Dear Carolyn: Is there an age at which divorce causes more or less damage to children? My kids are in elementary and middle school. My husband and I have grown apart and live like friendly roommates. Im very unhappy, but I think the kids perceive our home as warm and secure.
Sometimes I think I should just stay with my husband until our youngest child goes to college, but that will be in 10 years. I dont think I can hang in there that long. Will the kids be able to handle it better if I wait until theyre in high school?
FOR THE KIDS SAKE
The kids will handle anything better if you demonstrate compassion, resourcefulness, selflessness, wisdom and integrity.
Which means I dont see any best-case outcome here unless you first try really try to restore these friendly roommates to husband and wife. Which means saying to this spousal roommate something, anything, to open his eyes to the extent of your unhappiness, and inviting him into the process of reversing years of mutual emotional neglect. Find a talented marriage counselor, a reputable and inspiring marriage retreat or seminar, or just watch a season or five of Friday Night Lights together. Seriously its like a marriage clinic, with cheerleaders.
I realize its inherently offensive for a third party to declare from on high that you dont deserve a divorce because you havent worked hard enough to save your marriage. I also think misery can be its own justification to leave a relationship, for many reasons among them that kids dont automatically thrive in households with very unhappy parents just because both parents happen to live there. However, you put the stay-for-kids option on the table, so respect your own reasons and keep it there, with one tweak do it for yourself, too.
Virtually every marriage left untended will get weedy. Its actually the better ones that decay into what you have, warm detachment, because there is warmth. Maybe you call it faint praise that your husband is someone you get along with, are invested in and who isnt mean to you but, from on low, I call it a chance.
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