Bottom line: divorce is worse for the kids than their seeing you arguing. There are exceptions, of course, but divorce is a big and deep trauma for kids. Best to avoid it -if possible.
Do fighting, resentment, and divorce affect the kids? The short answer is "of course they do." But the effect of divorce is a whole order of magnitude greater than that of arguing.
If someone thinks divorce does not affect the kids, they are fooling themselves. In my first article I made reference to the excellent book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: a 25 Year Landmark Study. This book gives you a clue as to what the long term effects on kids can be--all the way into adulthood.
But you don't have to read the book to know that divorce affects the kids. Just look around you, and you will see that it does.
In most cases, divorce is not the solution, just another wrong choice. Of course, I understand that there are situations where one partner is such a terrible person that divorce is inevitable.
For example, children must be protected from a drug addict, a criminal, a violent person, or molester. But for the most part, divorce takes place between two decent good people.
A divorce involving two basically good people is often because of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, a desire to escape from commitment, or a misguided notion that marriage is for having one’s needs met means. Sometimes divorce is a way of getting revenge, or perhaps distancing oneself from a situation. Often there is "someone else." These are not good reasons for a divorce.
Like I said, with the exception of crime, violence, cruelty, drugs and so on, decent people are better off staying together.
I do see, however, that a temporary separation may sometimes be helpful for a cooling off period or to give everyone some space. Sometimes one person's behavior is way out of line (but correctable), and a period of separation gives him or her a chance to straighten up and clean up their act.
But when it comes to divorce, one or both partners may be just looking for an excuse to get away and escape from dealing with the situation. You often hear this excuse: "it is better to divorce than for the kids to see us arguing all the time."
Kids can deal with arguing (if it doesn't deteriorate in violence, drinking and so on). But divorce is a big trauma for them.
Here are some excerpts from my article "My Wife Asked Me to Move Out - What Should I Do?
But first, my favorite quote on the matter:
As for his secret to staying married: "My wife tells me that if I ever decide to leave, she is coming with me."
-- Jon BonJovi
You go, girl!
Generally, for spiritual reasons, I recommend that you not be the one who initiates the divorce.
If the other person moves out or files for divorce, it is still a free country, as the expression goes. But if you make the first move, then you have the guilt of it. Generally divorce is not a good thing, so initiating it puts a burden of guilt on you. This advice applies to both husband or wife.
There is the situation where the other person is drug addict, criminal, or abusive person. Of course, you have to protect yourself and the children. You might have to get the help of the authorities.
But in this post, I'm addressing the more typical situation where both husband and wife are decent, good people.
When both are good people, it is best not to divorce. It is best to work things out. But if the other side is determined to move out or divorce, let them be the first to make the fateful move. You will then know that you did not initiate it and won't have that hanging around your neck as the years go by.
You see, husband and father has a very special role. He holds a station in life. He holds the office of husband and if there are kids, the office of father.
In the eyes of children, father stands in for God. Can you see why it is so devastating when a father fails?
Husband and father is supposed to be like the George Washington or Moses of the family. He stands for what is right. He cannot have any vices. He must be principled, honorable, wise, patient, long suffering, and kind.
He has to be as steady as the ticking of a grandfather clock in a thunderstorm. If others fail him, he does not fail them. If others become upset, he remains calm and reasonable.
Most dads are a little weak. They say the right things, but say them too weakly. He must not be there to win a popularity contest. He has to stand for what is right and persist even in the face of rebellion. But he must not be angry. He must always have a twinkle in his eye.
Many men clam up, but are angry and resentful underneath. When they do finally speak up, their message is tainted and ruined by the pent up anger. Feeling guilty, he may clam up again or sit on the sidelines while the family goes to ruin.
A man simply can't avoid his duty without harming the family. That is why he must learn to stand for what is right with patience and firmness and kindness.
He has to be there for his wife and children. They need a very special love from him: emotionless agape love. A man cannot have this love if he is selfish or unprincipled. Nor can he have this love for them if he is a womanizer or tries to make his wife into his mother. He must not look for ego support from the world. He must look within and find a bond with what he knows in his heart.
He will then not need love. He will give love. He must love principle more than anything, even his wife.
But if you think about it for a moment, you will see that this is the man she can trust. She knows he will always be there for her and she knows he will never be unfaithful (because he does not need the love of a woman, a drug, or some worldly support). This is the man she can respect and perhaps even love.
Now, gentlemen, most wives are aware of their husband's weaknesses before they get married, but she hopes that he will become the noble knight she needs. And once within the confines of marriage, the nobly inclined man will become aware of his failing her in some mysterious way.
He will search his heart and out of true love for her and the children, he will see what they need from him. He will learn to be less selfish, and eventually one day, unselfish. He will begin to fail less, and one day not fail at all.
She will see his nobility, his heart felt efforts, and his love of principle. With this man, there is hope.
But when there are children, everything changes. Now the man is both husband and father.
I recently heard a man tell about his father who he loved deeply. His mom was not a nice lady and she made a lot of trouble for his dad (her husband) who stayed there for the children and was a good father to them. He suffered for decades, but never hated his wife and never complained. The children loved him dearly.
You see, the children were aware of his suffering. They saw his sacrifice and nobility. And they loved him all the more.
It didn't matter what mom did. Father was there for them.
But if he had walked out on her and them, what would be foremost in their minds would not be what mom did, but what he did. He would have quit on them. Thank God he did not.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I know that marriage can be a severe test. But just as there can be no courage without danger, so likewise there can be no character without a test of that character. A final word. Sometimes we do the right thing by simply not doing the wrong thing. Someone can tempt you to do something wrong or foolish. Just don't do it and you are safe.
Always do what you know is right in your heart.
I've always told men--if you have an argument with your wife--whatever you do, don't walk out. Walking out means something to a woman. Just go sit in the living room and watch television or read a book. Let the storm blow over.
I heard the true story of a noble lady named Sister Hortense who lives in Chicago. Her husband was unfaithful and walked out. She waited 8 years (remaining chaste and pure) and never gave up hope. One day, 8 years later, there was a knock on the door. Repentant and chastened, her husband asked if they could perhaps reconcile. And they did. Sister Hortense sets a good example for us all.
Most people have the wrong idea about marriage, sex, love, and what marriage is all about. We tend to think that it is about having our needs met. Then of course there is the wrong but universal notion that sex is love. Then there is the the whole business of romantic love. Romance is nice and it has its place. It's wonderful if it is there naturally. But an overemphasis on romance can lead to frustration.
Actually marriage is a framework within which to work out our differences and learn to be unselfish.
So here I am, I'm like a good grandpa, a wise matchmaker, or a senior marriage mentor. I can help you figure out what is going on, and possibly help save a good relationship.
How to get started:
Preview and purchase my book The Myths and Mysteries of Marriage: Making Relationships Work, available at Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle.
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"Roland, thank you so much for your book.
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