Disclaimer: If you came here to read my normal comedy-driven narratives, please be advised that this is not in that genre. I had the opportunity to teach a “marriage-crisis survival” class for the Navy, and I have been inspired ever since to write publicly about some of things I taught (and learned) during that class.
When you are a busybody who tries to give marriage advice, word gets around. But not in the way you would think… people actually want help. I get approached at least once a month by someone who wants to tell me about their marriage crisis.
I always welcome their story and I try to offer the best advice I can based on my personal experience and research I have done during my own times of crisis. But of all the advice I give, I find people less responsive to what I think is the most important lesson.
I tell them NOT to stay together for the children.
That’s right. DO NOT STAY TOGETHER FOR THE CHILDREN.
“But, Dave,” you must be saying right now. “Children of divorced parents have a higher rate of drug and alcohol use. They drop out of high school at a much higher rate than children in non-divorce homes. They have a much lower rate of college attendance Dave. How can you possibly give that advice?”
Good points all. But you need to hear the rest of my argument. I did not say to go through with a divorce. Why? Because all of the facts that I just pretended you spouted at me happen to be true.
Wait, am I confusing anyone? I am sticking to my story. Do not stay together for the children.
Let me explain.
It is really all about the lessons you teach your children. As a quick caveat, let me say that not every marriage needs to be saved. There are abusive relationships out there that are harmful for everyone and those are beyond any advice I can give. But I am not talking about those. I am talking about the “I just can’t stand that woman/man anymore and I want out” relationships.
If you are in one of those relationships, and you stay together for your children, let me tell you what you are teaching them.
Dad – if you have a daughter, and you no longer love her mother, but you stay in the home in an unhealthy marriage, you are teaching her what to expect from her marriage. She will accept much less love and caring than she deserves because YOU are the example she will forever use for what a husband should be.
Exit question Dad of a daughter – Would you want your daughter to live with a man she was not in love with, for any reason?
Dad – If you have a son, what lesson does he learn from watching Dad live in an unloving and unhealthy marriage? He learns that conflict and anger are normal and acceptable ways of living every day. He learns that he does not necessarily need to love a woman to have a relationship with her, he only needs to feel an obligation to her. How many young men end up not caring about irresponsible teen sexual activity because they have learned this attitude from their Old Man? Any social worker worth his/her salt can give you stats on this.
Mom – if you have a daughter, what is she learning from you by watching you stay in a broken marriage? She is learning that she does NOT have to wait for storybook romance. She does not need to hope for the man of her dreams. She is learning to accept less of a man than she is worthy of demanding. Little girls who live in that sort of household have a high rate of divorce, and unfortunately experience abusive relationships as adults because they did not witness their mother demanding respect and love from dad.
Mom – if you have a son, what is he learning from you when he hears you tell Dad behind closed doors that you are only staying for the kids? Because they do hear that you know, they hear and know EVERYTHING. Trust me. They know way more than you think. So what is your little man learning? He is learning that it is okay for him to live with a woman who doesn’t love him. It is okay for him to be in constant conflict with his wife. He is learning that the love of a woman is not at all important to a happy marriage. You are setting him up for marital disaster, and lowering his view of the value of a woman.
So, parents, that is real tough stuff isn’t it. I’m rude and brash for pointing it out. People will stop following my blog. People will get mad and say I was out of line. But wait! Just read the next little bit.
If you are not to stay together for the kids, what is the answer?
Let’s face it, staying with someone you do not love for any reason is hard. It is so hard that it almost never works out in the end.
So why not try something easy? What is one of the easiest things we do? Fall in LOVE.
What? That is right. Do not stay together for the kids. FALL IN LOVE FOR THEM.
If you are strong and willing, and if you are dedicated enough to sacrifice everything in your being to live with a person you do not love for your children, then falling in love with that person will be one of the best and easiest decisions you ever made. You already did it once, in most cases, and it was fun. You liked it. Remember?
You can leave all of those problems behind, and move on. Forgiveness is sometimes hard, but it is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself. When you forgive, the person you are forgiving feels nothing, but you will feel everything.
Try this: Decide to forgive and leave all the problems behind. Put ‘em in a sack and leave ‘em by the street. If being in love with the mother/father of your children turns out to be no fun, and you liked the problems and the past transgressions, go back out to the street. They will still be there. No one will take them.
“Dave, that is all easier said than done,” you say.
Okay, try it. Try falling in love. You’ve tried falling into despair for your children, and you are finding it hard. Try falling in love for them, and let me know how that one goes.