We Stay For The Kids...

The following is a "collaborative post". One of my new friends and fellow ILIASM compatriots had an offline - well online but off forum discussion. It deals with a topic that many of us have considered and perhaps encountered or are living right now. The issue is kids in an ILIASM relationship. MR suggested that we should post the string for the benefit of the community. So here you go -

MoonRiver73 Jan 30, 2013 10:38 PM
I don't know if you have experienced this feeling...

Whenever I see my son and my husband playing together, hearing their happy laughters, looking at their smiling faces... the wanting to leave is weakened. My heart is torn apart...

boater12 Jan 31, 2013 7:17 AM
Unfortunately, I have probably some very bad news for you. Your situation is very much like mine. Married, one child - a boy. He is now 20. He is the absolute light and love of my life. Your description of your husband spending time with your son - you could be writing about me and my son. We were inseparable. When he was still young, he'd come up to me and say "you want to play with me"? So loving, so innocent - the absolute best times of my life.

Now the bad news. That relationship allowed me to overlook all of the foundation issues with my wife. Of course you know what happens - kids grow up. By the time high school comes around, their interest in mom and dad begins to wane - to say the least. Once they start driving, off to college - all of those "little" things like love and passion and intimacy that have been missing - they hit you square in the face and you realize you have nothing.

Now the really bad news - my son has no appreciation of what a loving couple is. This scares the hell out of me. My wife and I do not argue much but there is no closeness - no evidence of why two people opt to spend their lives together. What he sees in my marriage is the bad without the good.

So I try to counsel my son now. Explain the importance of love, what a relationship is supposed to be about - someone you can share everything with - dreams, fears, desires, fantasies - all without judgement; someone that is there to support you, hold you, be there to celebrate with you, or mourn with you. I try to explain the importance of finding someone sexually compatible - someone that you sync up with sexually. Someone that has "fun" with sex. Whether making love, or just the occasion wild, spontaneous ....

Imagine the challenge in having these kinds of discussions with my son - trying to explain what he has never seen.

So my caution to you - what you see and enjoy today, will pass very quickly, (far too quickly). Think of the boy/man that you are prepping to enter the world in a few short years - how will he look at a relationship between a man and a woman.

It's 8am here - this is way to deep a topic at this hour. But you brought it up:)

MoonRiver73 Jan 31, 2013 7:49 AM

I think we should post our exchanged messages as another story on ILIASM. It can help lots of people in similar situation like ours. What do you think? :))
boater12 boater12
51-55, M
14 Responses Jan 31, 2013

This may, or may not, be an appropriate time to throw the next grenade into the mix, but as yet I don't think anyone has mentioned the genetics in play in this "what's best for the kids" scenario.

Your kids are carrying half your genetics, and half your spouses

Your contributing genes may make your kid inclined to be attracted to a refuser (like you were)
Your spouses contributing genes may make your kid inclined to be attracted to someone thay can refuse (like your spouse does)

So there is potentially, a double whammy effect here. Nature AND nurture, which may tend to put the kids of an ILIASM situation at greatly increased risk of carrying the affliction on into the next generation.

The genetic factor, you can do nothing about.
The environmental factor (as it pertains to keeping them exposed to it) you can.

Worth thinking about.

Tread your own path.

That's the thing with genetics, you don't get to cherry pick the "best" of your (and your spouses) traits and reject the "worst" of your (and your spouses) traits. They could just as easy end up with all the bad traits of both parents. It's a lottery.
But at least if you are trying to establish half decent role models for the kid - or getting him out of the environment, then you are going some way into loading the dice in the kids favour.

LaoTzu said: "dad can cry, can bleed and can be counted on". Curious, that. My wife can be counted on for everything a child may want, but she does not cry and she does not bleed. This is not said in a bad way at all. It is impossible for me to express the level of her equanimity with the world, and how well-adjusted she is with her surroundings, wherever she is. She once did a non-stop meditation (no speaking) course of ten days. The only fly in the ointment (lotion?) of her life has been me. Over decades, I have felt inferior about how little she asks from me, compared to how much I expected from her; how transcendental she is, compared to how human I am. With a lot of work, one can reduce bleeding from life's ****** (pun intended). I look on her as an inspiring guru now, not at all as an equal partner.

I have written of some conversations with my children about why I separated from their mom. My relationship with my children is authentic in that they know their dad can cry, can bleed and can be counted on when they are in a tight spot. They ask me how I am going, offer to make me breakfast and are generously loving kids. They love me, warts and all and I have no facade for them. They are growing up being true to themselves because it is what I model. Kids thrive not from an absence of life stress but from seeing and modelling how to cope with it. My role as their dad is to make sure that the stressors are manageable not entirely absent.

"Kids thrive not from an absence of life stress but from seeing and modelling how to cope with it. My role as their dad is to make sure that the stressors are manageable not entirely absent."

PURE GOLD, LaoTzu. Thank you for those words of wisdom.

"Not entirely absent". Love that and so true. We are NOT doing our jobs correctly when we try to keep them so sheltered from life's stressors, nor are we doing our jobs correctly when we model poor management of those stressors.

OMG.. People go back and read again what your posting. Let your kids be kids as long as you can. You single moms raising boys, make sure you have a positive Male roll model that your son trusts. Kids are resilient, keep them busy if you can, 4H,sports etc.. Yes I understand there Parents out there {single mom } that are so Goddam selfish that the kid or kids never get to do anything. I also was reading about one of you saying its easier on kids when they are a little older to handle parents divorce? My youngest was 17 when her mom and I divorced. In the begining everything seem ok with her, it wasn't till she was 20 or 21 she started having problems. What happened she wanted to looked strong to her mother and myself, I kept telling her she can talk to me or i would get her counseling, oh no dad everything is fine. My point is Divorce is hard on everybody, kids no matter how old. You and your wife are having problems and you still love each other seek help, don't be selfish and walk away from your family just because its easier. People i think we just need to keep it simple. Thanks everybody for allowing me to express myself, some of you people on EP are trully a God send!

Tell me more about this divorce thing being "easier".
That was not my experience, and I've not seen anyone else on these boards making that claim either.

Good Grief!! Are you saying "don't get divorced"? How astonishing!! Here I am flitting gaily from one easy divorce to the next - they just get easier all the time! I tell everyone - you just need to get enough practice and you can get to the point where you can get divorced in your sleep . . . !!! Now why would I want to stick with a marriage with even the TEENSIEST difficulty, considering how EASY it is to divorce??!!

Last night I read these two posts several times - Pass and Judy. They certainly got me thinking, once again, perhaps I'm just being selfish.

It was good to wake up this morning and see so many jumping in on this conversation. I am in a 28 yr marriage. The last time my wife and I were intimate was December, 1999. I've stayed for my son. After all the sacrifices, frustrations, putting on a good face, trying to maintain a substance of normal life, I'm now living with the consequences in the very person I was trying to protect.

That is why I initially shared my life experience with Moon River. Since then she has shared a photo of her 3 yr old son. I can most sincerely say that there is not a person on this board that would not do anything and everything to protect such an adorable and innocent child. I can certainly tell that MR loves her child deeply and struggles immensely over this.

I am obviously not an advocate of "rash" divorce as a solution, simply because two people may not be sexually compatible or intimate "satisfied". It is that nasty law of unintended consequences that rears its ugly head. I did everything I thought I could, with my wife, to protect our son. After 20 years, I now learn, perhaps the tough part is ahead.

This is a painful discussion and aspect of this life we're living. If my experiences can help one person - in this huge, but very small world - then I am happy with myself.

See, this is why I ridicule such comments as those by Judy54 and Passthe chicken. Because it causes people like Boater to wonder if he HAS done enough, to question himself YET again about how much effort HE needs to put into a dead relationship in the vain hope he c(by himself) can breathe life into something that died long ago.

Judy and Chicken, if you were to read widely on this forum you would understand that the positions you take are grossly UNFAIR to the posters. The posters here have turned themselves inside out, for years (decades in many cases) trying to fix their marriages. Their partners OTOH have made NO such efforts.

When you challenge ILIASM posters "don't be selfish" or "we owe it to them to do all we can to make it succeed", you are saying "YOU are not trying hard enough"> What I find especially distasteful about you both as commentators is that you have both been divorced yourselves!! So you of all people know the heartache and distress that accompanies this decision - yet you reach "staying" to the OP and other posters here! WHERE is your empathy?????

Thanks Enna! There are always at least two points of view. But I agree that it would appear no one in this forum takes marriage or divorce lightly.

2 More Responses


I really great post and a pretty brave one given the continuing controversy over this subject.

My posting here is very unwelcome by some, but I chance it from time-to-time. As someone who has been single forever, who decided for all sorts of reasons not to marry when others typically do, I will say I believe in what you say, even if it is only part of the story, not all of it.

I was brought up in what would nominally be labelled as a functional marriage. No abuse, either between partners or of the children. Yet, nevertheless, I never married and my brother married and divorced, notably at the impetus of his now ex wife. My brother doesn't do emotions. His favourite phrase is, under pressure, "I don't want to talk about it". And if he was prepared to say that to me, his mother, father, what was he like with his ex? Not much different I expect. I would hasten that his ex had, shall we say, behaviour characteristics that would have made living with her a bit of a challenge.

I know I have some of the same sort of short-comings. Not that I am unwilling to talk about "it", but an apprehension about how the other person might react. I don't do conflict and rejection very well. I know this, I see this in me, I know that it is a short-coming. I dearly want to do something about it but the simple fact is that I fear that I don't know HOW, even if, and this is a crazy proposition, I actually DO know how. I don't trust myself. How bad is that?

There are all sorts of complications to my predicament than just the relationship that I experienced between my mother and father as a child, such as relationships with my brother, with my peers, through the education system and ultimately within me.

However, on reflection, I don't remember demonstrative affection, EVER. Maybe it was there and I just don't remember it, but I don't. Either between my parents or between me and them. Funny, I don't even remember affection being shown to my brother, he being the younger, as a baby. You might expect that, perhaps?

And of course, I remember the arguments. Just the sort of arguments that couples do have, will have. Nothing abusive, nothing lasting, nothing chronic, but that is what I DO remember.

And of course, there was never any discussion, any advice from either of them about THAT subject; relationships, sex, romance, procreation.

So, on reflection, that was my experience of a functional relationship. After all, they stuck it together until my father's death several years ago. Ironically, it is only since his death that there has been even been a slight crack in the facade of this veneer. I was nearly 54 before telling my mother about what I thought, I observed and as I admitted it was a bit late for recriminations by then. How sad is that?

On reflection it was my father who was the emotional one, from virtually any perspective but I am sure it was repressed. The only time we ever discussed sex was on his deathbed when, for some reason, he reflected that it was great that he had been able to have sex, "on special occasions" virtually to the end. My mother's one and only comment ever was "sex is over-rated". I would have loved to have had the nerve to ask her, "Why"? But what would be the point?

I reflect on lovenature's prior story about how her husband married her and won't have sex with her. How could he do that to another human being? How on earth can he do that to her? How can his family condone it? Of course it probably justifies their own dysfunction. Let's call it malfunction. That sounds more authentic to me.

So, I applaud what you are saying. I especially applaud what you are trying to do with your adult son. Please, stick by him, as long as he is prepared to listen to you. It may be of limited benefit, as you seem to recognise, but it is better than doing nothing and I can't see you doing that unless you have no other choice. You sound like a good man. The world needs more people like you, the sort who can understand even if they don't agree. There are far too few people like that in the world.

And finally, may good fortune go with you and with moonriver, whatever you either do with your futures.

Navbwb -

Thanks so much for sharing such a heartfelt post. (And thank you for your kind words about me - you've certainly made my day.) With that I would say, while you state you never married, I would certainly hope you are in a meaningful and satisfying relationship. While I can't speak for the women of the world - I'm fairly confident there are plenty out there that would cherish someone as thoughtful and sincere as you - clearly you are a very good man. I will continue my discussions with my son, as difficult as they are. (All the while my wife reminding me - he is your son, not your friend. That may sound worse than it is - but she feels that I share too much with him.)

To the rest - I guess MR and I did touch a nerve. One day, I just hope to find something in life that is "easy". When I joined this forum just a few weeks ago now - for those that have followed my stories - I did so because I started an exercise routine which resulted in some "unexpected consequences" - further increased libido. I, like perhaps many of you were clearly frustrated with the lack of intimacy in my life, but took a perspective of "what's wrong with me - overall I've got a good life, for all that's wrong with the world, my big complaint is I'm not getting enough sex". How selfish is that? People go to bed hungry, people are getting killed in wars, and I'm not getting enough sex. What IS wrong with me?

What has certainly come through loud and clear since joining the group – “it” almost has nothing to do with sex. Sex is the culmination, not the origination. Yes there is the spontaneous, raw lust, passionate, blow your mind sex – but that is just not every day, nor sustainable. Sex that I think all of us are lacking/looking for is the real thing – the evolution from a loving relationship that starts with two people that deeply care for each other - a touch, a kiss, a kind word, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, someone that ultimately you want to be next to, skin to skin, sharing each other – physically and emotionally.

To the point of this post, and what I think has touched a nerve is that many of us have compromised our relationships for our kids. We’ve said “ok, I’ll give up on sex, because that is selfish.” I’ll put up with it because I want my son/daughter/kids to have their mom and dad together. As I’m sure anyone with kids knows – no matter how young – they don’t miss a thing. And for the most part, they seek to emulate the behaviors of their mom and dad. So while we think – ok, the kids don’t see mom and dad making love/having sex, but they’re not supposed to - so as long as we’re civil, friendly and maintain a “warm” home, I’ll just go through the motions and all will be well – after all, “it’s only sex”.

In the few short weeks I’ve been in this forum, I’ve met people in Australia, Asia, Europe and here in the U.S. – I’ve been amazed and enlightened as to the magnitude of this issue. While I’m not deeply religious, perhaps this is why god created man AND woman. Not to be roommates, but to enjoy each other – physically and emotionally. (If it was just about pro-creation, I’m sure there could have been other alternatives.)

I conclude without any answers – but a caution to the members of our “little club” ILIASM – we may well be raising the next generation of members – and how sad is that?

"I don't remember demonstrative affection, EVER. Maybe it was there and I just don't remember it, but I don't." Then there certainly was none. These memories (of affection) are not "stand out" memories, but simply recollections of how your parents interacted with you and with each other - and your brother.

You (NAVBWB) are a very self aware person whose legacy of your parents' dysfunctional marriage is to AVOID being caught in a similar situation. I see similar behaviour in my own adult children.

Dysfunctional families are always going to exist - and each of us who has lived in such a situation knows that we (as individuals) must deal with that legacy. How we do that varies enormously.

I think my STBX grew up with parents who were cold and distant like this-I never thought about it, since my family was so flamingly dysfunctional...I thought she'd got the good end of the stick. Maybe not.

I am loathe to "double up" on a story, and I have already had a crack (below) but I am moved to offer this anecdotal evidence.

Both my kids both boys (now adults) were raised in a dysfunctional marital environment. Both have gone different ways in their adult lives.

One is intimidated by women, regards them as untrustworthy and unpredictable and has not had a relationship of any note.
The other is a "user" of women, discarding the old one and moving on to the next (usually running both concurrently).

Neither attitude seems terribly life enhancing to me.

I had best declare my position here (I believe that a dysfunctional marriage is a huge negative influence on kids) And, I don't believe me staying in the dysfunctional situation as long as I did did my kids any favours.

Tread your own path.

I believe that is highly likely. But I cannot definitively "prove it".
That's why I was at pains to point out this is an anecdote, of my personal experience. I am not holding it up as a universal truth.

"Imagine the challenge in having these kinds of discussions with my son - trying to explain what he has never seen."

I couldn't have said it better.... I have three kids and our oldest just left the nest. It is a wake up call to both my wife and I. I don't live sexless... but very, very mismatched.

I'm new to exp proj. It doesn't seem to allow me to link to a long post I put up about my own personal struggle. It is ID 771924. I'll see if I can pm you the link. It is a bit too long to post here as a comment.

From personal experience, DO NOT STAY FOR THE KIDS. There are certain ages in which divorce is much harder on a kid than other ages, but if you go about it in the right way, it can greatly reduce the impact. I grew up with my parents having a seemly good marriage until about 7, after than things really went down hill and still are just as bad 15 years later. I wished everyday they would divorce. If I wasn't hearing them fighting, I could feel the negative tension and lack of love.

Good advice.... I am still struggling to accept it though. Our oldest just left the nest and while my wife and I keep our fights away from the kids, they can feel the tension. They know we struggle and it shows in their lives too.

There is a counter view about the environment - that the kids basic personality can over-ride the environment and the kid can remain largely unaffected by it. This school of thought runs concurrent with the theory that by the time a kid is about 7 the personality is pretty well fixed.
So if you are in a shithole marriage, you could hang your hat on the "environment doesn't matter" theory - or - you could adopt the position that "my kid is over 7 now, so it's too late to do anything anyway".

Either of the above could be good arguements to adopt to justify staying in a shithole marriage.

Tread your own path.

Well you introduce yet another way to look at it Sister Moon, the "Well, my marriage isn't as bad as some" method. This one will also suffice to hold you in the dysfunctional situation.

I am probably talking semantics here, but IF you get out, and end up in a functional loving "we" type relationship in your future, you will see - comparitively speaking - just how bad your present deal is. You might not go as far as calling it a shithole (you are a refined woman I know !!!) but I will bet, absolutely, that you will describe it is less glowing terms than you do right now.

Thank you, I am sure many of use share those same thought and fears.

Boater, your thinking makes perfect sense. I often ask people to think about the fact that their children live for about one fifth of their lives as children - that leaves four fifths as adults. And what we say and do in that first fifth dictates MUCH of how their future life will be.

Those people who think that, because they don't have all-out brawls with their spouses, the children don't "know" what is going on, are fooling themselves IMO. Children who do not see parents in harmony, who do not see affection or physical closeness between their parents, children who only see parents living as "room mates", will end up with quite distorted views of marriage.

Children need to see parents loving each other (NOT having sex - but doing the other small loving things that a truly conected couple does together). They need to see each parent respecting and admiring and trusting the other. They need to see parents cooperating and supporting each other. They need to see parents resolving difficulties together. And they need to see parents disagreeing, arguing, fighting - and then coming back together as a loving and united couple.

Children whose parents live togeher as polite room mates cannot demonstrate through their actions the genuine nature of a loving and intimate connection. So their children grow up thinking the parents' marriage is "normal" - and emulate it. Or, as my own adult children have done, chosen to NOT have close inimate relationships because they cannot see how these can enhance your life . . . . .

My own adult children have lived through my two marriages - neither was ideal. My first marriage was abusive (in every way) and my second was sexless. Many of you know that my Ex is actually a good man in many ways, so my children had a much better step-father than father. But they did NOT see the close loving and equal relationship that is a truly GOOD relationship. And I believe it has negatively affected them in their own adult relationships.

Those people considering the "children need two parents" aspect would be wise to consider how this is best managed as a co-parenting situation, rather than as a single UNhappy married unit. As the saying goes: "Better to come from a broken home than to live in one."

Those who are choosing to stay for the kids get very angry at these kinds of posts. They are sacrificing a lot and do so at the expense of even more.

There are some situations where the children are quite small and the finances simply do not allow for divorce at that moment, but usually with some exit planning and rearranging (and in some cases, waiting until the children are old enough for preschool and elementary school) can make a big difference.

Doing that exit planning while running down the clock can also give the marriage time to improve, while at the same time allowing you to get your ducks in a row.

Its also " cheaper to keep her!"

Glad the dialogue has evolved. That is why we moved the conversation to the public forum. As Moon River said below both of our situations are "good" home environments. My wife has readily said to me - "I think I'm a very good mother, and I recognize I have not been the best wife".

In my situation, my son is 20. The damage has been done. Enna as you point out - we're not talking about sexual encounters, but loving encounters. It is one continuous evolution. A man and wife that have an intimate, secure, loving relationship set a far different model for their kids then a couple that shares a house and chores around the house.

So I'm having the incredibly difficult discussions with my adult son now, trying to explain as subtly as possible - "this is not normal". I'm thrilled that you seek to emulate so much of who I am, but please don't enter into this type of relationship.

I think Smithy references below - "pay now or your kids pay later" - that's where I'm at. For those in the forum that have younger children - play it forward a few years when you're trying to explain this to your adult children. Actions are far more powerful than words. Trying to now recast his distorted view of a man/woman relationship is very, very difficult and uncomfortable.

You do make a very good point. Change. There are certainly situations in which it is simply NOT possible to exit a sexless marriage, even if the refused spouse wishes to do so.

However, this post is NOT addressed to those people. It is addressed to those people who are struggling with the decision to leave because it is "better" for the kids to grow up in a two person house-hold. As has been said before, that is certainly the BEST option for childen - provided their parents have a loving, supportive and respectful marriage.

However, the calibre of sexless marriages (and I have no hesitatiion in including EVERY sexless marriage discussed on ILIASM - because the people who post here really ARE at the end of their tolerance level for the state of their unions) is such that children are NOT best served by growing up in these situations IMO. Because the quality of relationship in the sexless marriage is such that it is NOT a good role model for the children growing up in that marriage.

I feel very sad for, and have huge sympathy for, those who truly want to get OUT but cannot do so for reasons beyond their control. I wish I could say to those people: "Never mind, your sexless marriage is NOT affecting your children." But that is not true - it IS affecting them IMO.

I'm sure it IS hard for parents to hear this - but it is not in their best interests - or their children's best interests - to pretend "everything will be OK".

If you WANT to leave but cannot, you need to do as Change suggests - plan for your exit and simultaneously do whatever you can to improve the situation. That way you are doing YOUR very best to make the situation as positive as possible for your kids. And no-one can do better than their best - even if you feel it is not as much as you WANT to do . . . .

Boater, do you mind saying more about how your son's attitude toward intimate relationships is affecting him now? How the damage is visible to you, what exactly prompts these talks?

My own parents had a loud, unhappy (though not sexless) marriage, and as soon as I could see a future for myself, I vowed to do everything I could to make my own different. They never touched where I could see them -- no affection showed at all, really. My strategy, from teen years on up, was to find a series of affectionate boyfriends.... reactive, I know, but the best adaptation I could come up with. How do you see your son's adaptation playing out, now that he is nearly grown?

DM - unfortunately the signs are everywhere. At 20 he has not yet had a meaningful relationship with a girl. (To provide a bit of perspective - my son is 6'3" about 195, trim, muscular, dark hair, blue eyes, mature for his age, can talk with anyone about anything - I visited him on campus recently, as we walked across campus - virtually every girl we passed, turned...of course I'm a bit biased and hugely proud - but the point, he is attractive to women on sight - and I do know that he is attracted to women.)

When I talk with him about relationships, the telltale response is "I just don't see the need at this point. I have friends in relationships and they just seem to end up hurt, or take up too much time." I respond by saying things like - but you're only seeing the visible/public side of their relationships. There are good times in private - the hugs, someone to share your frustrations with, laugh with - feelings that only a special girl can provide. This is where things get very, very difficult. Because I'm describing something he has never seen. We have also touched on the sexual side of relationships - you want to talk about a challenge...

At times he even says - "but dad, you're a good guy, you've gotten by". (Understand I get text messages from my son telling me how proud he is of me. I don't know if that is normal - but I will say it is humbling.)

So Deb - we all want the best for our kids - we want them to have it better than we did/do. Trying to explain with words what a relationship between a loving man and woman is supposed to be, is extremely difficult. And how do you answer the question - "well that's not you and mom" and you're ok? Do you tell him - well - it is just a facade. I'm miserable. I long for the touch of a woman. At times I'm so sexually frustrated I can't even concentrate? I had an affair that opened my eyes and provided a level of satisfaction I can't quite put into words? I wish you could have been there to see us laughing - enjoying each other, then you'd understand?

Deb - trust me, I don't wish this on anyone. Essentially, we need to tell our kids - do not do what your mom and I did.

3 More Responses

I wrote a story about a year ago about Leaving for the Kids. Boater, its about my personal experience of realizing that leaving was the right thing to do and very much mirrors what you are saying.

One of the main reasons I am refusing my marriage to get to this point is the kids. We dont have PDA too much so I'm not sure what my kids view marriage as. I just don't think it would be best for my children to be carted all over town from this house to that house. Just seems sad to me. I am willing to stick it out and if after the kids are gone and its doesn't improve, I'll move on. Many people do that; im sure this is why. My kids are most important.

EVERYONE's kids are "most important" to their parents. Every parent struggles mightily when making choices that will affect their children's welfare. You might be welladvised to consider whether your childsren are ultimately better off living in a dysfunctional situation with two parents, rather than a co-parenting situation with two happy - single - parents . . .