You Can’t Stay Married for the Kids

By Serge Bielanko, for


Image courtesy of Serge Bielanko

Confession: sometimes I look over at one of my sons rolling in the grass, or over at my daughter eating her Popsicle in the evening twilight, and something heavier than the sky slams into my chest like a cannonball.

I divorced their mom. And she divorced me.

We created three beautiful children together. Then we shattered the marriage. We broke the vows.

And we took things to a whole new level.

Even before I was divorced, I spent a lot of time wondering if staying together and keeping the nuclear family under one roof wasn’t the right way to go. You need to do everything you can to save your marriage, some people said. For the kids.

I get that. Heck, for almost an entire year of separation I nearly drove myself insane pondering that notion. This time last year, the reality of my failing marriage haunted me, choked the life out of me. And yet, I just kept telling myself that the divorce would be unfair to the kids. It would kill them.

But some time has passed now. Certain things will always be a mystery when it comes our particular love and why it grows or dies. But one thing is clear to me now:

There never was any possibility of my ex-wife and me making things work for our kids’ sake.

Kids have so much power and magic and sway. But one thing they cannot do, and should never ever be expected to do, is to place the sparking defibrillators on mom and dad’s busted love.

And by staying together for the sake of our kids, well, that is exactly what we would have been asking them to do. Their mother and I would have hammered away at the dam of our marriage until the whole thing just burst and drowned them in a raging flood of impossibility. See, in order for a marriage to work, or any relationship really, there has to be hardcore love, no? The unshakable galaxy of love you have for your own kids can’t be substituted for the grown-up kind.

When two people say, “Let’s make this work for the kids,” they’re already heading down the wrong path. In our case, had we used our kids as a main reason … or let’s be honest … as an excuse to stay together. Oh, we would have been held in high regard by the family-values people and probably by at least half the world’s religions, but the whole thing would have been the freakin’ Sham of Shams. The love/the passion/the intense longing to remain together deep down in the marrow caves of our bones — none of that was present any more.

All we were after a decade of marriage and kids and confusion and sadness was two locust shells waiting for the wind to blow us away.

No kid was ever gonna change that for us.

You can work on your marriage until the sun burns out, man. You can dig and dig in the rubble trying so hard to discover what has been lost. But if you don’t ever find true love down under all that dirt and mangled past, then you need to ask yourself some real hard questions. You can maybe find love again even after you’ve both lost your way. But it has to be because that’s what you both really want for each other, not the kids.

That’s just the way it is.


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