by: Jim Duzak, JD.
I’m 41 and married with two kids (7 and 9). My parents got divorced when I was in eighth grade, and I vowed that if I ever got married I would never make my own kids go through what I had to go through. Well, guess what? I’m unhappily married and struggling every day with the question of whether I should stay in my marriage or start over.
My husband is a decent person and a great father, but I married him for the wrong reasons (I had been dumped by the man I thought was the love of my life, and needed to be wanted by someone, even someone I didn’t love). If there were no kids involved, I would have left my husband years ago and we’d both probably be happier now. I don’t want to keep living like this, but I don’t want my kids to suffer or to resent me all their lives. Can you help me sort things out?
You’re right that divorce is hard on kids, but so is living in a home where at least one of the parents is miserable. If you are truly “struggling every day,” your kids are going to sense it, if they haven’t already.
On the other hand, if you can somehow manage to hide your unhappiness for the next ten or twelve years, how will they react when you finally tell them that you’re getting divorced? Are they going to feel that their happy home life was nothing but a fraud — a fraud that you perpetrated?
People shouldn’t suffer forever in bad marriages, but is yours really a bad marriage? If you told me that your husband was abusive or unfaithful, or refused to get treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse, I’d tell you to cut your losses — kids or no kids. But by most standards you have a good marriage. It’s just that you’ve never become fully invested in it, possibly because at some level you’re still in love with the man who dumped you.
I’m not blaming you for that, but you’re deluding yourself if you think you can simply start over without any negative consequences to yourself, your kids, or to your husband. And you’re also deluding yourself if you think that after a divorce you’re going to automatically find the love that you think you’re missing now. Ask your divorced friends what it’s like to be simultaneously raising kids and trying to meet men. And ask them how they feel about divorcing a man who is a good person and a great father and did nothing bad to you.
Chances are, they’re going to look at you like you’re crazy. You need to figure out who you are, why you’re unhappy, what you’re looking for, and how to reverse the negativity that has taken over your life. The problem began with you, and the solution needs to come from you, too. However, after so many years of feeling tortured you’ll probably need a therapist to help you work through all the issues.
I honestly think that, at some point, you’ll be more accepting of your marriage and happier in it. If you’re not, divorce is always an option, but working sincerely on your issues for six months or a year would at least make you more comfortable with your decision. Good luck, and please let me know how it all turns out.
Jim Duzak is a graduate of Boston College Law School, and practiced divorce law in Boston for over twenty years. After moving to Arizona, he became a full-time mediator for the family and divorce court in Phoenix.
His experience in working with divorcing couples, plus his own life experiences---he was a 20 year-old husband and father and a single father for several years after his divorce---prompted Jim to write a book entitled, Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment, that helps people avoid divorce by teaching better ways to communicate and resolve disputes.
Jim is currently an advice columnist, relationship writer, and personal coach. He is a contributing expert atHopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily.com. He also puts on workshops dealing with marriage, divorce, post-divorce dating, and other aspects of men-women relationships. His website is attorneyatlove.com.
Jim is a former divorce lawyer and mediator. His columns are not intended to constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for marriage counseling or other professional services.