Staying together for the sake of the kids? A very emotive subject but one I feel compelled to write about.
Firstly, I’m not a parent so don’t shoot me down with the “well what would she really know, she doesn’t have kids.” I hear you but I was a child with parents who existed in unhappiness together for most of their marriage and it really polluted my ability to make sound relationship choices for most of my love career. No question.
My belief is that if you are parents living in an unhappy marriage, do something about it or find a way out. Please don’t let it go on for years. When you are a kid you have no choice but to stay with your parents. You can’t pack your suitcase and ship out. You have to withstand all the angst, rows and silences. It’s got to be the scariest place to be when you are little.
My dad was a troubled man essentially. He was a World War 2 veteran, a compulsive gambler and a hot head. Mum was a rescuer in many ways. Her solidity provided him a grounding that he had sadly lacked throughout his life. Life at home was so changeable. Dad would mood swing regularly and red wine would set him into a temper, a depression or a sulk, sometimes for 2-3 weeks.
Mum had old and very ingrained values. My parents were 34 and 44 respectively when I was born with Dad being mum’s senior. They married in church and had me. Two concrete reasons for staying together and never parting, in mum’s eyes. But these values only served to make mum life threateningly ill twice and I was part of it.
My parents rowed often and I got so scared of Dad’s flighty temper. I don’t think he ever hit mum but did raise his hand a few times. I often cowered in my room when I heard them rowing and felt very unsafe. Poor mum was a strong woman but time after time Dad wore her down, so I found myself playing a protective role as the years passed, in case Dad laid into her. I used to pray hard that mum and dad would break up to finally break the painful experiences.
So, given the above, is there any wonder then that I didn’t know what healthy love looked like between two people? That I then proceeded to experience a 25 year very chequered love life. From the age of 17, I let men treat me badly because I would have done anything just to feel loved by a man.
THE QUALITY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP SETS AN EARLY AND INGRAINED PICTURE OF WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE FOR YOUR CHILDREN.
In session I offer couples a chance to look at their “relationship space.” It’s essentially the quality, energy and emotionality of the relationship. If two people are in the same house, the quality of a relationship can be felt first. You always sense how people are together. Go watch people. Their body language and energy will give you all the signs you need. We are hard wired to tune into the unspoken parts of our relationships. And this is where your kids live.
Every breath, word or physical action is felt by your children. They are sensory beings first and last. Before the age of two the brain’s neural pathways are formed before we take our first word and therefore from the minute we are born we are creating images and feelings of the world around us.
By the age of 8 we are 95% emotionally programmed, so as adults are living out this programming every day which is intrinsic in the way we behave in relationships. If your first view of love from your parents/primary care givers relationship was tainted by their negative behaviour, then you may think it equalled love and you may have a difficult time learning to love healthily and indeed allowing healthy love to come your way.
Some parents say to me oh we never let our kids see our rows and troubles. But they already know because of the way you behave. If you are cuddling, holding hands and doing lovely things for each other, they see happy parents obviously, but your energy/body language, if you are not getting on, pollutes the house. You can’t hide it.
Silent households can be just as toxic for children as noisy ones. A client, along with his brothers ended up suffering from OCD’s and chronic anxiety issues because his parents never discussed their problems. Things weren’t aired and freed. His mum and dad avoided each other most of the time. His house was “tight” with stuff unsaid. My client went on to find it tough to express himself in relationships despite the fact he attracted emotionally expressive women. Not a co-incidence!
An ex colleague told me how after 13 years of not getting along, after his wife suspected him having an affair, would regularly sleep on the sofa for sometimes 3 weeks if he dared come home late from a work function or such like. Poor woman, but poorer kids! When he said to me one day about staying together for their sake I broke and said “John it sounds like you are staying together for your sake, because you are too busy to do anything about it!”
So my plea to parents is this: Don’t let your shabby marriage create future hell for your children when they are trying to find love as young adults. Because it will in the main. Go get help! With the internet and ability to connect to whatever you need, help is readily available.
Marriage helps costs money usually, so re-budget with the view that “love money” is an investment into your family’s future rather than the £100 per months on manicures, cigarettes, a few golf rounds or whatever. And it’s not forever!
You may say “all well and good Gina but it’s not that easy!” I hear you and I do really understand that life, hectic schedules get in the way and I’m not asking you to get the hell out. But your garden will get to the point where you can’t avoid weeding it. The task at hand will be enormous if you have left it for years. Same with your relationship.
If your marriage is in trouble, give me a call. Don’t think “oh we don’t need it” because that’s a “me” not a “we” choice. If you are a family it’s not about you anymore. You are responsible for young lives who unless they are made of real strong self intent, will falter in love in the future.
Some relationships have done their time. Call it destiny if you like but sometimes people just aren’t meant to stay together forever despite the wee ones. I will help you find the solution that’s right for all of you, which may be to end it.
Finally, the very reason you got together with your partner in the first place was because you loved each other (I hope!). Remember the early days, your wedding day perhaps, the amazing feelings you had for each other? From that loving bond you created your children. Don’t you owe it to them and yourselves to have a happy conscious partnership?
Every day that passes in your unhappy marriage is a day more asking your children to live in uncertainty about love and life.