How often do divorce parents hear that phrase? How often is it spoken by well meaning folks giving advice?
"Stay together if you can. You know, for the sake of the children."
"Surely it can be worked out. For the sake of the children."
"You really shouldn't speak badly of your spouse, for the sake of the children."
Although the first two did not pan out in my marriage- we were not able to stay together, nor were were able to work out a compromise that included him staying in contact with an old girlfriend, I have done my best to remember the third. My kids have big, absorbent hearts. They soak up everything that is thrown at them, whether it's love or judgement or dismay or dislike. They've grown stronger as they've gotten older, and gotten better at discerning between the opinions of others and their own realities. They're old enough, now, to understand the deviance between their father's protestations and arguments and his actions.
I rarely write about the failures of my marriage, not because there are any secrets, but because it's a cliche'd story of a foolish wife who was blind to her husband's wandering ways. I actually encouraged his online friendship with the old flame, secure in our 15 years of marriage, and in the thought that he'd long gotten over his high school sweetheart and moved on. I had a similar teenage flame, and while I retain friendly feelings, even affection, I recognize the folly in trying to go back and even since becoming single again have not sought to rekindle the old spark.
|If left unattended, it can burn everything.|
I thought we were happy. I thought he was content. I thought she was no danger to my marriage... And I was right. She wasn't. The danger to my marriage was not a woman willing to cheat with a married man, disregarding her own family and marriage in pursuit of a teenage fantasy. The danger was in trusting in our past to cement our future. Trusting in a man who had proven over time to have narcissistic tendencies, favoring his own desires and needs over those of his family. One of our most frequent arguments was over the fact that he resisted taking our daughter for an eye exam, insisting that she "could see just fine," yet had money for his yearly hunting trips out of state and didn't hesitate to spend freely when a new gun or tool caught his eye.
To be fair, we lived comfortably enough. We spent nearly 10 years renovating This Old Heap, as I have titled the 200 year old farmhouse we live in. He invested in our home. We went on an annual camping trip, which were some of our best times as a family. When he left, he readily agreed to my insistence upon retaining the house- where else would I go with our kids? Physical custody was never really a question- I'd been a stay at home mom for over 12 years.
What has made me sad, since the split, what has taken me through the stages of grief, from anger to bitterness, and finally to letting go and to peace, has been the abandonment.
When he left, I understood that our life together had come to an end. It had, in fact, come to an end months before. I hadn't allowed him to touch me since learning of his second round of cheating. I no longer trusted in the safety of monogamy. To be blunt, I didn't know what he might have picked up in his illicit travels and wasn't about to risk an STD. I knew, when he left, that "we" were over. And, although losing the love of 17 years was devastating, I was able to accept it.
What I couldn't, and can't accept, is his continuing disregard for his children.
A father should not have to be ordered by the court to support his kids.
A father should recognize that children have ongoing needs, and that the "gift" of a house to the spouse who spent over a decade forgoing an income in order to raise the children does not buy them clothes or shoes, or food once he has decided to move on.
A father, even if he is financially strained and/or unable to be with his kids physically, should make a consistent, on going effort to maintain communication and a relationship with his children.
As I sit here reading this over, considering the words I am dropping onto the waters, to allow to drift out into the world, I am considering whether it's right for me to share these thoughts, to express the hurt and the anger. I am considering whether it's the right thing to do. I'm wondering if I should simply delete the post for the sake of the children.
|The year he left, they both returned to public school, in order|
to allow me more time to build my business. Because they're amazing,
empathetic hearts. #SoBlessed
But, I feel to do so would be disrespectful to my kids. Although I try to use my words carefully, they are not stupid. It is not my thoughts or experiences that have molded their opinions. It is their own.
My kids love their dad, but they understand his limitations. They have a realistic view of what they can expect from him, both physically and emotionally. They take whatever opportunities they have to talk and spend time with him, but don't actively seek him out in defense of their own hearts. In spite of his assurance that they can "call him any time," they know that he is simply not able to be there for them in the ways the need him to be.
I can not, and will not, pretend that our circumstances are otherwise, or that by not sharing this post, reality will somehow magically alter. It is what it is.
I will, however, share this post, in hopes of reassuring other moms and dads who are dealing with this kind of situation- with a spouse who is not abusive or addicted, but is simply uninterested in doing their part as a parent. While abuse and addiction are horrors I am grateful we have avoided, abandonment carries its own consequences, and the scars are deep and painful.
If you've been abandoned by a spouse or parent, my messages to you are:
You're not crazy. Even if he didn't hit or yell, it's not ok to abandon children who depend upon you for support and emotional connection.
You're not alone. There are many of us out there.
You don't have to let this make you bitter. Anger is justifiable, but dwelling on the unfairness isn't healthy. Seek out healthy relationships, for you and your kids. Build supports into your lives. Let the person go- there's no sense clinging to someone who doesn't want to be there.
If you've read this far, thank you, for listening. May God keep and bless you and your loved ones. If you're a parent, remember, please, that divorce is not about your kids. It's NEVER about your kids. You really are responsible to be a parent, even if you're divorced. Even if you don't like your spouse anymore. Even if he or she is a raving lunatic- you're still responsible to BE A PARENT.
Your kids need you, and that is all that matters.
All of it.
Your kids are ALL OF IT. Never forget that. For the sake of the children.
“To be in your children's memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” ― Barbara Johnson