Coming from a child of divorced parents, I want you to know- separating may be the most selfless act you can make.
My Sister and I were quite young when my parents separated, but old enough for that separation to likely affect us in ways that we were unable to fully understand. As I grew older, I listened to both my parents’ perspectives. Though they felt (and still feel) quite differently towards one another, they did (and often still) portray a common thread: an overwhelming feeling of guilt; as if they both struggle to forgive themselves for ‘damaging’ their children through their divorce.
Relationships are complex. In order to maintain a healthy and happy relationship, it takes work from both partners. Throw kids into the mix and you soon discover sides of your partner that you may have not seen before.
Parenthood may trigger pain that had been previously suppressed. It may even awake emotion that you had never experienced before. Between sleep deprivation and the immense amount of responsibility that one feels once children come into the world, marriage and/or relationships may become strained from these experiences.
I have experienced first-hand the strain that young children can put onto a marriage. I now understand how difficult parenthood can be, while doing so alongside another adult.
Luckily, my husband and I have become stronger than ever; but that’s not the case for every relationship. This does not mean that you have failed as a partner. This means that you’ve grown into or assimilated to the unexpected. That’s acceptable. Permissible. And it’s beautiful when, and if, you can recognize and are able to invite this type of growth. It is also selfless should you understand that you need to move on for the betterment of the relationship; to separate that partnership should growth be in conflict.
But here’s the thing: whether your parents are together or separated, their relationship will affect the children. Whether defined as a ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ partnership, the parents’ relationship will alter the child’s perspective on marriage, relationships and parenting in general.
Children are conditioned by the way they’re raised. Whether solely by their mother/father or the combination of both parents, each individual has such a different perspective on life due to the way they were raised.
Just because both parents raise a child does not mean that it’s a healthy experience, especially if the relationship is strained.
Regardless of the pain that my parents’ separation may have caused, it was far less traumatizing for my sibling and I than that of experiencing an unhappy and stressful marriage.
This is not to validate my parents’ decision as a couple, but it’s to reassure the other couples, of whom are drastically suffering, to not hold onto their severed relationship for their children’s sake.
In my childhood, I knew many friends with parents who stayed in unhealthy marriages and partnerships. Unable to do anything but compare their wellbeing to my parents’, I knew from a very young age that I would never want to stay in a toxic relationship because I believed that it would be better for my children. I had witnessed first-hand how severed relationships affected my friends, whether it was comfort in drugs, alcohol or compulsive behaviour, it had been obvious to me that there was a direct link.
With all this said, every family dynamic is unique. Some children with separated parents may have abandonment issues and the inability to maintain a long-term relationship because they were not witness to one growing up; however, being raised by two parents will not necessarily better the child’s outcome. Being raised by positive leaders, whether collectively or separately, is the best bet.
Do not struggle in your marriage because you believe it will better the child. Marriage and relationships take work…a lot of work. But if your partner is bringing you down, more than they are holding you up, I believe it is time to revaluate your personal and family goals.
Your child and your family will be better off if you, the parent, are healthy and happy. You must check in daily. Realize how the people that you love the most are affecting your mental, spiritual and intellectual health.
Go with your heart on this one and let it tell your brain that it’s hurting. Remember how important your child’s environment is. If it feels forced in any way, it may be best to consider changing your priorities.
Coming from a child with divorced parents, I deeply feel it was the best decision that they had made. Not only for themselves, but for their children as well.
Artwork for Mother Muse by Cate Adriana Print No.3 available here
Words by Julian Jamie