Should I Divorce?

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Reader’s Question

Divorce him or not? There is a child involved. We have been married for 15 years, but we are just roommates. I have wanted to divorce him from the moment we married but I got pregnant, and that child is now 13! I never loved him. We married for the wrong reasons, mainly because we were too young and had no family. We have absolutely no sex life.

Now I have been in touch with an ex from way back, and it has been a wonderful five years. I no longer wish to do this. I want to leave and be with the ex, but I am afraid of breaking my child’s heart. I swore I would never divorce, but it is inevitable. What am I afraid of? Should I do it?

Psychologist’s Reply

Contrary to popular belief, it is not divorce that hurts children. Instead, it is the depiction of the couple relationship that often is harmful. For some couples, it is the high level of tension and conflict. For others, it is the silence and lack of engagement. In other words, the harm (or the benefit) comes from what you are role modeling. From your description of your relationship with your husband, what your child may be learning is that romantic relationships are without warmth or any kind of intimacy.

To me, that sounds like a kind of relational death. Is that really the message you want to send to your child? Is that the kind of romantic relationship you hope that he or she will have once a partner is chosen? Or would you like for your child to see a loving relationship that includes physical affection, mutual respect and caring, lively conversation, and the ability to have fun together? If the divorce is indeed inevitable, then why prolong it? Give your child the chance to see both of you having relationships that are much more fulfilling than the one you currently share.

As for what you fear, it could be a lot of things. You could fear that the excitement of the relationship with the ex may fade once you start experiencing the mundane daily living of a committed relationship. There may also be the fear that your current husband may not separate quietly, and will instead cause a great deal of turmoil. It could be that you are afraid of going it alone before you link permanently with the ex (which, for your child’s sake, should be done gradually and with care), or in case the relationship with the ex doesn’t work out. There are a lot of things to consider, but you shouldn’t allow fear to stop you from living your life. You do need to think situations through before engaging in them, but if fear is all that is holding you back, do not allow that.

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If you do decide to divorce, please make certain that you do so in a manner that is conducive to your child’s best interests. Figure out custody and living arrangements before telling your child, and make certain that she or he is never put in the middle. Even though you and your husband do not love each other, you are still your child’s parents. Please make certain that your child has the opportunity to be happy with both of you. There are some excellent books and websites on divorce with children and it may help to read them.

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