Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"For the Kids"

This is another post coming out of the amazing weekend I spent with a group of 6 teen girls on a Christian conference for teen girls called The Revolve Tour.


A very serious subject did come up in the car at one point. I was surprised with the openness that the girls shared with me and their friends. And I learned a lot.

Lately, the topic of marriages staying together has come up several times. Facebook, MomsLikeMe, in person with friends. And the discussion revolves around what's best- to divorce or "stay together for the kids." Some argue that a parent who is miserable in a marriage is going to rub their misery on the kids. Some argue that you stay together no matter what because that's what is best. Some argue that they grew up in a house with parents who hated one another and wished that their parents would have just divorced instead. The focus is always the same- it's always on the parents. The kids are usually just along for whatever ride the adults get on.

Sidebar: This is a discussion about your average marriage and not about anyone in a marriage that includes abuse or addiction. There are certainly times that a marriage has to end for the safety of the people involved or for the safety of the kids.

Granted, I was only with a small group of teen girls. And status didn't match statistics- the majority of the girls had parents who were still married and generally happy. But the voice of 2 of the girls has stayed with me.

1 girl knows that her parents struggle. She knows that one parent is seeking a way to leave the other. She knows that other parent wants to fight to save the marriage, wants to hold on. She knows they fight.
1 girl has parents already divorced and has step parents with each original parent. And both of those marriages are crumbling. One has a parent wanting to leave the other parent. One has a parent already left, filing for divorce.

And so we talked about what it means to be a "child of divorce." I came from a divorced family but was fortunate that the man my mother married commited himself to her (through marriage) and to me (through adoption). And I openly shared my thoughts and experiences since the girls were sharing so openly with me.
We talked about families that stay together. We talked about parents fighting. We talked about relationships. We talked about what they see for their future, their relationships. We talked about staying together "for the kids."

The consensus in the car was that staying together is best. Not in misery. Not fighting all the time. Not doing dumb stuff. The girls who are right in the thick of this stuff want their parents to fight FOR their marriage, for their family. They want their parents to be serious about loving each other. During the conference, one of the speakers would come out in the crowd and ask girls about their dreams. What is your dream? One girl- a teenager, remember- said her dream is for her parents to not get divorced.

Kids are selfish, aren't they? And don't we work hard to teach them not to be selfish? And yet the example they so often see in their own families is a parent acting selfishly.

Kids can be cruel to each other with their words and actions. And we rebuke them for it, hand down consequences. And yet they are often witness to our choices to yell and scream, maybe throw things or hurt each other.

Kids don't recognize that their choices have consequences. We strive to teach them self-responsibility, teach them that their choices can cause serious harm to others. And yet they witness us, maybe without our realizing how much they see and hear, maybe with us over-sharing in our quest to place blame or rid ourselves of guilt, stepping outside of our important relationships instead of working with our partner to fix the issues.

Jeff and I feel like we have a good marriage. We have fun together, we miss each other when the other is gone, we are intimate, we talk all the time, we need and want each other, we trust each other. He's not just my husband, he's also my friend. And we are both focused on keeping our marriage good so that we create a solid foundation for our kids. I don't ever want to blow up their world- life will inflict enough battle wounds. I'm blessed to have a husband who feels the same sense of responsibility and commitment to such an important mission. Sure, we fight, we snip, we nag, we complain. It's not all sunshine and roses. There is serious hard work involved in keeping a marriage good.

I could go on and on about my thoughts on marriage and divorce. But I think the opinion of the kids who rode in my van carry a lot more weight. And I hope a lot of people are listening.

They want you to stay together. They want you to be happy and love each other and love them- even if it takes a lot of work. They want you to work hard to keep it together. They want more than just staying together "for them." The demands are high, the expectations are immense. But it lines up nicely with those vows we made, doesn't it? And it lines up nicely with the very lessons we strive to impart on our kids, doesn't it?

Most of all... I think our kids are worth that fight and that hard work.



Nancy said...

I am so glad that Jim and I fought through our problems a few years ago to make our marriage work. It isn't always perfect, but we are always working on it.

Sounds like your weekend was an awesome time!

Nancy C said...

I have had a series of friends get divorced over the last two years...people I would never, ever expect to split up. It was devastating on so many levels.

I pray for my marriage and try really hard to work at it. I hope that's enough.

noexcuses said...

What a great weekend this must have been. It is a great reminder to all of us married folk to work at our relationships not only for each other, but as examples to our children. Great post!

Anonymous said...

This is a really interesting post. As a child of divorce who is in a very strong marriage, I agree that parents have a duty to fight to keep a family together. That said, I watched one of my parents be miserable in a bad marriage, and I don't think that was particularly healthy.

Thanks for writing about a very difficult subject.

Unknown said...

The points you made about what we want to teach our children and what we show them in our marriages is so true. This is a very well written post.

Kim said...

Thought provoking for sure. What is better - staying together and being miserable or splitting up and risking the hurt your kids are gonna go through. I think it's awesome that you talk about it.

Shell said...

How interesting to hear their thoughts.

My parents got divorced- and we all thank God for that. But, theirs was an extreme situation.

My husband and I have a strong marriage, but that is because we realized that we have to work to make it work. That we can't just go off of fleeting feelings of the moment.

There are certain situations where I can see that divorce is the better option(extreme cases), but when I hear "Oh, I'm just not happy" I'm admitting that I judge a little and feel sad for the kids. MAKE yourself happy and try.

Heather said...

I am divorced. I am not proud of it, but I am divorced. My ex and I have done everything possible to make sure our kids come first.
I am remarried.
I know it is hard to be is just as hard sometimes to be married.

Lindsey said...

I am separated right now. I agree with everything you said. I stayed a lot longer than I should have because I was trying for my kids. When mental illness is involved it complicates things a lot more. I will continue to try with my husband, just not under the same roof, for the same reason, my kids. It is safer for us to divorce.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I've talked openly about my previous marriage as well. Like I said, there are definitely times when divorce is the best option.

I think the rules change when kids are involved. In some ways, you have to be even more aware of abuse, mental illness, addiction, etc because you have to also protect your kids. And in some ways, you have to be extra vigilant about working to keep the relationship together to be certain your own personal desires aren't clouding your commitment to your marriage. Or rather, that your personal desires stay focused on your commitment to your spouse!

There are no easy answers. And there are certainly situations where kids shouldn't be made aware of all the issues because it isn't appropriate (that would be a whole 'nother blog post- adults oversharing with kids). I was just blown away by these teen girls and their thoughts and desires on the subject.

Kay said...

Growing up my parents fought a lot. They told us once they were getting a divorce and we begged them not to. They fought terribly for years, today it seems like they couldn't be more in love. I see how worth it, it is to fight!

I think people forget that being in a marriage isn't always going to be roses. Even a rose has thorns.

My husband and I always said our marriage came before our children. It might sound selfish but we believe if they have a strong healthy family unit, that sets an example we want our children to have.