When You Stay Together for the Kids
How to make a difficult situation better.
I love your articles on Aish.com and recently watched your talk on living with joy. Here’s my question: I decided to stay together with my husband because of the kids. What advice do you have for me? When a spouse just doesn’t connect and you decided to be there for the children, is there anything more you could tell me?
Stuck at Home
My dear friend,
Thank you for your email and I am glad that you reached out to me. Let’s talk.
This is not a response to whether you should stay or go. You’ve made your decision. I am sure you have put lots of thought into this and I appreciate your sacrifice and desire to create a home that you feel is best for your children. Now the question is: what more can you do to make a difficult situation better?
I am going to give you three thoughts, and I’d like you to contemplate each one.
Own your decision.
You sign your letter as ‘Stuck at Home’. The truth is, you have made this determination to remain in the marriage for your children. Now it’s time to own your decision. There is no one in this world who can judge you. You cannot be stuck if it is a position you have arrived to after careful consideration. The more stuck you feel the less empowered you become.
Living life as a victim is an awful way to live. When we make choices in life, we must accept and even embrace the road we have chosen. This is called strength. To see yourself as stuck is to say, "I am weak and everything I do now is useless and futile." But that is not true.
For starters, get rid of the idea that you are a casualty. Don’t wake up each morning feeling defeated. If you have resolved to remain for the children, respect yourself. Believe in your path. This is a role that you have taken on, so do it with energy and positivity. I’m not saying that this is an easy journey. There is much here I am obviously not privy to. But if you are there for your children then be there in both body and soul.
To help bolster your confidence, think about the conclusion of Judith Wallerstein, who wrote The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. She is convinced that children are almost always better off if the family remains intact, even if the parents are not in love. This is definitely not speaking about situations where abuse, anger or addictions are taking place. She is talking about homes where mom and dad can work on remaining civil. Of course we would all prefer a home filled with perfectly happy mothers and fathers. But her research found that if parents could avoid exposing children to fights and nasty arguments, the children do well. These thoughts should bring you comfort and strength.
Rid yourself of hostility.
You ask if there is anything more I can tell you.
I am not here to cast judgment on your decision or to sway you in either direction. This is an individual choice to make. There is no clear answer here. I am sure that some days you question yourself and look at your disconnected spouse with hurt, even with antagonism. It is easy to fall into hostility. But what is accomplished?
If you are in this situation it is best to leave contempt behind. Otherwise you will look in the mirror one day and find yourself unrecognizable. You will wonder at the bitterness, the negativity, the resentful person you have become.
You may be asking, but how? How is it possible to live with one who is disconnected and not breed anger? How can I live with rejection and not lose myself?
Remember, you have chosen this path so live actively and not reactively. This means that there should never be one person in your life who holds the on/off switch to your emotions. Do not allow others to be your sole source of joy or self-worth. Do you only react to your husband’s disconnect or can you actively find a way to discover peace within through other roads? What makes you a happy and fulfilled woman? Develop a relationship with yourself, see the magic inside of you, and explore the great potential that is waiting to be discovered. Perhaps you can become part of a spiritual community, take classes on-line, or discover a hobby or career path that has been unexplored. You have more power than you realize.
Every Yom Kippur, my mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis A’H would give all who were at services a most beautiful blessing. “I wish you nachas,” she would say. (Nachas is one of those Hebrew words that are hard to translate, but it means inner joy, the type that fills your heart). “You should have nachas from your families, nachas from your children but most of all nachas from yourselves.” And this is my wish to you, too. That despite the loneliness and pain in your life, may you find nachas not only from your children whom you are giving your all to but also from yourself.
Seek good help and support.
I cannot assume that you have taken this route without trying to repair your relationship professionally. There are some wonderful people out there who can help you. Did you meet with a wise therapist, Torah teacher, Rabbi or Rebbetzin?
Sometimes we assume that a situation is hopeless when really it is not. I have spoken to couples who were in the same situation you are now in. I cannot guarantee that you will be able to make your marriage work again but I also cannot say that it is an impossibility. At times, there is disconnect and friction because of a situation with a child, in-law or financial/health crisis. With time, good advice and deep investments of energy and effort, the darkness lifts. Couples who never thought it possible to live together as an intact family find themselves reconstructing their relationship.
Rebuilding after going through turmoil sometimes brings a more steadfast home. I ask that you try to find that go-to professional person who can be your emotional and spiritual lighthouse.
I know that this must not have been easy for you to share.
I wish you strength and blessings on your journey.