This question, that gets asked more often than any other, has reached a fever pitch in light of recent postings. So I guess it’s only fair that I give it the ample attention that it deserves.
First and foremost, there is the issue of my children. I do wonder sometimes that if it weren’t for the boys then one or both of us would fly off like a bird, winging our way far, far away like the prayer of little Jenny in Forrest Gump. But we do have two boys, ages 6 and 3, who need both their parents. The oldest, Thomas, I have previously mentioned is on the autistic spectrum. Contrary to what the earliest autism literature says, he does develop strong emotional attachments to others. And none are stronger than the attachment he has for his family. He talks about us being a family constantly, about there always being the four of us. It’s almost like he can detect the fragile nature of our relationship and knows we are held together by a single thread and tries to reinforce it in any way that he can. Our youngest also shows signs of delays, although not so significant at this time. He also requires the assurance of a stable and intact family unit.
Several folks will try to convince me that staying together is doing more harm than if we went our separate ways. I’ve read the peer reviewed research literature myself. Children benefiting from divorce is the exception, not the rule. It is so rare, that single parent households make up the fastest growing segment of impoverishment in the U.S. Children from single parent households are many times more likely to:
-drop out of school
-suffer from depression and other psychopathologies
-become victims of physical and sexual abuse
-Perpetrate physical and sexual abuse
-become drug users
-Join a street gang
-eventually divorce when they marry, carrying on a cycle of unstable relationships
-not go to or finish college
Many of the above are as much products of poverty as they are the divorce, itself. And there are plenty of drug users and gang members who come from intact marriages. And there are some well-adjusted people who came from divorced families; no doubt many are reading this right now. But there are many, many risks. Many of you are all too willing to gamble the lives of my children away for my own personal pleasure. Not me. At least not yet. But thanks, anyway.
While Arwyn is engaged in the abuse of negligence and rejection (with a fair amount of contempt thrown in for good measure) she is not terribly abusive. Her psychopathology (whatever it is) is not externalized very much. While this does have ramifications for my own mental health and well-being, it is not an immediate and urgent threat. It is more of a slow grinding and gnawing. Exceedingly painful, yes. But not fatal. The fictional story of the Amorite drew much more inspiration from other sources than from interactions with her.
Financially, it is cheaper to keep her rather than to dump her. At least in relative terms. She is quite expensive, though. Up until a couple of years ago, it looked much better. Now it’s closer to being a zero sum proposition. Cost alone isn’t enough of a factor to go one way or another.
I think it is important to note that I’m not that much of a bargain, myself. I’m not an attractive person. I never was, and I think this is a bigger issue in our semi-celibate than I might like to admit. As other traits of mine become less attractive or less relevant, my physical unattractiveness becomes more of a factor. Arwyn, on the other hand, is very attractive. Since I’m neither physically attractive nor rich, and can be antisocial at times, these are hard obstacles to overcome. My one redeeming physical trait is that I’m relatively tall at 6’2″. Short guys really get a short shrift.
Then we have the part of the vows that say, “What God has joined together, let no one take apart.” As a mostly evangelical Christian, this does weigh heavily on me. When the prophet Malachi said God hates divorce, that’s pretty straight talk.
So to summarize, I’m committed to my children, my wife and my God in this marriage. While things are bad, there are no truly compelling reasons to break these commitments. And there are no good reasons to believe things would improve much for me once I got out of this relationship.
Not that I don’t think about it…often. If I had another relationship to go to, that might paint things in a different light. Then I wouldn’t be escaping from something as much as working towards something better.
Convince me my children would be better off. Convince me that God would be pleased with the break up of this marriage. Convince me that I have something better to look for. Then we can talk about walking away.
Rob the commenter, gave some other options:
-Take on an affair: that is under investigation, but not likely. Possible, though.
-Live with it and accept it: Rob’s chosen option. I may pick that one down the line. As long as I’m married, it remains an option.
– Get divorced: Generally that’s an option that can be exercised only once.
– Fight for it/fix it: This one I can keep doing until I decide to execute one of the others and it is the one I choose for the present. Obstacles of childcare and cost are the hurdles at the present time which inhibit my getting help of a more professional sort.
I’ll have to discuss the professional help option at another time. I’ve been to counselors and I know people in the business. People I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. But I’m not discounting that option out of hand if the obstacles are no longer an issue. Part of my decision to fill my own mother in on this is so that she can be somewhat aware of what is going on and give whatever recommendations she can. Living 1000 miles away precludes any sort of direct help, though. Those that have family members close by for this sort of support are fortunate, indeed. Even moreso when dealing with children with special needs. Not everyone is equipped to deal with some of the behavioral challenges these kids pose. And Arwyn demands an even higher standard of trust than I do in these things.
The bottom line is that I am committed to my commitment. Not many other folks are nowadays, or so it seems if the present rate of divorce is any indication. I’m not faulting those that have done it or those that do, but I hold to a different set of standards, skewed and dysfunctional as they may be. So hopefully, this answers that question although I’m sure many others will come up along the way.