Better to stay in an unhappy marriage? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am seeking advice for my cousin. We are a close family and he is like a brother to me. He is a father to a six year old daughter and a great dad. Unfortunately him and his wife do not get along at all and this has been the case for years. Really, his marriage has been troubled from the beginning and his loved ones have always questioned how the two of them ever ended up together. He did find out after his marriage that his wife is bi-polar, which has added many challenges to the relationship. They have tried but he has told me that there is no way they will ever fix the problems between them.

My cousin feels that it is better for his daughter to continue his marriage and for him to be miserable then to get a divorce and try to find happiness as a single dad. His daughter is so important to him and he is willing to sacrifice his happiness so she does not have to have divorced parents. My family is having a hard time excepting this. We feel that for all of them it would be much better for a divorce to happen.

Currently his solution to the problem is to work out of state during the weekdays and be home on the weekends. During the time he is home he tells me that him and his wife "fake" being happy. When you are with the two of them you can feel the tension between them. His wife continually complains and my cousin seems to try everything to make her happy without ever seeming to be able to do so. It really is unbearable to witness. I can not imagine that his daughter does not feel the stress.

His plan is to continue to live this way until his daughter graduates from high school, so for the next 12 years he will live in misery for his daughter.

I have encouraged him to think beyond this box he has built and put himself inside. I feel that it is much better for all involved to be happy apart then miserable together.

Please share any advice with me that you may have. My family and I are not sure how to handle this situation and would like to be able to offer help and support in some way. Thanks!
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#2 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 07:19 AM
 
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I don't have much practical advice because I've not fully been in your position. Based on your description, it does sound like your cousin and his daughter would be better off in co-parenting situation, but that is based off of really limited information in one post. Not suggesting you aren't being real, just saying I'm no expert.

It sounds like your cousin needs support and to know it is OK, or possibly even better for him and his DD that he (and possibly DD's mother too) be happy and in a healthy relationship even only with themselves, rather than an unhealthy relationship together. It doesn't sound like your cousin is one to be pushed, and so I would offer support and compassion to them to see if any further transition comes about.

Don't push. You can gently guide and support, but ultimately the decision belongs to your cousin and his wife.
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#3 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 07:50 AM
 
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I agree with Theia.

I also want to mention that if you can feel the tension in the air, so can the 6 year old. Kids pick up on underlying turbulences pretty quick. So in my personal opinion it would likely be more healthy for the 6 year old to live in a stress/tension free zone than in one.

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#4 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 09:35 AM
 
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You might point out to your cousin that by remaining in an unhappy marriage, even though both parents are "faking it", he's teaching his daughter that this is how partners interact in a relationship: they avoid each other for the better part of the week, and then they have a strained week-end together. Perhaps it would motivate your cousin if he imagined his daughter, grown-up, living in misery in an unhappy marriage, just for the sake of her own children.

I dunno...this is JMO, but that imagery was enough to get me to leave my XH.
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#5 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 10:14 AM
 
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I would suggest that if you do manage to convince him to start contemplating divorce that he should get his ducks in a row and take a local job before taking any action.

I assume that he would want to pursue a 50/50 custody arrangement if they were to divorce, and the best argument for that is that he is involved in her day to day life, and no longer a weekend dad.

And perhaps that is the tack to take with him -- his daughter deserves more of his time and involvement than their current set up permits. It sounds as if the effects of the marriage is limiting his time with his DD and it can only be to his DD's benefit to have a loving and stable parent more present in her life.
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#6 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 10:26 AM
 
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It kind of sounds like they're already co-parenting anyway... If he's out of town all week and the daughter's only with him on the weekends, they're halfway to shared custody already.



Such a crappy situation... I'm only starting this process and I HATE that my children are going to come from a "broken home", but it dawned on me a while ago that my home is already broken, whether I'm miserable there or not. Better to be happy and have happy kids!
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#7 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 11:47 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post
I would suggest that if you do manage to convince him to start contemplating divorce that he should get his ducks in a row and take a local job before taking any action.

I assume that he would want to pursue a 50/50 custody arrangement if they were to divorce, and the best argument for that is that he is involved in her day to day life, and no longer a weekend dad.

And perhaps that is the tack to take with him -- his daughter deserves more of his time and involvement than their current set up permits. It sounds as if the effects of the marriage is limiting his time with his DD and it can only be to his DD's benefit to have a loving and stable parent more present in her life.
Yeah, I think that he should figure out a way to be more present in his daughters life. Like someone else said they're halfway to shared custody as it is, but thats only EOW, and if his wife is bi-polar he might want more than that so that his daughter has a more emotionally stable environment (this is based on seriously limited information - there are situations where the daughter may be better off with her mother, and I have no idea if this one of them, theres just not enough information to tell).

Anyway, I don't think its better for children to be the product of unhappy marriages, I think if a positive co-parenting relationship is the alternative that its the better option.
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#8 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 02:50 PM
 
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I was going to post exactly what Halfasianmomma said. I was miserable in my marriage but determined to stick it out for the kids. Then I got cancer and my husband starting treating me even worse than before. It was then I realized the stress and unhappiness in that marriage, while it didn't CAUSE my cancer, surely contributed to it a great deal. Like Louise Hay says - cancer is caused by pent-up resentment and boy, did I have a lot of that towards my husband! I would assume a lot of people in bad marriages carry a whole bunch of resentment. At that point, it occurred to me that, although I wanted my kids to have a stable two-parent home, I didn't want them learning from their father that they can treat people like crap. Or learning that they should allow people to walk all over them like I allowed him to do to me.

Your cousin can't really be present for his daughter if he's miserable or the stress of the relationship ends up making him sick.
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#9 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 03:02 PM
 
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I've talked to at least two adults who wished their parents had divorced sooner. One woman told me her dad was an alcoholic and it was clear from a young age that her mother stayed, despite her misery, for the kids. She said she wished her mother had left him because now as an adult she had no model for a healthy relationship only a dysfunctional one. Her mom did leave after the kids were out of high school and apparently was much happier.

The other friend's parents divorced when he was in high school. Divorced parents were unusual in his community and lots of people would show a lot of sympathy when they found out. He couldn't believe it -- he was thrilled his parents had divorced because everyone in the family was so much happier once his mom and dad weren't living together anymore.

So yes, I really believe divorce can be good for the kids in some situations. If the marriage is really dysfunctional and all parties are unhappy something has got to change. It sounds like your cousin might just be in this situation.
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#10 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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Yeah, I think that he should figure out a way to be more present in his daughters life. Like someone else said they're halfway to shared custody as it is, but thats only EOW, and if his wife is bi-polar he might want more than that so that his daughter has a more emotionally stable environment (this is based on seriously limited information - there are situations where the daughter may be better off with her mother, and I have no idea if this one of them, theres just not enough information to tell).

Anyway, I don't think its better for children to be the product of unhappy marriages, I think if a positive co-parenting relationship is the alternative that its the better option.
This was kind of the situation my sbx was in, working away 4 days a week and now he will only see his son's EOW.
SBX has tried using my none citizenship to threaten deportation and my attempted suicide 18mths ago to show how unstable I am but, as the judge and my attorney said, he trusted me to parent our children alone 4 days a week so he can't use that against me now to get more time/custody of the children.
Good luck to your cousin! I do hope he chooses to find a local job and then seperate from his wife rather than stay in a miserable marrige.
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#11 of 15 Old 08-06-2010, 03:31 PM
 
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I have encouraged him to think beyond this box he has built and put himself inside. I feel that it is much better for all involved to be happy apart then miserable together.
i am going to try and say this as gently as possible, so please dont take offense at my words.

stop meddling. if you continue you are turning into a nagging relative that perhaps your cousin does not want to be around.

it does not matter what you feel. perhaps you wrote that sentence so that we know what you feel. but coming from your cousins point of view, its his life , not yours.

you and your family (since you guys are close i assume they have spoken too) have done their thing. you have all let him know exactly what you think. which is wonderful. now you guys are all on the same page.

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Please share any advice with me that you may have. My family and I are not sure how to handle this situation and would like to be able to offer help and support in some way. Thanks!
are you saying you will only support and help if he does what you guys think is right? (not asking you for a reply, but just for you to think about it).

support looks likes 'i love and care about you. and even though i dont approve of your action, i will always be there in your times of need'. this is how your family can show support. allow him to be ready to make the decision.

there is no right or wrong. it is v. v. v. hard esp. when mental illness is concerned.

if any of your family is close by i would expect them to step into the role of your cousin. esp. if you feel the child is feeling it. i would let the mom know you guys are there to help her if and when she needed help. maybe once or twice a week your family could take turns having the child over for a few hours- or if its ok to have her overnight. if you guys are far away, send care packages to his daughter.

your cousin is probably not getting a break. see if he feels that way and have his child over while he goes does something.

let your cousin know - tell him if you havent already - that you are there for him. if he EVER needs anything you will be there.

i can pretty much guess the reason why he hasnt taken the obvious route is because he feels he might lose whatever control he has over what's going on in his house, even if he's not there most of the time.

give him the freedom to make his own mistakes.

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#12 of 15 Old 08-14-2010, 12:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to all that shared! I really appreciate it All of my family are very close and we are just not sure how to support my cousin. I will share the information that you shared.
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#13 of 15 Old 08-14-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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when there are children involved, the most peaceful situation is usually the best. i left a conflict filled marriage provoked constantly by stbx and i think it was the best thing i could have done for my child and myself
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#14 of 15 Old 08-14-2010, 01:44 PM
 
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any chance that your cousin doesn't want to divorce because he fears how his daughter would fare in his wife's custody? i agree with meemee to offer support and back off but also encourage him to explore those feelings. i always thought that i didn't go out with friends because of babies and breastfeeding and AP, but then i realized that i didn't go anywhere because he is so mean to the kids when i am not there. he won't get more time with his daughter if he trusts his wife with her alone weekdays. so getting a local job, and documenting her illness's effects on the kid are steps he needs to take, whatever direction he's headed.
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#15 of 15 Old 08-14-2010, 01:44 PM
 
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Does his wife know he is unhappy? Has she agreed to 'fake' their happiness?
Is there a specific reason why he thinks his wife won't separate amicably if she is also unhappy? Is there a reason why he thinks his daughter will be better off facing a divorce 12 years from now rather than now?
He should approach his wife about how they can deal with the issue. Personally I don't think planning on being miserable for the next 12 years would do any good to any of the 3 of them. Can you imagine spending 12 years with 'fake happy' parents? I think living a lie is very hurtful.
p.s. I forgot to adress the bi-polar issue. But if he is away all week for work I assume he is fine with having his daughter in his wife's care? Or as the other mama's were saying - would he consider it a safety issue?
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