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We Told The Kids...

Yesterday we told the kids that we are separating around September 1. This will be a long post as I am including the letter I wrote to the kids which I wanted to share with my friends here.

Here's how it went down...On Saturday night, before bed, I asked H what he wanted to tell the kids - how he wanted to say it. The time to talk to them was fast approaching though we didn’t know exactly when. The discussion, as usual, quickly spun into our usual unproductive cycle. He became dramatic and self-pitying while I spoke rationally and in a moment of clarity, I told him I was done. I told him I could no longer be his lifeline or his caretaker. I was angry and wanted to blame him for being so limited and selfish. Then he said the most piercing thing which I think may actually be the truth for many of us. The words were hard to hear, but they weren’t something I didn't already feel.

He said, "I have always loved you, but I don't think I was ever in love with you."

I don't think he was saying it to be mean...I think he was finally admitting the truth to himself and said it out loud.

I lay in bed in the dark crying at the piercing nature of the words. But it didn't come as a shock to me. After a moment I composed myself and said. "If that is the truth, and I believe it is, then I don't want to put a time frame on this separation. I want to be with someone who wants all of me and not just part of me. Before I die, I intend to be with someone who is truly in love with me. We need to tell the kids right away. There is nothing to wait for." He didn’t argue.

So on Sunday morning, I was still pretty upset. I got up early and went downstairs and began writing a letter to the kids. We had been hoping to tell them together in person but our schedules just hadn’t coincided. He got up and took the dog for a walk; when he came home, he went into the backyard with his laptop. It turns out, both of us were composing a letter to the kids. Without even talking about it, we each decided that a letter would have to suffice. So I wrote the letter and he read it and agreed. Then at an opportune time Sunday afternoon, we sat down with our son and watched him read the letter. Simultaneously, we emailed the same letter to our daughter (who is working all summer away from home) along with a text telling her to read the important email her dad sent. So our kids were told simultaneously which was important to us so that one didn’t have to hold a secret the other didn’t know.

Our son’s reaction was quite circumspect. “This isn’t a surprise. I am going off to college soon. I’m 18 years old and ready to live my own life. You know 50% of marriages end in divorce so it’s not a shock. I know this letter was difficult to write, and I appreciate your thoughtful words.” My pragmatic son. Within 5 minutes the call from our daughter came on my cell phone – a flood of tears. We all took turns talking with her. Our son was the best, “Mom and Dad still love each other. We are all fine. Our lives won’t change that much. Everyone will be ok.” Remarkable. Both said they still want to go on our family vacation to the beach house we rented so between now and mid-August, they will have time to process individually and when we are all back together on vacation, we will have lots of time to talk and cry if necessary. I am amazed…completely amazed.

Today I feel a mixture of relief and sadness. The relief is from this huge burden we’ve really carried around since March. The sadness is this last obstacle of telling the kids was the only thing standing between us and the likely end of our marriage. My H said to me this morning, “It’s real now.” Yes it is. I hope everyday will get better and better – it certainly can’t be worse than what we’ve already endured.

Here’s the letter I wrote to the kids for those who are interested…

"Our beautiful children:

After many tears, hours of therapy and years of prayer, we have decided to separate. Dad will move into an apartment after you both get settled at college. We will continue to be unified in the support, encouragement and deep love we’ve always given you. We love each other, but it is clear there is something wrong that keeps us from having the kind of relationship married partners should have. We don’t understand that reason, but maybe some time apart will help us find the truth. We hope this time will provide us with objectivity and new perspective to understand whether there is a chance of honest, intimate love in our future.

We have tried for 6 years to find a way, and the distance between us has only grown. You can trust that we have worked very hard to stay together. This is not the outcome for which we had hoped and for both of us, it is the most difficult situation we’ve ever had to endure. There’s no bad guy in this or someone to blame. We were both victims of our childhood environments and the effect of our experiences seems to have put a wall between us that neither can break down. We arrive at this decision with the support of our therapists who have helped us through this difficult part of our life journey.

We made this decision in the past month and had been hoping for a time to tell you when we were all together. But it’s obvious with everyone’s’ travel and work schedules, there will be no time to share such difficult news. We felt it was important that we have as much time together and separately to process our feelings before our change is made this fall.

What does this mean for you? In terms of your daily life, it doesn’t really mean a lot logistically. Mom will stay in the house. Dad will find a place close by, and I imagine we will continue to share many aspects of our lives because of our deep love and mutual respect for each other. He will sign a 6 month lease, and we will reevaluate after that. Holidays, birthdays, and your visits home will include both of us – you continue to be our top priority. We are not splitting finances or making any changes other than living apart. We are not divorcing – we are giving ourselves a break and one last chance to try to figure things out. We know you’ll have a million questions that couldn’t be addressed here, but we will rely on you to ask and we’ll all figure it out as we go along.

We need you to know this decision has nothing to do with either of you. It is not about you. You cannot imagine the pain we’ve endured for so many years, knowing there was a distance between us that neither of us could bridge…and we both tried. We have left no stone unturned and fought like hell to keep our marriage together. Our love created you, and our love will continue to sustain you as you fully grow into your own independent lives.

We ask for your love and support as we go through this difficult time, and we ask that you be open and honest with us about your feelings as we will be with you. This is not something we wanted to happen but we have come to accept where we are. We will never put you in the middle of anything and will allow you to guide the conversation – how much or how little you wish to know. We will continue in counseling and ask that each of you find a therapist once you get settled at school. The challenges of life bring the most opportunity for personal growth if you take the time to engage in the process. The biggest mistake we made was not dealing head on with our issues a long time ago. This decision might have been avoided if we had done so. The lesson for you is to be open to your pain, your fears and your anxieties and to find a professional to provide you with the objectivity you lack. This is the only way you will ever be whole. You will feel lots of things including anger, fear and possibly the desire to try to fix things. We have also lived the entire range of emotions. We welcome all your feelings, whatever they may be and are prepared to offer our support to you. You don’t have to suck it up; you don’t have to be brave; you just have to be who you are. You will see our vulnerabilities like never before as we maneuver into a different circumstance and hope that you will find a way to allow for this. Vulnerability does not mean weakness – showing vulnerability is one of the strongest human characteristics. We will do this together as we have done so many things.

The family patterns from which we come largely create the organizing system in which our psyches process. We both came from dysfunctional family systems (as most people do), but we had no conscious understanding of this. While we did better than our parents, there are ways in which we communicate that lock us into a systemic, unproductive cycle. You guys learned your processing in this family, and our collective challenge is to change those patterns and learn a new way of living. We consider it a wonderful gift that you can learn these things now before you’ve made significant life choices. You are fortunate to have each other as a sounding board, as well as us and professional therapy. All will be necessary to successfully change the systemic pattern that has been passed down from generation to generation in our families. Life offers no guarantees, but the chance of happiness is greater if you know who you are, acknowledge and embrace your needs, and never think you have to be someone other than who you are to be loved completely.

We know this feels like the end of the world, but it’s not. Both of us experienced the death of a parent close to your ages, and death is final. There is nothing final about this, and we’re so grateful it’s not a death. We don’t know what the future holds and both of us are open to the healing God can bring our way as we know this step is part of a divine plan as well. If nothing else, this 6 year process has taught us a lot about faith, hope and allowing our higher power to guide us. Our faith has grown because we’ve had to step into the unknown and know we will have a safe landing. As usual, we are completely on the same page. We love each other, and we love you. Our family is still a family regardless of where we all live. We’re sure things will be different, but we will continue to savor you as we always have. There is still nothing more important to us than our family – the 4 of us together.

We still want to have our vacation and enjoy one another. There is no rancor or animosity between us; in fact, making this decision has taken some pressure off trying so hard to fix something and allowed us to just enjoy our time together. You will have your feelings about this, and that’s just fine. We won’t try to control or minimize your feelings – we will hear them and let you process them. There is still time to cancel our reservation, but we would very much like to enjoy a vacation with you and all our friends. We think having some fun together with all our friends will be healing. We will not be uncomfortable, however, it’s your decision – we won’t force the issue, but we will have to make it soon.

We are so proud of you both for the people you’ve become. In spite of our difficulties, we have always loved you guys fully and done what we felt was best for you – our relationship challenges never got in the way of our parenting. We also know you are strong and together we will weather this next challenge with love and kindness. We have each other and our guess is this circumstance will actually create a new closeness because the burden of this pain will finally be released for all of us. We know you’ve been wondering what was going to happen and so have we. All we know is our future is bright, we are strong and our love is unwavering. The rest will be revealed in its own time, we will be patient to see what happens, and we will do it together.

With All Our Love, Mom & Dad"
morningteatime morningteatime 56-60, F 15 Responses Jul 9, 2012

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morningteatime, what a beautiful letter and an awesome show of strength love & vulnerability by both of you for your children. i need to go read your other stories to see how you've fared in your journey.

would you post an update, let us know how all four of you are progressing?

You are a true inspiration. I realize this did not happen over night......that a plan was put in place and followed. An un-selfish plan....with your loved one's best interest at heart.....(not just your own). I hope I am able to procede from a place of love and concern (as you have).....rather than from a place of anger, hurt and resentment....(that overcomes me at times). Peace and blessings.......Rusty

Well done! Please keep us posted on what happens.

Your courage for yourself, your husband and your children has given me hope. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

I read on your previous post you would date while separated? Everything you have done is exactly as I have done but I dont know that dating is a good thing when you really need to find yourself and you are still married. I would recommend gettting your own life straight before you introduce someone else into the mix. I dont think your marriage can be healed but there is there anything to be gained by dating so quick?

Rob- Actually, I don't know how I'm going to feel. I just wanted to have the option to date if I so chose. Yes, I'm still married, but in my mind a break means a break in all ways. I may swear off relationships forever! But I hope I don't. I've been grieving the loss of this marriage for a long time. But you are right...it is good to be cautious and fully discover you own needs and desires before launching into anything else. On the other hand, what am I really waiting for?

I guess even though I have been on my own for 3 months now I just cant get pass my own conscious to date. I feel like I would be cheating because I am still married. Not that I dont want to. I would love to explore, but I guess I am just not ready mentally yet.

Maybe it's time to give yourself permission to be happy. Our intimate lives have passed us by for too long. What's the worst thing that could happen? You might give yourself the pleasure of what you have been missing. Otherwise, what's this fight been about?

....What does this mean for you? In terms of your daily life, it doesn’t really mean a lot logistically. Mom will stay in the house. Dad will find a place close by, and I imagine we will continue to share many aspects of our lives because of our deep love and mutual respect for each other. He will sign a 6 month lease....<br />
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This rings true to me, in fact its pretty much how me and my wife went about it. Hopefully thats where the similarity ends because 6 months later its all turned into disaster. My wifes relationship with my 15 year old is at an all time low ( my daughters words) and my 7 year old cries herself to sleep each night. Both are now pleading with me to either come home, or let them live with ne in my crappy little flat. And my wifes reaction?..well she blames me of course. This is despite me leaving the family home,m keeping my distance, supporting her financially, having the kids every weekend ( which allows her to go out clubbing) and ( unlike her) keeping to our agreement not to criticise ( or blame her) for calling an end to our 18 year marriage. ..hopefully i don't sound too bitter ( but i am of course ) and i wish you all well

It's hard not to be bitter. What's occurred in my life was only possible because both of us worked on our own issues. Doing this allowed us to see our culpability in the disintegration of our marriage. He has his issues, but so do I. Ultimately, it's not really anyone's fault. I now understand we find compatible components of relationships and compromise on those that are incompatible. I didn't know myself the way I do now when I got married 25 years ago. Now, I am more authentically me, and if I end up in a relationship with anyone else, it will be upon the basis of our mutual authenticity.

Very well done. Brought tears to my eyes, I did almost the exact same thing just months ago. That was the hardest but I think a close second is coming up for me and you will be there soon too. Actually filing for divorce, this is when the finality of it hits home.

I applaud you and your husband for being able to remain a family while you go through this transition and beyond. I will pray for you as you continue on your journey.

I could not think of a more beautifully human way to have handled something this tough. And as your kids mature and know what it is to make these tough tough tough mind spinning decisions, the eloquence of this letter will bring them comfort and appreciation, and even guidance. Thank you for sharing this letter. I admire your courage. I hope you find that one that makes your life complete, who loves you so much, as much as you love him, that you smile to yourself and think, "ahh, this is what it's supposed to feel like.

Apart from the quality of thought and consideration that went into this, I think your figuring out a way to tell the kids at the same time and managing the logistics there-of was inspired.<br />
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And I think the timing of it, now rather than in the midst of a holiday was very very wise.<br />
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Tread your own path.

When someone is in love with you losing you is the worst thing that they could possibly imagine. But if you don't feel the same way don't get involved because it takes two hearts in the same canoe paddling together like crazy to survive the waterfalls.

By that definition then our spouses really really really aren't in love with us. Having sex with us seems to be something much worse than losing us to them.

Beautifully written. This gives me new inspiration and perspective that divorce can be done in a healthy way for the children. It's really all about respect that both parents maintain for eachother for the sake of the children. Also the fact that you have come to this agreement to separate together is important for them to see. Stay strong.

Your letter is possibly the most exquisite thing I've ever read. Your genuine love, caring and respect for your STBX and your children is clearly evident. The way in which you describe your journey is heartbreaking yet, paradoxically, not at all self pitying. This is a miraculous achievement IMO. Your choice not to hold each other at fault or lay blame, but to accept that "it is what it is" reflects the grace, courage. maturity and wisdom you bring to this most difficult decision.<br />
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Your children cannot but be reassured of your love for them, your continuing regard for your STBX - and his for both them and you too - and reassured that their lives are essentially unchanged. The ways you have planned your separation and how you have both agreed on the essentials, especially regarding the children, is a true sign of the great people you are. <br />
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I agree with Change's comment whole-heartedly. For your children, you have posed this as a stage for moving on into a better future, rather than one where bitterness and unhappiness characterise this current time. Because of this I believe they WILL move forward, albeit at different rates and in different ways, to a happier and better future. Knowing they have your support to challenge the patterns that held you back will be of inestimable value to them as they proceed through life. They probably will not realise that for some time to come, but the basis of their self growth is in place because of your attitudes.<br />
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Soon you will be living the life that you have chosen. It may not be easy - especially to begin with. There will be the inevitable "what if" moments and the times when grief supplants other more positive feelings. But in the whole scheme of things, you WILL be free to hope, free to live your life as you want, free to be your authentic self. And this freedom is worthy of all the pain you have had and are yet to have.<br />
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Know that as you go forward your ILIASM siblings are with you and here for you. Lean on us when you need us, and share your triumphs too. {{{Hugs}}}

"I have always loved you but I've never been in love with you."<br />
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So sharply truthful and yet painful at the same time. I think that's my worst fear going forward. I am loved by many people but I am not sure I know how to tell the difference between someone loving me and being in love with me. I don't so much trust words anymore so I will have to find some ob<x>jective evidence. <br />
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Your letter was beautifully written and will set your children's ba<x>seline experience of this from a healthy place as they move forward.

Change- One thing this this SM process has taught me is to follow my heart believe the universe will guide me. If I do those two things, I know I won't make another mistake. We are the ones who hold ourselves back because of fear. There's nothing to be afraid of now.

Your heart knows the truth...

Nice. Touching. Thoughtful. No need to say anything else really.<br />
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Oh, and best of wishes to you all.