyzed by one thought: We will be horrible parents to our children if we split up? What is this going to do to them? But here’s the thing: We weren’t helping anyone — not our children and not ourselves — by staying together. We had reached the end of our road as a married couple, yes, but not as their parents. We had to put that job first, so that is exactly what we did.
I believe that if your marriage is strained, staying together can equal happy kids, if that’s what both people involved truly want. If it’s not what you want, however, everyone around you feels it. Some couples are able to find themselves again. We just aren’t one of those couples, and it took me a while, but I am okay admitting splitting up is what we needed to do to like our lives and each other again. And after six months of getting used to our new life apart, I realize staying married isn’t the only way to be a happy family and have a good life. I now know that going your own separate ways can also produce the same results; my family is proof of that. Happy parents equal happy kids, period.
The other night over dinner, my son told me even though his Dad doesn’t sleep at the same house with him every night, it doesn’t feel that different because he sees him all the time. He also shared that he is glad everyone is happier now.
Sometimes my husband and I look at each other during a family outing (something we do very regularly), and wonder why we are so happy. We are getting along. We are great friends. We feel lighter. Does this mean we should stay together?
No, it doesn’t. We are living a happier life not being a couple. We are better parents to our children now that we have come to a decision about our future together as a married couple. There is a reason for that, so we are going with it.
Kids know when their parents are sad. They are sponges, they absorb feelings and emotions — even the ones we think we are really good at hiding. My husband and I were falling apart, and they knew it.
Every situation is different, and once my husband and I stopped focusing on all the harm we would be doing to our kids by splitting up, we started to think and talk about how we could possibly improve their life and our current situation and starting fresh with the focus on the kids instead of our anger and resentment. Once we let go of the thought we were going to damage our kids if we separated, we helped each other to see we would all end up in a better place if we followed our hearts. We kept reminding one another we could do this the right way; we could still be a family.
It was not easy to tell our children their mom and dad no longer wanted to be together, and we have had hard moments, hard days, and some really hard weeks, but our kids are okay, because their parents are okay. And I am so thankful we were able to make this decision before things got worse and we were able to split amicably because being good parents is now, and always has been, our first priority, and I refuse to feel guilty about something that feels this healthy.