This is a tough question and one that your kids will ask you, maybe scream at you or throw at you like darts at a dartboard when you are least ready to handle it.
Leaving your marriage is never a light decision, in fact many of us will stay longer in a dead marriage for our children. A friend told me that his parents separation and subsequent divorce when he was 28 was a devastating blow regardless of his adult status. When a parent dies – you are a child with a broken heart even if you are 50- when your parents split up- you are again a child with a broken heart.
When you are in a failing marriage you operate on two levels – one where you can’t believe your good fortune-health, great children, shelter, good work, family and friends who support wholeheartedly your union. But the other layer is pervasive and chases you relentlessly. You are not happy and cannot fix it and desperately need to allow yourself the colossal indulgence to leave in spite of your promises, oaths and stiff upper lip. It is an angst that can become so normalized that you look back, once through it, and you don’t even recognize yourself.
When you tell people that you are split they may ask the ages of your children. Not to wonder as to the harm inflicted but as if to say- when kids reach a certain age of independence we realize we share nothing apart from them with our spouses. The children were nurtured fantastically but not the partnership. I resent this implication and oversimplification of the hardest decision of my life- as though I left my marriage because there was nothing good on TV and soccer season was over.
Early on in my separation, I went to my brother pleading “will my children be alright?” the weight of my action pressing hard on my conscience. He said, smiling, “will any of our children be ok?” I knew what he meant- it was not doomsday but rather- yours have as good a chance as any for being wonderful human beings. I only needed to hear this once.
Anthony E Wolf wrote the New York Times bestseller “Why did you have to get a divorce and when can I get a hamster?’ insisting that although divorce is terribly difficult for children it does not have to take them down.
As with everything it is not what happens to you in life, it is what you do with what happens that makes all the difference in the world.