Everyone has an opinion about struggling marriages and divorce. The idea of splitting with a spouse is one of those things that people react to before you even finish explaining your situation. Either way, they made up their mind a long time ago about your marriage along with all of the rest of them in the world. The cookie cutter has already cut your marriage, so deal with the crumbling mess appropriately.
My parents have always believed that people should work out their marriages at almost any cost—excluding extreme situations like spousal abuse. Their choices are so easily made because they’re guided by their religious beliefs. Others are guided by principles or empirical data. We’ve all seen references to endless studies about the effect of divorce on children.
To me, it seems obvious that a nice healthy marriage is going to have better outcomes than a strained one, regardless of whether divorce is involved, but we can agree that divorce is not a desirable path as a parent.
The more popular response I have received from younger friends I have confided in is an immediate jump to the opposite conclusion. The snap judgment is that if you’re considering divorce, you should get one. If you’re unhappy, you should go live your life. If your marriage lacks love, go find it. When kids—which happen to be heart of the issue for me—come into the mix, everyone assumes that an unhealthy marriage means horrible things for their young minds. They’ll be better off if everyone goes their own way and pursues their own happiness.
I have stayed with my wife through nearly eight years of marriage, despite the last six lacking romance and almost entirely void of passion. The first time someone rear ended me and totaled my car, my wife asked about damage to the car before even thinking of my wellbeing. When my mom was dying in the hospital, she begged me not to stay the night by her side again because there was a tornado warning and she has a fear of storms. She constantly tries to control my actions and interests. She even tries to tell me what books I’m allowed to read and what shows I can watch. She doesn’t want to make love to me, but she doesn’t want to share me either. The woman who was once my best friend has become a negative presence in my life.
However, my wife has a redeeming quality that makes the difference for me—she is a great mom. When it comes to life and parenting, we still make a pretty good team. If we ever start arguing in front of our kids, I do my best to diffuse the situation and insist that we discuss the issue at another time. The truth is that I know that for now my kids are better off with us together. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the financial and emotional impact that our split would have on my boys at this early stage of their life.
I may not be enjoying my own life as much as I could be, but I don’t make a habit of putting my happiness before the future of my children.
I’m not trying to make an argument against divorce. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel like my situation fits the cookie cutter so many people believe has molded every struggling marriage. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t listen to other people either. Seeking the opinions of peers can be important. I’m sure marriage counseling helps many partners who have drifted apart. Unfortunately, even cliché snap judgements are often right—they’re popular for a reason. All I’m trying to say is that we know ourselves and our marriages better than anyone.
Relationships are complex as hell. Allowing the future of your marriage to be determined by popular opinion is a mistake. It’s the easy way out. Prioritize your life, weigh the impact of your decision, and make the best choice you can.