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I thought I'd write up the (anonymised) stories of divorces of people I knew well enough (among relatives, friends, colleagues). All six of them involved children, all of them involved a period when one or both parents stuck on still hoping for things to improve, in most cases thinking for the children, and in all cases the only result was that the divorce only got uglier for both the parents and the children.

  1. A man already divorced with two (then) small children married a woman half a generation younger. The relationship turned bad by the time the children were about 10, but the couple maintained a cold marriage for the children: the husband would return home late, go on separate holidays and not come to family get-togethers. Five years later, the husband's first wife died and her two children temporarily moved in. The new wife felt that the husband leaves her alone taking care for all four of his children, and one day threw him out. She was definitely happier thereafter, but even before the divorce, one of her own children developed a coldness in both family and love relationships similar to his father's. The other child was momma's boy and became a cheerful grown-up.

  2. A husband of a dominant wife and father of two young children started an affair with a woman (herself married with children). Pressed by the wife to make a choice, he decided to move away with the entire family to escape his lover. The desperate lover, however, had her own entire family move to the same place. The first family then moved a second time, but the father immediately returned to his lover, married her (after the divorce of both), adopted her children and had more children, and this couple has been happily together as those children grew up. The abandoned first wife, however, has an unabated hate for her ex-husband, which she tried to instil into her children, who had it hard in school. Those children in turn made a secret pact to not hate their father, but once grown up, one of them (who was a troubled teen) broke off contact with the father after a conflict with one of the children in the father's new marriage.

  3. The wife of a husband who travels a lot felt neglected and became a serious alcoholic. By the time the children were in their teens, the alcoholism became so bad that she turned a danger to herself and her children, and the husband divorced her and got custody of the children. The father later married a woman only 5-10 years older than his children, but they have a good relationship. The children were in their twenties when the mother had a deadly accident when drunk. One of the children, a heavy drinker, then got off alcohol but got on religion, and in the process got the idea that his own father's drinking habits were the root cause of both his and his mother's misfortune and broke off all contact with him. The other child kept contact with both of them.

  4. Both the husband and the wife made careers, but the husband grew envious of the wife's success. By the time the children were in their teens, the husband developed paranoid theories and constantly castigated the mother in front of the children. The mother developed beaten wife syndrome. This escalated into who blinks first and takes the blame for divorce, the husband did, but then the – by then adult – children convinced them to try again. It was soon worse than before, however, with the husband stopping to talk to the wife and the wife losing her job. After a few years of this, the husband again blinked first and divorced, marrying a divorced woman shortly after. Both parents largely recovered, but it took years for the mother and the father still creeps her out. The children tried to shut off during the two run-ups to divorce, since then maintain contact with both parents separately, and try to avoid the parents' fate in relationships at all costs in their own special ways.

  5. The wife is extremely ambitious and exploitative, the husband is extremely unambitious and lazy. These characteristics led to nasty conflicts in the wider family that hit back at their children, but in the marriage, the father's nature prevented an escalation until the children were in their early teens. Then the wife finally lost patience and threw out the husband, and kept most of the family's belongings. One of the children stayed with the father who re-married, the second followed too after a fight with the mother, the third meets them in secret more than the mother would allow. The parents' character faults blossom further, while the children mix the two.

  6. Pampered sole son of rich parents married the highschool beauty after the relationship lasted through college too. After the children have been born, the husband grew unsatisfied with his simple job and with his home where for the mother the children are first rather than him. He quit his job, tried to become politician or writer but failed, got his parents to blame the wife for everything, and disappeared for long periods of time and then returned expecting an apology from the wife. The image-conscious wife kept up outward appearances, also for the children, and maintained the family and paid a high debt as the sole earner. The children still weren't school-age when the still jobless husband's erratic behaviour spiralled out of control to the point that he threw the wife and children out of the family home, while his parents tried to get the children's custody.

So I say kids suffer most before the parents separate or divorce, especially when a parent doesn't 'give up' when it is too late and falsely believes that this is the children's best interest, and children can (but don't always) take consequences of this for all their life. Furthermore, when children are impacted by what happens after a divorce, it's often inseparable from the cause of the divorce (maintaining the broken marriage wouldn't necessarily have prevented the same result).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 6th, 2012 at 01:43:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All I can say is :Thank you for these stories...
They are actually proving my point. Irresponsible parents and kids suffering...
Here is just one forum have some stories...

http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Children-Of-Divorced-Parents/forum

by vbo on Wed Nov 7th, 2012 at 07:43:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you think all the children mentioned above would have been better off if their parents had stayed together?

You're entitled to your opinion of course. But it's a strange opinion.

But if you just mean "parents should strive to be better people for the sake of the children", well fine, but that has nothing to do with divorcing or not.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Nov 7th, 2012 at 07:49:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you think all the children mentioned above would have been better off if their parents had stayed together?

No , I don't think so and I think I made my point earlier. Not every marriage is better then divorce.
I am talking about responsibilities. When people marry they make commitment to try their best to make relationship work. Nowadays that commitment I would say does not mean much. If they have no children they may decide more easily to brake that commitment. It's OK.
But when they DECIDE to have children they made commitment to these children too. Again people put their own un/happiness as a priority not really taking their children happiness in to the " math". Higher divorce rate for me is a sign that people today generally speaking do not try hard enough to save their marriages/ or de facto relationships.Again not all of them. I am not saying this because I was a perfect spouse or parent so I am preaching now to others. Not at all. I did face same dilemmas as everybody else. I was selfish at some points as everybody else...but being older now I really do see children as a priority and big reason for people to do their best ( at some personal cost usually) to make those children happy.Because those children did not ask to be born...it was our decision and with that decision comes responsibility.
There is no bloody way that children will no suffer greatly when parents divorce/separate...and I feel for them.
There are definitely cases where children are better of with divorce from the point of society . Measuring pain and degree of suffer is not our business. It may be a business of psychologists and psychiatrists...Maybe...    
by vbo on Wed Nov 7th, 2012 at 06:51:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are actually proving my point.

No, they don't prove your point that it is divorce that damages children, nor does it prove your point that trying to stay together and hoping for things to improve is advisable in all cases except physical abuse. The claim "Irresponsible parents make kids suffer" is a platitude: people are fallible, so this is bound to happen; the real question is, which is the best way to deal with the problem when it comes up. When you say "irresponsible parent", you don't think it through: you probably only think of the irresponsibility of the abusive or otherwise problematic partner, but your "hope for things to improve" maxim applies to the otherpartner. And marrying an incompatible partner, not getting away from an abusive or otherwise dangerous partner, not getting away before standing on one's foot becomes difficult can all be considered irresponsible. To be specific, here is my take on the six cases:

  1. The wife should have accepted divorce when her children were about 10. Then even a re-marriage would have been in the cards, with the stepfather possibly serving as the father figure for the first child the real father wasn't.

  2. The first couple should have divorced after the adultery instead of moving. That way, the mother wouldn't have to look for a new job in a new place, and the children would have been spared the pressures of having to fit in in a new peer group and facing discrimination, keeping their old friends in their old school.

  3. The mother should have filed for divorce instead of drowning her sorrows in alcohol. That way, she would have kept both her health and her children.

  4. The mother should have filed for divorce when the father's paranoia started, not as a choice of career above family but for lack of respect. That way, the children would have been spared of the psychological effects.

  5. This one is a hard call: IMO the main problem was clearly the mother, whose exploitativeness was bound to mean trouble for the children, whether divorced or not. The point where the father could have prevented all this by acting differently is the very start of the marriage.

  6. Here the mother should have told the father to get a job or else before the more erratic behaviour started. If that didn't work, divorce as fast a possible, whatever friends & family think.

BTW, I left out a perhaps key detail from case no. 2, the one involving adultery, which I am reminded of by the incest discussion downthread. The original deterioration of the lover's first marriage and her desperation was related to the terminal illness of one of her children due to genetic incompatibility with her first husband. That child was still among the ones adopted in the re-marriage. Had there been no divorce and re-coupling, other tragedies would have been in store.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 12:14:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, your link reminds me to stress another point of yours contradicted by my case studies: by far not all children of divorced parents (or orphaned children for that matter) take consequences for all their life. But your link self-selects the problem cases.

With that said, have a look at some of the posts. You'll find more stories supporting my contention that the biggest problem for children is often not what came after the divorce but what preceded it. Like the girl who can't stand her father for reasons she discovers made her mother leave without her. Or the adult daughter of a loveless marriage in which the father ruined wife and older sister. Or the one who says flat-out that his parents should have divorced earlier.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 08:22:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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