There's a pervasive myth in our culture that claims it's better for couples to stay in even the most horrible relationships "for the kids," than it would be to get a divorce. I do not subscribe to that myth, and when I asked moms to share why divorce was the best thing for their kids I was, again, reminded why it's vital that we continue, as a society, to push against that cultural fallacy.
Despite the fact that so many divorced moms have really good reasons for leaving, people say all sorts of things about them. They are selfish, broken, damaged, and undesirable. They are blamed for destroying families, when it's often the person they left who did the destroying. This has to stop. When one in three women has experienced intimate partner violence in her lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, people should be supported in leaving harmful relationships. Period.
When I left my husband, I left for a variety of reasons. I left because he hurt me, he cheated, he stole from our family, I was afraid, I was not in love with him anymore, and I felt so alone. Mostly, though, I left to give my kids a life of stability. A life without anger and violence. A life that was not possible while my ex-husband and I were together. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to leave so much sooner. I would assure myself that everything would not only be OK, it would be amazing. Most of all, I would tell myself there are so many reasons why divorce was the best thing I would do, not only for myself, but for my kids. Our lives are so much better now. Seriously.
Even when your relationship is not abusive, it's important to recognize that it's really hard for children to thrive in an unhappy home and with parents who have an unhealthy relationship. No one benefits, children included, from an environment in which two adults fight all of the time, struggle with substance abuse, or struggle with financial instability. No one should face judgement for removing themselves and their kids from an unhappy home, and trying to create the best possible future for everyone involved.
"Divorce was the best thing for my kids because they gained a mom who was a better parent. I was no longer physically afraid, could better financially support them, and had actual time to spend with them, instead of protecting from their dad and catering to his ever-changing whims, temper, and threats. Without him being like a financial sieve with our money, I was not stressed or worried about making ends meet and was a better, more present parent. I also felt physically better, which is something I totally did not expect. I could sleep, had fewer headaches, and I could workout, and no longer needed permission from anyone."
"Divorce was the best option for me and my ex, because we decided it was healthier to have our daughter see her parents in happy and committed relationships, even if that meant we were not together. Our marriage wasn't fueled by love or commitment. It was fueled by comfort and convenience. We fought constantly, and tried to fix things, but we just did not work. Our daughter (who was 3) blamed herself often for us fighting, even though we never fought about her or in front of her. She could sense it, and we didn't want her growing up in a stressed-out home."
"I divorced my son's dad when I was 25 because it was a loveless marriage. I didn't want him raised in a home where his father wasn't willing to put the extra work into our relationship. I wanted relationship therapy, and he said no, so that was that."
"Divorce was the best thing for my son, because he was going to grow up in a house of hostility, instead of home full of love. I wanted more for him."
"I was 17 when I met my kids' father. He was 22. I was completely smitten. We had two kids by the time I turned 21 and got married three weeks after my 21st birthday. He was arrested two weeks later under suspicion of rape of a person with disabilities. After he was in prison for some time, which was basically a forced separation in my mind, I began to see the freedom that existed beyond the control and manipulation he had over me. The rose-colored glasses came off, and I realized just how little I was able to do with him, and how he had abused me.
Divorcing him has given my children to grow up in loving, typical home without the control and manipulation their father would have taught them. It has given my son the ability to see that no one should control another human, and my daughter the ability to see that no one can control her. I've spent the last 10 years building them up and giving them autonomy, self worth, and self-respect. I've taught them that they are the only people with control over their bodies, their actions, and their decisions, and no one else. Divorcing him was the best thing I could ever do for them."
"Divorce was hands down the best thing for our family, because my ex was emotionally abusive. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that it's OK to be talked to and treated like you don't matter. We rarely hugged, were never lovey, and he spoke to me like I was an idiot most of the time. I never, ever want them to think that's normal."
"Honestly, we're both better parents away from one another. We were both miserable trying to make things work. Now (five years after the split) he actually spends more quality time with [our daughter], because he only has visits every other weekend, and I've since married a wonderful man and excellent stepfather. She often brags that she's lucky enough to have two dads."
"I filed for divorce because my daughter deserves a safe home free from constant conflict. It is my job to model for her what a healthy partnership looks like. Love is about mutual respect, which my marriage was lacking. Also, she needs to see that it is OK to change your mind if one path isn't working. For me divorce does not equal failure. Sometimes the best lessons are those that teach you what you don't want. Finally, I can be a better parent, because I am putting my happiness first. I hope my daughter learns that it is not selfish to make your own happiness a priority, that she will make the same choice for herself."
"I often wonder if divorce was the best decision. My daughter is still struggling with it, and I've been divorced from her father for almost four years and separated for two years before that. She was only 3 years old when we separated. Overall, I believe it was the best decision, because her father and I fought a lot, and he was and is still unstable. He's walked out on us more than once and cheated on me. I feel like if we had stayed married, she would've grown up in an unhealthy environment. He is still inconsistent, but at least I can provide stability for her.
More importantly, I'm able to show her that it's crucial to love yourself and that the way her father treats others is unacceptable. I will not tolerate it, so she (hopefully) won't tolerate it either. I've already seen an undeniable strength in her. Now that she's older, she understands and has stood her ground on more than one occasion when he has hurt her. However, there are times when she breaks down and cries, because she misses him and wishes we were together. Times like these make me doubt my decision and wonder if I should've just sucked it up for her sake. Then I snap back into reality and remember that it's better this way."
"My ex was a cheater and a financial and emotional abuser. His infidelity was endorsed by his family as an expected part of their culture. Divorcing him and showing our daughters what respect and love are, how they should expect to be treated, and removing his ability to gaslight them on a daily basis, was and is immeasurable. I was in my early 30s at the time, I went back to school, am now enrolled in a doctoral program and am successful in my field. My daughters have had a fiscally secure upbringing, despite our being impoverished for the first eight years post divorce. I did that for them."
"My ex husband was an alcoholic, and he would get angry. I didn't want my kids growing up around his drinking. He also had no financial responsibility. I divorced him when I was seven months pregnant with his son and it was honestly the best decision I've ever made. My son is brilliant and well adjusted, and has never ever seen his dad drunk or angry. I've also turned my life around financially, while his dad totally has not. Best. Decision. Ever."
"I don't have my own story, but my mom's divorce was the best thing she ever did for me as a kid. My stepdad beat the sh*t out of my mom. A lot. I used to hop out of my window and run to my friend's house for help. I lived in fear of him killing my mom every day. I wouldn't stay with friends, because if I wasn't there who would stop him? Who would call the police? My mom lived for nothing other than to please him. Everything had to be perfect so he wouldn't lose his temper. She was always so afraid, and she constantly cleaned so she wouldn't be punished.
When she finally divorced him we had nothing, but it was the best thing ever for me as a kid. I wasn't afraid to leave the house, I didn't worry about walking through the door to find her body, and most importantly, I got my mom back. I was able to see my mom truly smile, and to spend time with her, instead of watching her make sure everything was right for him. I got to be a kid."