Mediated by Rachel Stein | rachels83@gmail.com

Recap of our recent dilemma: A father of three writes concerning his floundering marriage, seeking advice. Should he stick with it in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds or divorce?

Dear In the Eye of the Storm,

Write all your feelings down in a letter, then talk it out. Divorce is so detrimental for children, involving splitting them apart during holidays and vacations and making them feel splintered, as if the entire fabric of their lives is ripped beyond repair. It’s hard to find a good partner. When you find her, keep her! I approve of what Hilary Clinton did. She let the mud slide and kept the family together.

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein

Wishing you the best,

Zhenia Gresczes

 

Dear In the Eye of the Storm,

Your marital forecast is pretty grim. You say that you’ve tried marital counseling, but “it hasn’t yielded beneficial results.” Well, maybe you should try again, or maybe you should go to a different counselor. How about asking Sharon if she’d be willing to go back to counseling with you? Clearly, the best resolution of your situation would be for you and Sharon to fall back in love with each other, model a healthy relationship for your three children, and live together happily ever after.

But if Sharon refuses to return to counseling, or if you go to counseling and have the same results, you should get divorced. Your fear and sadness about divorce are completely understandable. But if you’re miserable, Sharon is miserable. And your children are miserable. If you think they don’t know that you and Sharon aren’t happy, you’re deluding yourself.

When you tell the children that you and Sharon are divorcing (and you should do that together), they’ll probably be relieved and ask you what took you so long! It’s better for children to live in two happy, healthy households than in one dysfunctional household.

So if you wind up pursuing a divorce, here’s some practical advice. First, you and Sharon should avoid saying mean things about each other to the kids or in their presence. Just don’t go there. The kids need to love and respect both of their parents, whether they’re married or not. Saying mean things about one of their parents hurts them. A lot.

Second, don’t view the divorce as a battle that needs to be fought. View it as a problem that needs to be solved.

Third, you both need to be represented by competent family lawyers, and you should both try to hire lawyers who believe in handling divorces nonadversarially. (For example, look into “collaborative divorce.”)

Only a small percentage of divorces wind up being tried before a judge or a jury. These cases are outliers. The goal should be to work out a parenting plan that’s in your children’s best interests and to resolve the financial issues in a way that’s fair to both you and Sharon.

Most important, try to handle the divorce in such a way that you and Sharon can effectively co-parent your children and get along with each other after the divorce. That’s the greatest gift you can possibly give your children!

Mark Twain wrote, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” You have the power to change the atmospheric conditions described in your letter. You don’t need to suffer in silence. You don’t need to make yourself into a marital martyr.

Life is short, and this is not a drill. Both you and Sharon deserve to be happy. If you’re miserable together, that’s sad, but have the chutzpah to do something about it!

Sincerely,

Bruce Steinfeld

 

Dear In the Eye of the Storm,

It was sad to read this story about a couple with three children who once found life “smiling.” It can still be that way. Please do not throw in the towel.

Your wife’s anger is being projected onto the children. I’m sure she loves them, but obviously the anger, resentment and frustration have been building up for many, many years.

First, your communication skills have to be improved. Setting aside a date night once a week, just the two of you, will help you relearn how to communicate once the atmosphere is relaxed. Woo your wife again. Pick one topic for discussion each week. Allow time for expression of feelings of disappointment and frustrations, but with civility and respect — no anger, no name-calling, no raising of voices. There has to be give and take for a relationship to succeed.

Second, trust has to be rebuilt, expressions of love should be verbalized or shown, and if you really would like to give the marriage another chance, tell her so. She can’t read your mind.

It appears that you are both stuck in your positions. A monthly budget can be instituted. In any given month when there is some money left over, perhaps Sharon can save up for something she really wants without extravagance or dipping into the retirement fund.

Leave the children with grandparents, relatives or friends, and go away on a trip, just the two of you. Rekindle the feelings from when you met and decided to marry and spend your lives together.

Each of you should write a list stating the qualities that drew you to each other and review it together. It will stress the positives that are still there but need to be awakened.

Your wife will feel happier once she is heard and vice versa. This happiness will project toward the children. The children will be emotionally happier when peace reigns in the home.

Divorce is detrimental to children. Growing up with one parent because of a divorce leaves emotional scars. This should be the last resort.

Wishing both of you the best of luck in your quest to regain appreciation for each other’s positive qualities and the feelings that first brought you together,

A Woman Married 42½ Years

 

Dear In the Eye of the Storm,

I know of a well-respected organization that may save this marriage. It is called retrouvaille.org (“recovery” in French), and it is having some upcoming retreats in Atlanta.

Best of luck to you and Sharon,

Lori Lynde