In an effort to shield their children from the ravages of divorce, more unhappily married parents are making the decision to stay together. Citing the emotional, psychological and financial troubles that often ensue from splitting a family, they are finding new ways to keep the family together despite no longer wanting or maintaining a loving and committed marital relationship. Common arrangements include:
• living in the same house but in different bedrooms
• dating outside the marriage with each other’s consent (adultery)
• not telling the children or even other family members about their married-but-not together agreement
Typically, the couple either pretends to be a loving couple or resides under the same roof while maintaining separate lives and sharing the kids. Either way, neither individual views the other as a mate. Those who engage in this type of marital arrangement insist that the benefits are clear: emotionally secure children, pooled financial resources are only two. They say that the self-sacrifice for their children’s well-being is worth more than their own personal happiness.
A lifelong ruse?
But I believe that this tactic is short-sighted. The benefits are likely to be temporary. As the kids grow older, they will feel duped by the parents’ ruse. I asked my now adult children how they would feel to learn that all these years, their parents only stayed married for their sake. Both said they would be overcome with sadness and grief. Why? Because of the disillusionment and deception. They said that they would feel angry that our marriage was a lie, and they would have preferred we split earlier if only to live the truth. While they agreed that divorce would have shattered them emotionally, they would rather have dealt with it directly and healed than to learn years later that their entire childhood’s worth of memories was a sham. The guilt from being responsible for forcing their parents to give up their own personal happiness would only add to the burden.
A bad marriage model
When you stay together without loving your mate, what are you showing your children about marriage? That married people don’t love each other? That married people are distant? That married people don’t laugh with each other or hug and kiss? That married people only love their children but not each other? Is that the type of marriage you want for your grown children?
Children want one thing above most anything else and that is their parents’ happiness. They also need their parents to show them that when they become adults, they deserve happiness, too. Even if it means having to be “un-married” to do so. I always advocate for marriage, but staying together for any reason other than for love is making a mockery out of the institution of marriage.