Years ago I recall talking with a friend who was in a very unhappy marriage. Each time we met she would tell me how many more years, months, weeks she had to endure her marriage until she could finally get out. She was staying for her daughter. Innocently, I asked, “Don’t you think your daughter would rather see her mom happy and divorced than in a marriage that makes her miserable?” She thought about it and the next time we met she told me she was leaving. I had no idea that my question had so much impact.
My friend, like many others, believed her daughter didn’t know that she and her husband were miserable. But, she came to find out, that a child’s perception often overrules our ability to camouflage. It then occurred to her that although her daughter was merely eight years old; she wanted to provide her with the role model of a strong and happy woman and that was no longer possible while married to her husband. I won’t go into the details, but in time they were divorced, learned to parent together from two households and their daughter has acclimated to the situation.
Curious, having read a recent poll claiming that 82% of those aged 14 to 22 who have endured family breakups would prefer their parents to part if they are unhappy, I asked my friend if she ever talked to her daughter about the differences from then to now. At eleven, her daughter clearly articulated that it was so much better this way. “Everyone is happier.”
That same survey revealed that adults and older children of divorced families say that they realized later on that it was for the best. This does not mean, by any means, that divorce is easy on anyone, but it does somehow attest to the long standing notion that staying together for the children is not the answer.
The answer is (drumroll please)…making divorce and co-parenting work…which again is not always an easy feat, but is certainly possible and leaves open much more opportunity for everyone involved.