Redefining a 'Broken Home'

I've read quite a number of posts on how separation and divorce would break apart the family, would mean that the children would come from a broken home. It was something that played on my mind before I left my SM and certainly in the years after.

To be clear, I wasn't worried about my kids coming from a 'broken home' per se. My concerns were about the best time at which to leave, when would they be resilient enough and also adaptable enough.

My reasoning is quite simple - a dysfunctional marriage is already a broken home. The marital relationship is broken regardless of whether the parents are together or not. At best, the kids learn how not to engage intimately and at worst, they learn how badly to treat someone they supposedly love through denying them affection, touch, expressions of love while inflicting physical, emotional or mental pain. Its already broken. That being the case, separation and divorce gives the kids an opportunity to experience a functional home with at least one parent.

I've been out of my SM for nearly four years. My kids stay with me three days a week and I like to think that we have a steady routine - open communication, clear boundaries and the knowledge that they are loved and cared for (of course this is my impression).

The ex and her boyfriend are both passive aggressive and they can often be verbally abusive towards each other when they have disagreements. Their's is a rather dysfunctional relationship. The kids at times feel quite uncomfortable being in the midst of it and they feel like they have to walk on eggshells. It can feel very tiring for them.

The thing is, my kids have at least one functional home to balance this out - to assure themselves that the dysfunction they experience at their mom's is not normal.

Perhaps its time to redefine what we consider a broken home - it can be broken regardless of whether the spouses are living together or separately. Unless of course its only the facade we are trying to preserve. Just something to think about and discuss. Be well.
LaoTzu LaoTzu
41-45, M
15 Responses Aug 17, 2014

I thought I'd bump this up for consideration - a counter perspective on what constitutes a broken home.

Thank you for this great perspective, Lao.
I also experienced something similar. Not that after getting divorced from my ex him and his gf had a dysfunctional union, but I continued giving my daughter a steady parent with the full attention of two parents.
Her father decided to pull away.
She was in her pre/ early teens at the time.
We developed an even stronger bond somewhat extending to camaraderie. She is an adult now, but the other day we welcomed a relative's daughter and what she said gave a good mirroring as an outsider.
My daughter teases me a lot and we joke quite a bit when together. So before this young girl was leaving, she commented what a great relation we had.
This all pulled back all the years of being single parent.
It certainly was not a broken home despite her father not wanting to cooperate.
I am very happy I took that step in time, because she would have accepted a domineering male figure as norm.
Today she thinks she grew up on her own.
Lol.. that's what kids seem to think. I used to think same way.
Today she is a strong individual and just graduated from uni with honors. She does not drink. She does not smoke. She is also a sought after athlete outside her studies, regularly exercises few hours daily.
This all, she saw ma doing. Role model.
That's not the result of a 'broken' home.

Well said. A child is better off with happy parents who live separately than a home where there is arguing and tension.

I cannot agree more. Yesterday my 4-year old daughter told me again that when I lived there, she used to hide behind the couch when mama and I argued. She is happier now.

An insightful observation, LaoTzu, that comes at a perfect time for me as my divorce is underway and I worry about the impact on my kids. You are correct in labeling a dysfunctional marriage as a "broken home" despite both parents being in the same household together. It's broken because neither parent is modeling proper intimacy - there's usually a palpable lack of affection in the home, and this is the wrong role modeling for our children.

Endorse your wise and logical story fully Brother Lao.
Marriages finding there way into this ILIASM group are already broken. The evidence of that is in story after story after story.
The end of a broken marriage need not mean fractured relationships between the former spouses and / or any kids.
If the spouses act collaboratively and with the kids (if any) interests at heart a divorce need not be an ongoing acrimonious thing.
"Divorce" in and of itself is not a bad and angst filled thing. It is the participants in it that can (and often DO) make it so.
Which brings me too this observation.
Many of the avoidant spouses seen in here exhibit high levels of dysfunctionality.
And, I suspect, the ILIASM member knows only too well how the avoidant spouse is likely to react to being dumped (very very badly).
And, not wishing to see this side of the avoidant spouse, there is tremendous reluctance on the part of the ILIASM member to set in train the lighting of the fuse. The ILIASM member knows only too well the potential of the avoidant spouse to act like a total arsehole.
Recent stories by Cherish, Smithy, Birdie would be current examples of this.
It ain't so hard to make the case that irrational and obstructive behaviour by a spurned avoidant spouse actually ADDS to the case for dumping them.
Tread your own path.

we all wait, smithy.

Good you did it. Even that step is a huge one, but so worth it.
I took liberty for my daughter and myself.

Definite food for thought. Thanks very much for such an eloquent post.

Well said, LaoTzu. My children NOW have the benefit of seeing 2 different, but fully functional, loving adult relationships. Both my ex and I have moved on, and while it is not all peaches and cream for the kids (discipline can be an issue when it is not the PARENT doing it), they DO recognize that BOTH are their parents are in happy, stable adult relationships. It really hit home for me how glad I am that I made the difficult choice to end the marriage, over his objections, when my kids (middle-school aged) told me that we both seemed so much happier apart...and then in our new relationships. Kids just "get" so much more than we give them credit for....

I agree with you wholeheartedly. You must feel relief and pride that at least YOU can provide your children with a home which provides stability and love. It must be worrying for you that they are subjected to a very different environment with your ex.

Children need those boundaries and the ability to know they can communicate openly about their needs. They would not have that benefit if you were still with the ex.

This has to be the best explanation for why staying is approximately equal to, if not worse than, leaving "for the sake of the children" (extenuating circumstances notwithstanding).
Thank you for saying it so eloquently!

Agree 100%. This issue is what delayed my departure, what tipped the scales for me is when one of my daughters came to me for some advice which I freely offered her. She look at me kind of a puzzled and asked me why the advice was so different than what she observed everyday I the family home. An ahh ha moment for me.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Be blessed 😎

Agreed. The goal is to give the kids a functioning home. And hopefully, eventually, view of a functional marriage.

I agree. Speaking from experience as I grew up in a dysfunctional, intact family with parents in a sexless marriage.

"a dysfunctional marriage is already a broken home"
should become a regular saying on this group