Should I Stay Married For The Sake Of The Kids?

by Sarah Cottrell
BrianAJackson | iStockphoto

At some point in a marriage, it is completely normal — expected even — to hit a dry spell, a period of quiet discontent, or sometimes even unruly growth spurts or just general rockiness. Some call it the “Seven Year Itch.” For me, this confusing period could be described as jagged and unpredictable. And so it was no surprise when it erupted into very long and painful silence between my husband and I. And then one day that silence was broken with the word “divorce.”

If I am being completely honest, there was a sense of relief when we said we wanted to end it because it meant that we had to deal with the silence and speak to each other.

In the beginning of wondering about how divorce works and dreading the viciousness of custody battles and feeling overwhelmingly sad about dividing up what felt like a lifetime of memories and traditions and stuff, I began to wonder if we could avoid the splitting altogether. Could it be possible to stay married for the sake of the kids?

But before I could answer that one fully loaded question, I had a litany of other questions slowly percolating to the surface — questions that I am not sure are even okay to ask out loud because they feel ugly in a way. I wonder if other women in this situation feel like this.

Would we be celibate, and if so, could I seriously give up sex for a decade or longer while we raise our children together? I’m not dead. I do have desires. And there is a thing called affection-starved, which at times I think I have. Most days I think that I can push those feelings far away and pull the priority of my children into focus, but still. I’m a woman and I need love in physical and emotional forms. This can’t possibly be selfish, can it?

Could we quietly have an open marriage? I mean the kind where we don’t ask and don’t tell, but can still get the physical and emotional affection we need, just minus all the baggage. I’ve read about these kinds of arrangements and I have to say that when I am in the midst of feeling pity for myself over my loneliness that this particular arrangement almost sounds doable. But could I really live with knowing that my husband has a girlfriend? I don’t think I could. And if I am being honest, I truly don’t think I could be in the arms of anyone but my husband — even if he and I aren’t speaking.

If I stay married for the kids what does that say to my children? Would my actions distort their view of women? My husband and I may not be on the same page when it comes to our marriage, but we are when comes to raising our kids. And one of the values we want to instill in our children is that women are equal to men. If we stay married for the sake of kids, will that look to my children like wives are submissive?

I can handle the pain of heartache and for the most part, I can shield my children from my pain by controlling how I choose to respond to the realities of my marriage. Like any good mom, I am willing to put my own needs below the needs of my children, but is this the right move? Should we stay married? Or should we divorce? I don’t have those answers, but I carefully and privately turn these questions over in my heart and in my mind.

Women are strong and beautiful and can withstand the most unbearable pain. I get that. And while I am willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of my children, I wonder if I am making the right choice and what kinds of consequences will come out of it.

The bottom line is that I love my family — including my husband. Even if we can’t make this work, there was a time when we were thriving and for that, I am willing to be patient and not rush this until the right choice makes itself known to my heart.