Are You Staying For The Kids? Some Thoughts From Someone Who Left.One of the most common refrains here seems to be the line "I love my kids" or "I love my family", or "I don't want to destroy my family".
There are plenty of reasons to not get divorced. If your sexless period was just a bump in the road, only 6 months, a year, right after your first child, you should probably try to make things work. It may not be too late. Divorce is inconvenient and expensive. Your ex will definitely hate you, and you will need to live with that. And you must have liked something about them before, perhaps you can get the magic back.
But if this has been going on for years, if it was a unilateral decision by the other party, if the lack of sex is combined with a lack of intimacy and a general lack of support for YOU by your spouse, a lack of fun, a regular barrage of criticism, the millions of small details you read about here that go well beyond the lack of sex, you might want to face the fact that your marriage sucks. You may have a good (or a bad) system in place for the raising of kids, but you do not have a partner.
And that is a shame, because a good relationship does wonders for you. It makes you feel better about yourself. You are not alone in the world. You have someone to talk with, rely on, feel good with, have fun with, snuggle with, spoon with and, (if you can remember this far back,) have sex with.
But you think maybe you should suffer for the sake of your family. Or because you can't stand the thought of having your kids part-time. Because you don't want to "destroy" your family.
I want to share my experience with my kids in separating, as for me, things have been stunningly great. This might not be the norm, and your situation might be worse. But so far, for me, I couldn't be happier.
I separated about 10 months ago. Details are posted elsewhere, but this is a different story. My ex definitely hates me, to the point that she can't even stand to be in the same room as me without getting shaking mad and needing to leave. Despite that, I have been firm, and I get just about half of the time with my kids, and thinks are working out.
We are alternating nights with the kids, we are alternating weekends with the kids. We are alternating vacations with the kids. It took a month or two to settle in, but the kids have adjusted. We have a regular schedule, and they know where they will be, who they will be sleeping with, where they will be waking up and where they will be spending the weekend. There is a calendar, the kids can see it, and they have certainty in their lives.
On the nights that I am not with the kids, I call them at my ex's place before bedtime. Spend 5 minutes on the phone with each, tell them I love them and will see them tomorrow. My ex does the same.
Both of us have been good about being supportive of the other in front of the kids. If the kids don't want to talk to Mom when she calls, I tell them that it isn't a choice. If they are watching TV when she calls, I shut it off so they pay attention to her. She does the same.
When my ex took the kids on vacation, I skyped each night with the kids. When I took them, she did the same.
We both go to the parent teacher conferences. We are splitting up the sporting events, recitals, school presentations, etc, so that we don't need to see each other (she hates me, remember?), but so that at least one of us is at anything important.
We email regularly about the kids (and nothing else), and if there was any issue the night before (illness, sleeplessness, etc..) we text. We send each other pictures of the kids so that we can both be proud of them.
Occasionally, the 5 y.o. tries some version of "but mommy said.." or "I hate being with mommy, I want to be with you", or "I hate being with you, I want to be with mommy". But neither of us is letting her get away with that. I calmly say "now is your time with me, this is a daddy night. So why don't we snuggle for a bit, read a book, and maybe you will feel tired after that". Or "I love you dearly, but tomorrow is a mommy night. She loves you, and you will have a good time." I have heard my ex do similar things.
I have found that I am capable of taking care of 3 kids on a weekend by myself. I can schedule play dates and take care of 3 kids + their 3 friends by myself. I now laugh at the parents who seem to have trouble with both of them managing their one child. I have had 7 in the house by myself.
I have found that being fully responsible for bedtimes, being fully responsible for making plans for the weekend, is a level of parenting that I didn't do before. There is no one to bounce ideas off of, it is now my responsibility to make sure the kids see friends and get out of the house, and have a good time.
Occasionally, we split them up, and get one on one time with one of the kids. The kids love that also. I took my daughter skiing last week. She loved getting out with just me.
I have adjusted my head - my "family" is now me and the kids. I sometimes feel like a papa duck, with the little ones in toe, and I love it. I'm starting to build memories for me and for them of my new family - just me and the kids. They will have other memories, of my ex and their times with her, and I want them to have that. It doesn't lessen in any way what I have with them, which is so wonderful that at times I want to cry when I think about it.
I find that I am eager to get to my kids for "my nights", and that I'm far more focused on them than I was in the past when both of us were tired at the end of the day. Getting a few nights a week for myself is recharging my batteries. I love the nights out with my girlfriend, I love my nights in with my kids. Pretty much every day is awesome, and I sometimes find it hard to believe that life is this good.
There are stresses. We have lawyers. I have no idea how much I will owe my ex for how long (or how much I will owe the lawyers). The final custody may look different than this. Occasionally, we don't see eye to eye, and have a fight (over email) about who gets which holiday, or what time the kids will be back to me or her after a weekend with the other. Or who gets to go to a specific game. And that kind of sucks. She may get married some day (or I may also) and new kids and new parents may come into the mix and things may get complicated. But that is for the future.
For now, it is great.
If I have any advice, it would be along the lines of "make an exit plan". Particularly if you are a man who is worried about this, you should step up your game now. Start putting your kids on the bus on a regular schedule (Mondays? Mondays and Fridays?) even if previously you left for work early. If you work late, start coming home early to eat dinner with the kids one or two nights a week, on a regular schedule. Make sure you are at the parent teacher conferences. Do all of this even if it affects your income - she will be getting half of it anyway, and what is that money worth if you are working to support a family you don't get to see? Get onto a regular schedule, get more involved, document it, and it will help you in the long run. Talk with a lawyer to find out what you can do to increase the chances of getting a custody arrangement you will be happy with.
Getting divorced doesn't mean that you are "leaving your family". You are booting your useless spouse out the door. Your life will continue, your family will continue. It will be a different configuration, with a different schedule, but it doesn't have to be worse. Your kids love you, they will continue to love you. YOU will have to put in a bit more effort, YOU won't be able to rely on your ex to do things, but in stepping up to the plate, YOU will be a better and more involved parent.