I ask this question, because I truly do not know the answer. I never made this decision, my ex made it for both of us. I myself know I would probably have stuck in my marriage until “death do us part.” as I have a high tolerance for pain and I also really like to try and fix things and make them work. I always want to find the answer. I’m learning that there is no answer, yet that does not stop me from trying to find it – hence this blog post. When do you call it quits on your marriage?
Another way to phrase this is to ask you, what is stopping you from initiating a divorce?
From my standpoint, it seems that what is stopping most people is fear.
The two main fears are usually around money and children.
Let’s address these issues head on and I will tell you what I have discovered.
Fear Number 1. Money – You Are Going to Be Much Worse Off Financially
Fear of being poor was one of my fears. Combined, my husband and I could get by quite well in our expensive city on one salary. Divorced, that would not be the case. I would have to get a job, we would have to find childcare, divide our assets and finance two households. Our standards of living would both drop. It was a depressing thought and stopped me from even contemplating getting a divorce. I would rather live unhappily in a financially stable relationship than happily on my less well off own.
My divorce happened and yes my net worth definitely went down. My cash flow was severely impacted as well. This led to much anxiety and unhappiness on my part. I used to create budgets on a monthly basis to prove to myself that yes, I did not have enough money coming in to cover the money going out. This would cause me more anxiety until I made the connection that stressing myself out was not really a helpful exercise.
Eventually I realized that I have always been able to manage and I adjusted my spending downward and thought of ways to increase my money coming in to make ends meet. I found solutions and made decisions and kept on living and making decisions that were in line with what I wanted for my life going forward. For some people, that decision might be to try and make more money, for some it might mean choosing to downsize their spending habits.
Three years out from my divorce, I can tell you that the benefits of being happier on my own far outweigh the financial impact of divorce.
Fear Number 2. Children – They Are Going to Suffer and Be Worse of as Children of Divorced Parents
I had been the primary caregiver to our two young children (aged 4 and 6 at the time of our separation). I could not perceive how my children’s father would ever manage to parent our kids on his own for half of their lives. It just did not seem possible. They would not get fed, put to bed or have clean laundry ever again. Not to mention the fact that my children “MY CHILDREN” would not be with me for half of their lives. They were only 4 and 6! They needed their mother and I needed them. They were my purpose in life.
Now, don’t get me wrong – my kids did want us to stay together. My youngest once hatched a scheme where I would rent an apartment in the same building as his dad and we could live down the hall from each other. I know it was hard for them to get used to only having one parent around at a time. They did get used to it though. In fact, it really was not much different from when we were together as my ex and I had never really been in the same room together for two years before our separation. They do still have to manage the different expectations that I and their dad put on them and shift from Mom’s house rules to Dad’s house rules twice a week, but that is life. We as people have to manage ourselves in our society, jobs, families, etc. Kids of divorce get a bit more practice having to do this.
It was harder for us parents I think. I missed my kids desperately (and I have the blog posts to prove it) for three years post divorce. It took my mom asking me this summer “do you miss your kids?” when they had been with their dad for their two week summer stint with him for me to realize that I have finally stopped missing them when they go live at their dad’s. I answered “no, I don’t miss them” and then I really thought about that. Old me would have felt like a traitor and horrendously guilty for letting those words come out of my mouth – honestly, what kind of mother does not miss her kids?, but I realized after I said those words – “I do not miss my kids” – what a milestone that is for me, for their dad and for them.
It took me three years to build a life for myself that would make me happy when my kids were not around and it took me three years to learn to trust that they would be fine with their dad. I also learned in that time and truly believe that kids are better off having two parents that are capable of taking care of them. Yes, it takes more organization and kids have to shuffle back and forth between two households, which is tiring and slightly painful. However, they have two parents that manage to feed them, get them ready for school, sign them up for activities and arrange play dates. In other words, my kids now have two parents that are fully involved in their lives. Yes, I think I still do more 🙂 but my kids’ dad is doing WAY more than he ever did. If we had stayed together, I would probably still be doing everything and he would probably still not be very involved in their lives. Now, I have a life of my own and I have a life as a mom. I get my own time to do my own things, build my business and strive to become a happier person and I know my kids are taken care of by someone that loves them. How awesome is that?
It took me three years to get here though. It took me three years to understand that my children’s dad does love them and also understand that he does not do things the same way that I do, but that does not mean his parenting is not as good as mine. It is different. How do you judge what good parenting is? I realized I could not answer that other than to say a good parent is someone that loves their children and is trying to do their best by them.
So three years out from my divorce, I realize that the fears that were keeping me in my marriage were unfounded. I am grateful that my ex overcame his fears (which I know were the same as mine) and pulled the plug on our marriage. It had served its time. We were done. We are better by being divorced.