Being in the military is stressful, and being married is stressful. Being married in the military is something only those who experience it know!
Let’s be honest: many married people think about divorce at some point or another, military or not. As a mediator and family law attorney, my clients in empty (or even horrible) marriages often tell me that they are considering putting off divorce until their kids are out of high school. I know that no one wants to put their kids through the turmoil of divorce.
While a desire to shield your kids from the effects of divorce is understandable, sticking it out through a bad marriage could actually do more harm than good. Here are some things you might consider:
You’re Not Fooling Anyone
Even award-winning actors break character from time to time and you’ll likely be no different. If you and your spouse are considering divorce, there are probably some compelling and long-standing reasons. Most people don’t decide to divorce on a whim. If you have reached the point where divorce seems like an appropriate option, then the negative emotions and the conflict that exists in your relationship will surely spill into your daily lives. Even if they don’t know the reason why it is happening, the kids will sense the tension and unhappiness. Living in that state can cause anxiety, low-self esteem, and even guilt as your kids may begin to blame themselves for the marriage struggles. And in the end, they may resent you for putting them through that.
They’ll Think This is How Marriage Is Supposed to Be
Sure, kids shouldn’t necessarily grow up with the unrealistic expectation that marriage is always a fairy-tale. But they also shouldn’t grow up thinking marriage is supposed to be miserable either.
If that’s what they’re learning from their parents, they are much more likely to follow those same patterns. Would you want them to be as unhappy as you are in their marriage one day? If not, you may have your answer about divorce. A better example may be in them understanding what a healthy marriage looks like and what to do when it’s not.
You Have an Opportunity to Show Them How to Adult
Beyond what you hope for your kids’ future marriages, you want them to be happy, productive, and fulfilled adults in general. They need to learn mature and respectful ways to resolve conflicts, healthy ways to cope with disappointment, and that their happiness IS important in life. Avoiding the inevitable in your marriage may be showing them the opposite.
If there is any silver lining in divorce, it may be in how you handle it. While the change will be hard, showing them you’re both navigating it in a way that creates a more positive future for everyone will go such a long way.
If You’re Gonna Stick It Out, Commit to Working On Your Marriage
Some marriages are worth saving IF you and your spouse mutually agree to earnestly work at having a healthy, happy relationship. If you both are committed to the hard work it takes to do that, then kudos to both of you for working on your marriage for the sake of the kids.
But riding out an unhappy marriage for months or even years without any meaningful plan or effort to improve your marriage is kinda like dying a slow death. It’s no different than having a progressive disease and not seeking treatment to stop it from sucking your life out of you. Do not equate suffering through your marriage for the sake of the kids with working on your marriage for the sake of your kids (and YOU).
Working on your marriage is a fabulous example to set for your children. Because that is an honest-to-goodness real-life skill that all of us would benefit from learning by the example of our parents. But you aren’t doing yourself or your kids any favor by suffering or being a martyr.
How Mediation Services Can Help
One way to more amicably navigate divorce is through mediation. This can be an alternative to the more formal process of litigation in divorce court. In mediation, you and your spouse enlist a neutral third party to help you resolve issues such as the distribution of assets, child custody, child support, and alimony. Here are some of the benefits:
- Less Confrontational – Rather than one spouse taking legal action against the other, you’re working together to resolve issues that can help preserve the relationship going forward.
- Quicker Resolution – By resolving issues before the divorce filing, you’ll likely have fewer court dates which result in a quicker process.
- More Cost-Effective – Less time in court means your lawyers will be spending less time on the case. That equals savings on those expensive legal fees.
So before you commit yourself to stay in a marriage for the kids, think about the entire picture. While no one wants to put themselves or their children through a divorce, it may be a better alternative for everyone involved. Consider all your options and seek counseling and/or legal services to assist you in making the best choices for your individual family and situation.
A family law thought leader, entrepreneur, mediator, and attorney with a passion for empowerment and gender equality
Debra Whitson has been practicing law for more than 20 years, delivering focused solutions guided by compassion and trust. For the first half of her legal career, Debra was a special victims prosecutor, pursuing justice for crime victims, particularly women and children. She was the first female Assistant District Attorney serving Essex County and is a recognized expert in the fields of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. This passion for helping families led Debra to family law, and to pursue collaborative divorce and mediation.
Today, Debra works hands-on with her clients to learn their short-term objectives and long-range goals. Through this, she develops tailored options and explores how/if those options align with the client’s values, budget, risk tolerance, etc. She then co-produces strategies with her clients that will offer the best chance for advancing the client’s objectives/goals. Debra believes that there may be many paths to get you to where you want to be and advises clients to choose a path that aligns with their values. Through Mediated Online Solutions, she puts her passion for peaceful dispute resolution to work for couples who seek a dignified and self-directed way to separate, divorce, or co-parent. That same spirit guides Whitson&Tansey’s commitment to fighting for social justice and human rights by focusing on the firm’s practice on domestic violence, matrimonial, and family law.
Debra’s driving goal is to let her clients feel heard, cared for, and respected, and get as many people as possible to resolve conflicts in peaceful, respectful ways—in all spheres.
Awards: Debra is a two-time recipient of the Excellence in Domestic Violence Awareness and Advocacy Award from the Essex County New York Multidisciplinary Task Force Against Domestic Violence, and she has been recognized for excellence in appellate advocacy from the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation.
In her spare time, Debra works with Zonta International to improve the lives of women and girls in her local community and around the globe. She loves to travel, good food and wine, tennis, and spending time with her husband and children enjoying all of the outdoor activities available in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State where they make their home.