3 Big Signs You & Your Partner Would Be Better Parents If You Weren't Together
There are at least three parenting-related decisions I feel incredibly adamant about no one giving anyone even a tiny bit of input on. Those decisions include: what you do with your body the minute you find out you're pregnant, how you give birth, and how you choose to handle your relationship with the other person who helped create that tiny human you birthed. Having said that, I do think there are signs you and your partner would be better parents if you weren't together, and while you absolutely do not (read: should not) take my exclusive word for it, knowing those signs exist can help you make your own decisions regarding your relationship with a partner and/or potential co-parent without any outside influence.
It's no secret that there are numerous ways to not only parent, but become a parent (although today it seems nothing short of necessary to continue repeating this fact ad nauseam). So if that means you select the anonymous semen of a dude with very straight teeth and no family history of degenerative brain conditions — and then go on to raise your biological collaboration by yourself or with someone else — fantastic. If it means you got pregnant by an asshole who's an actively toxic and/or dangerous person, but you really want to parent the baby and you decide to do so alone with firm, safe, protected boundaries, then hell yes. If it means you marry someone and make a baby, and you're crazy good teammates and still love making out with each other and raising your little human together, so you guys all stick around and do that together forever, that's great, too!
And it might be, in the course of everyone trying to find the best way to be happy, you and the person you made a fresh human child with realize that the parenting aspects of your lives are working just fine, but the actual romantic relationship is, well, not.
Entertaining the idea of severing your romantic relationship with your kid's other parent is not only daunting and terrifying, it can inflict such heavy loads of self-doubt that it can feel like your body itself is being pulled apart violently. Even the most self-assured among us, who have a lifetime of boldly steering our own course and paying very little mind to what convention tells us is the right way to go or the correct choice to make, get hit with punishing, intrusive thoughts. What if this is just temporary stress? What if things could get better? Will this ruin our kids' lives? Will it ruin my life? Will we be able to harmoniously co-parent if we split? Will we stay friends? Will I die alone while perusing the Instagram feed of my ex's upgraded rebound partner and their exceedingly gifted Round Two Baby?
I mean, fair. These are fair questions. Or rather, it's reasonable to think them. Taking any significant part of your life and being like, "Hmm, what about radically changing every single thing about this thing that I can't imagine living without, and turning it into something that I can't name and don't know how to build?" is legit scary.
Which is, again, why you should never take anyone else's input on this kind of decision. There are too many variables, too much nuance, and in the end, it's a gut check. In the spirit of helping you help your gut check itself, I offer three points to consider:
Your Relationship Doesn't Feel Like Your Shared Comfort Zone
The unavoidable fact is that having kids is hard. It's draining. It leaves your nerves raw some days. That you find yourself feeling that way is normal, even if it sucks. Now think about your relationship with your partner. Is it this source of comfort and strength that refuels what parenting depletes? Do you look forward into escaping into your couple bubble with your partner after your toddler finally goes to sleep — or do you carry a knot in your stomach all day knowing that once the kids are down for the night, you're going to have one more difficult part of your life to deal with?
Is your relationship a thing that gives you comfort amidst the sh*tstorm that is parenting, or is it something that further drains you? Obviously, some days even the best relationships come a bit off the rails or provide more work than they do comfort. Only you will know if it's off more days than it's on.
Everything is Great When You're Both Focused On Your Kids
When you guys are all out somewhere together or are even at home but are actively engaged with your kid(s) on an activity, everything is cool. It's possible that if you guys work well together when the task or activity at hand involves parenting, but things get rocky — or fall apart altogether — as soon as you're doing anything that involves you two functioning as a couple (as opposed to co-parents), you might need to take note and act accordingly.
We can go on and on about how relationships evolve and people change over time, and just because someone was perfect for you once upon a time that doesn't necessarily mean they always will be, blah blah... You've read that before. You know it. When it comes to looking at the present set of circumstances and relationship dynamics, it doesn't hurt to at least keep an open mind. Allow yourself the room to consider that if you're looking to give every relationship in your life — especially with someone as integral as your partner/co-parent — the freedom to exist in whatever shape most honestly suits it, there's always the possibility that the optimal "shape" for your relationship with your partner is as non-romantic co-parents.
Don't let the parts of your relationship that work be crushed by all the friction that results from trying to force the parts that don't fit. Path of least resistance, baby.
You're Generally Happier When They're Not Around
As the child of parents who were sometimes single and sometimes in marriages that didn't make them happy, and as a parent who eventually made the decision that trying to co-parent with my kid's dad within the context of a romantic relationship would make us all miserable forever, I wholeheartedly support the idea that what kids need exponentially more than two married parents is two happy parents. You knew you were going to read that in here somewhere because you read that in every "So You Maybe Want To Get Divorced, Huh?" article — because it is extremely true.
Look, if your relationships with your partner isn't working for whatever reason, and you know it's not, and you stay together out of some misguided idea that your kids will somehow be better off if their parents neuter their individual happiness so that everyone can share an address... maybe just don't.
The last thing you want to do is let your kid become a source of resentment, and if you let them be the reason you don't live an authentically happy life wherein you seek out the things that bring you joy and dismiss the ones that don't, it will be nearly impossible not to resent them. You'll either fail in the attempt, or be utterly exhausted by it for the rest of your life. Honestly, navigating the admittedly sh*tty process of dissolving a relationship is, in a big picture way, a much smaller L to take.