Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Staying Together For the Kids

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 29, 2010

    “We can’t break-up, it would ruin our kids’ lives,” Randolph and Judy tell me repeatedly. “What makes you say that?” I ask, feeling like I probably know the answer, but I am still curious as to what they will say. “A broken home is such a terrible thing,” Judy answers in a vague way. “And living with marital discord is not a terrible thing,” I respond, trying to be gentle, but realizing that this could sound sarcastic. So often I find myself wanting to expand thinking, knowing that stress narrows the mind. Children are hurt by the actions of their parents; that is a given. Most parents do not want to hurt their children. Finding the narrow path between protecting the children and living an authentic life is the challenge. The answers are not one-size fits all, nor are they necessarily clear from one moment to the next. However, the extreme situations open the discussion. There are situations where it is better for the children when the parents divorce. Domestic violence is the obvious example. Having said that, most of the time the issue is not the gross issue of physical violence, but the more subtle issues of self-esteem, both in the parents and the children. Children suffer when their parents suffer. Parents suffer when their children suffer. Selfish behavior causes suffering; so does martyrdom. Compromise is the challenge; compromise is the goal. How can parents find a way to live a life they enjoy, while at the same time protecting their children from unnecessary trauma and disappointment? These questions are tortuous; the process of sorting it out is troubling. Yet, without a deep thoughtful process, quick and shallow judgments flow rapidly. Words are important. Divorce is not always bad for kids. Kids lives are not necessarily “ruined”. Rather, there are times in life, like with this family now, where there are rough patches. These rough patches are opportunities for the family to re-examine their earlier assumption of family harmony. Randolph and Judy have hit a reflective time in their lives. My hope is that they stick with the reflection so that they can go ahead with a careful examination of the consequences, for themselves and for their children. The outcome is hard to say; the process is key.

5 Responses to “Staying Together For the Kids”

  1. Shelly said

    Great blog. What do you recommend, if Randolph and Judy ask for your opinion? Careful examination of the consequences of staying married? Divorcing? What are the effects of staying married, living in discord, on the kids? What are the effects of divorcing, on the kids? Are there ever any special circumstances that you would recommend such a couple stay married? What happens if one of the couple have lifelong illnesses–how does it look to the outside world if one of the couple decides to divorce? When is martyrdom in marriage justified?

    • Shirah Vollmer said

      My opinion is to give the situation serious thought; to look at their family from each person’s point of view. Yes, careful examination is the key. The effect on the kids all depends on how one stays married and how one gets divorced. The question is not staying married versus divorcing, the question is how much time to spend trying to make the marriage work, before one cries “uncle”. Does it really matter what the outside world thinks? No one knows what it is like to live with someone behind closed doors. If one thinks they know, then they are being arrogant. There will always be judgmental people in the world; one cannot let them rule one’s life’s choices. Martyrdom is all a matter of degree; a little is OK, a lot is absurd.

  2. Suzi said

    Yeah – everytime we come to a place that’s really yucky, there is somekind of change that comes along, and we travel along on that road for a while – just until the next ‘fork in the road’ or change opportunity.

    I think we stayed married inspite of the kids! I laughed so hard when that thought struck me while reading your post.

    Our children are adults now and it’s nice to have them check in on us to see how we’re doing now. Though, I must say… once a parent, always a parent. I suppose and that’s a very real fact – in our lives anyway.

    I don’t know about divorce but it has been in my mind for a long long time – off and on… sometimes more off than on and vice versa.

    I don’t know. It’s tough. Nice post.

    • Shirah Vollmer said

      Thanks. Yes, it is tough. Some roads have more rough patches than others, so it is really hard to decide if the rough patches are a part of the process or if they are excessive.

  3. Suzi said

    Rough patches are easy words to use. At the time, after an accumulation of ‘rough patches’ – it gets nasty and the yuckiness gets… well it begins to close everything else (world, friends, life, work, kids… everything else) out. Its hard to navigate life when this 1 thing sits in the centre of your sight all day everyday.

    When ‘rough patch accumulation’ occurs… anything and everything to do with that rough patch situation is excessive. Actually that’s such a tame word compared to how it feels. It’s way way beyond excessive. And if it’s been happening for a long time then i doubt if any word will suffice.

    Playing nice is a choice. Not an easy one to make. It takes two to start the nice games but it’s up to the one to meaningfully, deliberately initiate it. Tough call! Nice post.

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