Anon for this
Date: May 28, 2012 09:28PM
I am a child of divorced parents. The process started when I was 10 and finalized when I was 11. The one deepest wish/regret I have is that I wish my parents had divorced sooner - even after basically becoming a social pariah because of it.
My house growing up was filled with random bouts of screaming matches, verbal and emotional abuse, and everyone walking on eggshells - for fear of setting my dad off. He would stand at the top of the stairs and berate my mom when she would practice playing the piano because it was "noisy." To this day - nearly 20 years later - even though music is the biggest joy in my life I cannot practice inside the house, nor can I listen to music through the speakers. My house is virtually silent most of the time. I still think my dad will come around the corner and start screaming at me if I play anything out loud. My parents' marriage was loveless, and I truly believe the 10 years of watching their dysfunction did more lasting damage to me than the years following the divorce.
I had no frame of reference for divorced families, save one - my best friend (at the time) had parents that divorced when she was 4. To this day, she hasn't seen her mother since. Her father was awarded full custody of all 3 girls - including one infant - that was incredibly rare in the 80s. Her mother just up and ran off with someone else, and I was terrified her experience was what happened to ALL divorced families. *That* was the most damaging part of the divorce, in my eyes. My parents didn't do anything to allay that fear - probably because they didn't know what was going through my mind - they never asked. Children now have so many examples of divorced parents I don't think that would be an issue for your son (and future child) - but if you *do* decide on a divorce, TALK to your kid - and *really* listen, especially at what he doesn't say. :-)
The two worst things in the years after the divorce were this: 1) My parents LOVED to rant about the other one, how abusive he was, how he was completely certain she cheated on him, how awful he/she is - and then they'd turn around five minutes later and say "you are so much like your mom/dad." THAT screwed my head up. 2) My father was, for a very long time, completely incapable of being single. Therefore he had a... variety... of girlfriends parading in and out of his life. Some I liked; his longest term girlfriend I hated - for good reason. If you do decide to get a divorce, my advice would be to take a very long time and focus on being happy and healthy ON YOUR OWN. Don't jump right into dating again - find out who you are as a person on your own, what you like, what makes you tick - when you are content being single, you'll be able to see problems in potential relationships much faster, and you won't be afraid of breaking them off. When you do start dating again, take your time introducting her to your kids, and if either of them have a problem with her - stop and talk to them and listen.
I truly believe it's not the act of divorcing in and of itsself that screws kids up - it's the circumstancing surrounding the divorce. The strained marriage, the fighting, the accusations, the disparaging remarks in regards to someone you were supposed to have loved once - those are the things I think screws the kids up the most. If you and your wife can talk things out and act like adults, I think your son will be fine. If you can, and if he is old enough, get him some sessions with a counselor/therapist so he can have a safe place to talk things out and so he can gain some coping skills. I wish I had been able to do that.
I don't generally believe ultimatums solve anything, so I wouldn't say "get counseling or we're divorcing." What I would suggest is setting out a time where you can talk without interruptions, and when you are both likely to not be too stressed out. Hire a babysitter if you have to. Then, ask her to listen to what you have to say, and to let you finish before she says anything - then, tell her what you've been thinking. Then ask her for what she has been thinking, and listen to her too, let her finish. You might be surprised.
I'm sorry you are going through this. The fact you can acknowledge some of her positive influences is a good thing - do remember though that ultimately *you* changed you. Her support was undoubtedly a great influence and made things much easier for you, but the only person that can change you is *you.* You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for.