Divorce and Love and Kids

Someone I know is getting a divorce.  I suspect that most of us, these days, can make that claim most of the time.  The percentage of marriages that end in divorce within 10 years ranges from about 1 in 4 to almost half, depending on the age of the bride.  There are many reasons why couples split — abuse, dishonesty, and infidelity are common — but I’m not so interested in whether or not a particular reason is valid or sufficient.  I’m more interested in why those reasons exist in the first place, especially when there are kids involved.

Take, for example, the situation that Rene Syler writes about at Good Enough Mother.  Two people, with families, meet and fall in love.  They decide to divorce their current spouses and marry each other.  Syler found this story at a time when her own marriage was experiencing some creaking and groaning from heavy stress and she admits to having wondered about her future.  But the difference is that Syler stayed with those she had made a commitment to, either through marriage or through giving birth.  While she believes that people should be happy, she also understands that one cannot think solely of oneself and asks “what responsibility do you have to the other people in your life, particularly the ones who count on you?”

I’ll give you my take on this: if you’re in a relationship with someone, you don’t go looking for love elsewhere.  Falling in love is a reason to get married, not to get divorced.  I’m not sure that a couple needs to stay together if they’re not happy, so long as a separation affects only them.  Once kids are involved, however, one’s own happiness must be suppressed in favor of one’s children’s.  That means that no matter how much you hate that she puts the mustard knife in the mayonnaise jar, you put your kids first and deal with it.

So, no matter how hot your secretary is, you don’t hook up with her after work.  While infidelity might be a good reason to end a marriage, it should never have to be.  It doesn’t matter how good the sex is or how certain you are that you’ll never get caught, even the possibility of destroying your family isn’t worth it.  And if you think you’ve met your (new) soulmate, well, smile at each other, raise your glass to what might have been, and go back to your kids.  Because if you abandon your kids, well, you really don’t have much of a soul anyway.

Now, have I spotted a beautiful woman and thought about what it would like to have a little fun on the side?  Certainly.  Have I ever met someone and considered what life would be like with them instead of my wife (and kids)?  Of course.  Would I ever pursue such a relationship?  Of course not.  It’s simply not an option.  I have a responsibility to my kids, at the very least, to do the right thing.  Unless you have an open relationship, such possibilities should never be more than a momentary fantasy, a brief smile, a nod to that which never could be.  Anyone who allows fantasy to become reality and the expense of their children is a terrible parent at best and quite possibly an awful person as well.

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