Most experts agree that it’s ideal to raise children in a two-parent household. But what happens when one—or both—of those parents wants to end the relationship? Is it better to stay for the sake of the children, or should you do what makes you happy?
Ten years ago I stood in a tiny chapel in Niagara Falls and vowed to love, honor, and cherish my husband till death do us part. But one day I woke up and realized that a death had occurred. In the midst of trying to be the perfect wife and mother, I had lost a large part of myself. For that reason—and many others—I needed the marriage to end. I needed a life that was in line with the person I had become. There was a problem though…our four children; in other words, four little reasons to rethink my decision.
Were things that bad? Was I just being selfish?
Our relationship was by no means abusive. There was bickering; not really fighting. Nothing so monumentally horrible that it warranted a divorce, according to my friends and family, including my husband. But that’s what made things so hard. How do you justify such an earth-shattering change when there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it?
My reason? He just wasn’t the right person for me. And I wasn’t the right person for him. For things to work, one of us would have to change who we were. I did that. I did that for many years. I couldn’t do it anymore.
At the same time, I didn’t want to completely change things for my children. Pretending that everything was so picture-perfect may have become draining to my spirit, but it still seemed so much easier than the upheaval that divorce would bring. As a mother, isn’t it my job to suffer for my children, to put their happiness before my own?
For years I subscribed to that notion, believing that it made more sense for me to be miserable than it was for them and my husband to be sad because of a decision that I ultimately made. But some words from my six-year-old son—the bold one of the bunch—changed the way I saw things.
“I think my dad wants to be married, but my mom doesn’t,” he declared as he watched me pulling away from another forced embrace. Apparently, I wasn’t fooling anyone. All of this time I was avoiding a separation to keep my children from growing up in a broken home, but the truth was, our home was already broken.
Over the years we had patched and painted the holes in our relationship, so things looked good from the outside, but the foundation was never strong enough to sustain a healthy marriage. And every day that we continued to put on this facade, we were teaching our children that this is what marriage is, what love is.
After a serious bout of depression (mine), several exhausting attempts to rekindle the flame (his), and many sleepless nights (ours), we finally decided to end it. Initially, there was so much heartache, and there still is, but already things have changed in new and unexpected ways. We’re leaning on each other through this — to tell each other how angry we are, how sad we are, how much we both just want to get to the point where it doesn’t hurt. And even though we both know that that day may be far off, on some level, underneath all of the pain and the tears, there’s a sense of relief…for each of us.
We’re both able to stop walking on eggshells and breathe. To stop blaming ourselves for not being what the other person wants or needs, and to start being who we truly are; giving the best of ourselves to our children. Because despite our troubles as husband and wife, he is still one of my closest friends. I will always want the best for him. It just so happens that “the best” isn’t me. In an ideal world, we’d be able to stay together, but the reality is, we’ve tried, and we can’t.
Though some may say that in ending our marriage we’re giving up, we’re scarring our children for life and abandoning the sacred vows we took, I know our truth. Our truth is that we love our children more than anything in this world and will always have their best interest at heart. We may not be married, but through this divorce, we’re still upholding those vows we took ten years ago. I still love and cherish him, and I always will—for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I still honor him as the father of my children and the respectable man that he is; for all that he has done for me and with me in life. We will forever share an unbreakable bond, til death.