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When Not to Stay Married for the Kids

It is quite honorable to stay married for your children. It is also honorable to split if you cannot give them enough to benefit from married parents or if staying together puts them in danger.

  • Children benefit from the sort of home two parents can afford to provide, one with better schools, safer recreation, safer neighbors.
  • Children benefit from long-lasting relationships with the adults in their lives, rather than a string of strangers spending time with them.
  • Children benefit from seeing both of their parents respected, praised, and loved by the important people in their lives, especially their other parent.
  • Children benefit from observing a couple practice affection, a healthy 5:1 or better ratio of positive:negative interactions, and positive-constructive responses to their accomplishments and good fortune.

Balance these against the unhealthy things that can go on in a household:

  • Children are damaged by seeing a parent abused or manipulated.
  • Children are damaged by being physically or sexually abused.
  • Children are damaged by a parent denying the harm done to those children by the other parent just to keep the family or income intact.
  • Children are damaged by living in fear of unpredictable and harmful behavior by a parent with an addiction or other mental health problem.
  • Children are damaged by being asked to keep secrets from their other parent or hearing accusations against their other parent that cannot be discussed openly with that parent.

That's my take on it. What's yours?

Comments

I like this idea! It makes it fun, but also can knock some things off that we have been meaning to do for awhile!

Hi Patty - Here is my situation. I want to get your two cents.I have been married 15 years now and have 2 wonderful kids. Both my husband and I work full time. He is great provider but that's about it when it comes to involvement with me and kids. I am not even complaining about household chores. My problem is he won't make time to spend a few dedicated minutes even with kids, (forget about me). Its usually me pushing for him to take them to park, engage in sports but I just find this all so demeaning. I think I have now given up. What's more hurtful is that he is so fake attentive towards kids of our family friends and always in waiting if any of them need a favor. It drives me nuts to see him trying so hard to please others while ignoring 3 of us. He goes on run every weekend with his buddies but if I ask him to join for walking our dog, he is never interested. All I want is that 30 min each day to focus on us, ask me how my day was, ask kids about their school. What would you do if you were in my position?

You might want to read Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages. You are desperately looking for the love language called Quality Time, but what your husband offers his friends' children is Acts of Service. He may not even realize that you could feel unloved without Quality Time. And you and the kids may accidentally reject or overlook his Acts of Service (especially the one of being a great provider), making him feel you are difficult to love or, worse, don't respect him.

If you two get together with family friends, try asking some of the other men to organize some sports with all the children. Your husband is unlikely to sit it out. Or organize a picnic in the park for several families.

It sounds like you two are not in the habit of regular date nights together. One way to get this going is to find a group organizing date nights -- or suggest it to a local restaurant, church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. There is a ready-made program you can use. Check out http://www.10greatdates.org/. In my opinion, date nights for you and your husband will benefit your children a lot more than time with their father will.

I am sure your situation is quite frustrating, but it is actually a fairly common one that many couples manage to resolve. This makes me so happy to answer your comment, because there is so much reason to have hope your marriage will turn out to be a long and happy one.

Patty-
Thanks for optimistic guidelines.it will certainly take a lot of emotional strength to bring myself to start on these. Both kids cherish so much the time spent with their Dad. I can just tell by their enthusiasm towards everything when they are with him. I love spending time with him too. I do not want to get emotional in front of kids and it worries me how I will react if his response is not cooperative. Still it feels good to share.

When is he most admirable, Nisha? Is he quick at learning new things? Good in social situations? At peace in nature? Full of energy and enthusiasm while exercising? Does exploring something new light up his eyes? Work on creating an opportunity where he can be his very best self.

While you might be able to replace your husband, you cannot replace your children's father. If he is uncomfortable now doing things with the children, they are unlikely to see him much at all after a divorce. The more important project for all of you is to create time together for the two of you.

Anything you do to shame him, like chiding him about what you believe the children need from him, makes it harder for him to spend time with you. His hormonal makeup means he absolutely craves your respect and admiration.

Remember, too, that we get into routines with each other, and you will be changing the routine. The normal human response to a surprise change in routine is to treat it as a mistake and move back toward the routine without even thinking about the change. You may need to make several attempts. So give yourself a failure goal instead of getting emotional when you encounter what is a normal response. Set yourself a goal of failing six times at getting him to go on a date night (or date afternoon) with you. If you succeed before you get to six, you must keep initiating opportunities until you get all six failures.

Arrange the babysitter. Check his schedule and pick a good date and time. Pick the place. Pick an activity where he will shine. Then present it to him with enthusiasm. And if he says no, smile and give yourself a big check mark and start working on the next one. Because it's almost certain the no comes from his fear or insecurity or habit rather than his feelings for you.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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