the grace of divorce – why we stay: children

It’s a noble intention, a selfless commitment, the notion of sticking it out for the kids. The spike in empty-nester divorces hits sixteen percent higher than the mean divorce rate, an indication of parents holding on until the baby’s gone. It might not be surprising that more women file than men.

Kids can tell. There’s an innate sense of authenticity in people who love each other. Children find continuity and security in that authenticity. When love is feigned, even Santa Claus becomes more credible.

Take a look for yourself. We’re all still split on the noble intention. Sift through the rhetoric in your research and you’ll find the narrative advocating parents to stick it out no-matter-what supported by Christian conservative agendas. Progressives disagree. Find your center and everything else will fall into place.

Selfless v. selfish. I don’t see the dichotomy that way. If you’re going to be any good to anyone else, especially your children, you need to be good to yourself first. But that’s another chapter.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger would advocate wives and husbands sticking it out for the kid come hell or high water, short of abuse of course. Even then, exhaust all avenues before the fatal decision. I think she’s wrong. Children deserve stability and continuity and if that’s only found in a single-parent home versus the turbulence and uncertainty of a marriage soiled by disappointment and suspicion, I believe the child has a better chance.

The numbers are funny on this. Google children+divorce and you’ll be terrified of the outcomes of divorce that pop up in your browser, no matter how dire the circumstances of the marriage. These numbers come from well intended therapists and family counselors bent on saving your family and marriage and capitalizing on it. No agenda there. Other research indicates that eighty percent of children from split families grow up to be functioning adults. I wonder what the number is for kids from nuclear families, including the ones that put the “fun” in dysfunctional.

So I can’t back this up quantifiably. Common sense and life’s experience have taught me, though, that kids who remain the focus and priority of parents who find themselves single due to divorce are more likely to model positive communication approaches than kids who remain in domiciles where their parents are faking it.

What’s most disturbing about the notion of using children to sustain a marriage is the flawed therapeutic pablum being slathered on childless couples who struggle with their marriages. In the context of where I live and teach, many of these couples are advised to have a baby. That’s it, a baby will smooth things out, give purpose to your lives, pull you away from your self-centered ambitions in your relationship.

I’ll write it again, every child born deserves stability, continuity and authenticity. Better that that comes from one parent than nothing from two, regardless how noble their intentions.

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One Response to the grace of divorce – why we stay: children

  1. I am a student in Jillian Hymas’ “Interpersonal Communication” class at Dixie State College. Just wanted to take a look at your work and let you know that your presentation on the deterioration of relationships was truly enlightening. I admire your teaching style and hope to take one of your courses in the future.

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