Sunday, April 8, 2007

Not the worst thing in the world

In response to someone in the extended post mormon blogging community mentioning they were getting a divorce - an anonymous person felt the need to comment that divorce is never the best option for the kids.

The exact quote was: "Just so you know, it NEVER, EVER and I mean EVER is a good or appropriate time in a child’s life for their parents to divorce."

I disagree. I think there are plenty of good reasons for a couple or parents to divorce. There was a time when couples could not divorce (without cause) and divorce laws were stricter. I think of Anna Karenina when I think of unhappy marriages and the stigma of divorce in the past. I'm glad that our society has become more open.

I think a one size fits all statement like this just doesn't work. Life and relationships are much too complicated. Each of this blog's readers could probably come up with many examples of families who stayed together and it was for the best or divorced and it was for the best. Or vice versa and it was hard on everyone. If you're not in the relationship yourself (as chanson mentioned)
how can you really know what's going on or what's best for a couple and their

For the record, I consider myself happily married at the moment, just wanted to respond to this opinion which I hear quite often in the mormon/ post mormon community.

Reason #1 - physical, emotional or verbal abuse. Although things get much more complicated if abuse is involved, any parent who is experiencing abuse should be able to divorce. This is in the best interest of the health and safety of any children in the relationship. These situations are very complicated but suggesting that anyone should stay in an abusive relationship is ludicrous.

Do I need another reason? In case I do - for the sake of argument...

What if one parent is gay? What is one parent has an affair and there is a loss of trust?

I've spoken about divorce with two of my friends whose parents divorced.

In the situation of my first friend, J, his parents divorced after many years of loud arguments. Both parents were unhappy, but stayed together because of my friend. They divorced when he was 14 - but he doesn't ever remember them being happy with one another. He was told repeatedly that they were staying together because of him (talk about a guilt trip). He has mentioned before that he would have preferred they had divorced long before they did.

In the situation of my second friend, his parents divorced after twenty years and six kids. His dad had an affair. The divorce was ugly for many reasons. Not the least of which was that they were Roman Catholic. After five years, the local RC church (parish?) still sent mail to the mother's home addressed to both names, Mr. and Mrs. she was not able to teach in Catholic school any more either, she was told she was "a bad example".

Part of the reason this divorce was so hard on the kids was that the family's religion refused to accept or recognize it. The mother lost her job which made things worse. Also, the mother had many anger issues (understandably) towards the father and became upset when the kids decided to hang out with their dad or accept Christmas gifts from him. There were a ton of money issues in that situation as well.

It doesn't make any sense to me why someone should stay in a marriage (or feel guilty for leaving a marriage) if there has been an affair. I think the loss of trust between a couple can be fatal. I think it's actually quite healthy for one parent to stand up for themselves and say, I don't have to put up with this. I can be part of a healthy, happy relationship where trust is the foundation. The fact that there are religions who promote one parent staying in a marriage despite an affair are a little incomprehensible to me. Again - it ties back to the one size fits all prescription that doesn't work.

I think there are things that parents can do to make a separation or divorce easier on their kids. Because just like with any transition or change, it can be difficult. They can ensure the kids are financially provided for.

To continue discussing the example of my friend whose parents divorced after twenty years, the unstable finances made any fallout from the divorce ten times worse. The divorced parents fought over medical and dental care - the mother couldn't afford the care (for whatever reason) and so the kids went without. I don't want to imply that the mother was the victim in the situation, because it seemed to me that she was just as responsible (in some ways) for where the family was after the divorce.

I think therapy for the parents and the kids is also important, depending on their ages. Also a good lawyer for each parent is essential. Someone who knows the laws and isn't going to let the father buy a new boat (for example) but give it to his second wife so it doesn't appear under his assets. Some people don't need lawyers and mediation can work. I think that's great. But when things start to get messy, someone starts hiding income or refuses to support the kids, that's when (unfortunately) the courts need to get involved.

I'm not suggesting that divorce is not hard on the kids. It's hard for the kids to shuffle between parents and families on holidays. It's difficult for them to move from one location to another during the week or on the weekends. Anything both arents can do to make this easier is essential.

With that said, I think it's important for kids to have parents who are content and happy. To have relationships where they are valued. For the parents to be in a relationship where their emotional and physical needs are met. If the parents have worked on their relationship, but it's not working (for whatever reason) - staying together for the kids is probably not for the best. Each couple knows when this point is.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this.

Yet in my opinion, there are worse things for kids than their parents divorcing. I won't go further into them (but I can if pressed!!)

It's hard, but life is hard. Sheltering children from reality and disappointment will not ease what happens when they find out that life is not simple.


C. L. Hanson said...

Interestingly, there have been some posts popping up about this same topic in the Bloggernacle since apparently there was a conference talk about divorce. One I particularly liked was this one by Ziff. Ziff makes the point that even though studies show that kids whose parents stay together do better in the long run than kids whose parents divorce, that doesn't necessarily mean that every couple with kids should stay together no matter what -- it might be that the in the families where the parents stuck it out, the marriages weren't as bad overall as the ones that finally divorced.

I also like your example about the guy whose parents repeatedly told him they were staying together for his sake. What if you and your spouse hate each other and are staying together only because of your kids -- what do you tell them? The truth or a lie? In this case, it seems like either choice would be harmful to them in the long run.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I read that article, but did not get a chance to post my comments or read comments yet. Thanks for reminding me. I completely agree that sticking together for the sake of the kids is NOT always the answer.

I spent my life wishing my parents would divorce. They didn't hate each other or anything, but I felt they didn't match. It didn't happen until I had graduated from college.

Anonymous said...

Great points Aerin, there are many reasons for couples to divorce. Like you mentioned just sticking it out for the kids is wrong. I know my wife and I have had a lot of issues over the years and escpecially since I have gone apostate, but we love each other and divorce for us is not an option. Then it again that is us using our agency.

Anonymous said...

Thanks chanson. I appreciated the link to that discussion (very interesting blog, btw). I feel it's important to speak up when I hear that "staying together for the kids is always the best policy" argument.

FFG - thanks!

AZ awakening - Welcome! I think what's important, just as you noted, is the individual couple and what's best for each person. I didn't mention in my post, but it sadly seems that many couples where one person leaves the mormon church divorce. I hate to think that divorce is that automatic - but again, I've heard many stories from faithful mormons about being pressured to leave non believing spouses. As always, family first, my a**. Family first but only if you're mormon.