December 04, 2003

For Their Sakes'

The great and amazing fuckwittage in my personal life rages on. Partner Unit came home from China last night, and although we didn't discuss what needs to be discussed, he could tell that something was not quite right. We followed our usual role: Helen on the couch in fits of weirdness, flighty and talking about all manner of completely irrelevant conversation topics, and Partner Unit warily regarding me as a subject whose dosage needs to be upped.

I did hear from Mr. Y, and he let me know that should/if/when we both become single, he wants very much to be with me. We also talked at length yesterday, and the breakup of his current relationship is very, vey hard on him (isn't it hard on everyone? Break-ups suck.), perhaps even more so as he has sprogs in the picture. I don't know how to advise him, I don't know any words of comfort. He is in for a rough weekend, and in return I am in for a rough weekend, although he doesn't realize it.

In the past, my way of dealing with my breakups is to get the fuck out of Dodge, break off contact and move to a new place, but I recognize that's not possible with kids in the picture. All that one can hope for then is that the split can be as civil as possible, in order to save anyone from further distress.

Mr. Y, Dear Mate, and Best Friend are all in relationships that they admit they stay in for the children. All of them are fathers, and all of them are no longer in love with their Partner Units, but instead maintain that razor-sharp pendulum of sometimes hating their lives with a blinding and fiery passion, and sometimes being relieved that they are able to live in the same household as their kids and living in a relatively comfortable friendship.

Now, I am not a parent. Or I am actually, but my little ones are gone. But I can recognize the awesome and frightening sway that children have over a life. It is at once a horrifying burden and a bond which I deeply envy. I can see that parenthood is at once exhiliarating and exhausting.

But I have a different perspective on all of this, since I was a kid once (although not according to my therapist, but there you have it). You see, my parents were together and then seperated three times. The two times they got back together, they did it for the children, and they were clear on that. So my parents lived in that pendulum state for many years. you...Swing...hate you...Swing...hate you.

Here's a fact: kids know when their parents are unhappy. And you know what else? Although kids may not understand it when they're younger, as they get older they realize that the parents are together for their sakes'. And the guilt is catastrophic. When you realize that your very existence is the reason why two people subject themselves to living a life they don't want and only experience for your comfort, all you can think are things along the completely unhealthy line of "I'm not worth this. I have to be good to be worth this. How can I make them happy?"

I'm not trying to have an Oprah moment here. I am only telling you like it is.

So when I hear people tell me they are staying together for the sake of their children, my first thought is: Do your children a favor. Don't. And when people tell me that the single most important person in their lives are their children, I thnk: Shouldn't it be your partner? And when I hear people tell me that they will never divorce, ever, since it would hurt the kids, I think: Living in an unhappy household will hurt them worse. They will only see how love shouldn't be, instead of happiness in two seperate households.

I'm not all torn up about my parent's divorce. When they finally split for good, I was thankful. They are now both happily married to other people, and yes, it was a bumpy road for the step-parents for a while. And my parents are only now friends (all it took was for me to try to kill myself. Had I known that, I would've tried ages ago). It sucked and it was so hard, but at the end of the very long day, they were much happier.

When those men in my lives (Mr. Y, Dear Mate, and Best Friend) tell me that if they split up they will lose their children, I think: Why? Do you want to be around? Do you love them? Will you bust your ass to make sure you see them as often as possible? If any of those are "yesses", then you won't lose them. They are the fathers. They are the ones that can never be replaced. My father wasn't around when I was a child, but that was his choice. If you choose to be there, you always can be, geography be damned.

Sometimes the whole issue makes me even more scared about children. I think, should I not have the partner of choice, my real desire is to be single and adopt a baby on my own. Then again, maybe that's due to fear of being tied to another person in the type of bond that can never be severed, a life-long bond that you will have no matter how much you start hating the other person.

I just need to find that person.


UPDATE: Sorry, forgot to mention-have had three hits from my masses of CVs sent out, and one interview that was scheduled for last week moved to tomorrow. One other job sounds rather promising, and the third I am short-listed for I am sure I won't get. Two of the jobs are in England, one in Sweden/England. I am keeping my fingers crossed-have been unemployed for two weeks now. Thanks, Amy T. :)

Posted by Everydaystranger at December 4, 2003 09:54 AM | TrackBack

And you ladies are on for that 4-way.

Posted by: Helen at December 5, 2003 09:44 AM

Merry Christmas to you, too.

There was masses of good advice from Rob, my Jiminy, Guinness and Drew. And Abs, Kat, Brad Courtney and Kaetchen have all been through it, too.

Jean's advice hit a note with me, though-I think I do have to make the analyzation of my life thinking of myself, and not of the possible configurations. That's only going to hurt if it doesn't go the way I am looking for.

And right now, I'm a wee bit too fucked up and fragile to be falling apart.

Love you guys. You're the best.

Posted by: Helen at December 5, 2003 08:58 AM

Good evening,

I have decided to Christmas card my blogroll, and this is me delivering yours.

Mery Christmas

Posted by: Guinness at December 5, 2003 08:37 AM

Well, Helen, after Mr. Y's dear little note and your answer to my question, here's Mama Jean's 2Ę:

Be arranging your future as if neither PU nor Y is in it. Only Helen is (and hopefully her little dog, too!), and that is what you need to be concerned with.

You know that you can't go to China; that's a given. Even if PU stays in Sweden, I think you know that relationship is doomed. As others have said, though, that ending has to be handled very delicately -- it's only fair to him; plus that's what's needed for your *own* mental health. A nasty, messy breakup right now would SO not help.

As for Mr. Y: even if he showed up on your doorstep tomorrow completely free of his own PU, getting together with him would be a mistake. Right after a split like that there are too many issues that he has to deal with -- physical, emotional, logistic, maybe legal -- that the stresses could end up ripping you apart.

Besides, it seems to *me* that Helen needs to ground, and figure out just who and what she is. It is my view that this could not be done with Mr. Y as a permanent fixture at this point.

No, methinks our Ms. H needs some solitude, without anyone else's issues to distract her from what is most important: herself!

Posted by: jean at December 5, 2003 02:14 AM

any way to make that a 4-way??

Posted by: kat at December 4, 2003 11:02 PM

Yeah, I'm just putting in my request right now for a Helen/Kaetchen threeway.

Posted by: S. at December 4, 2003 10:09 PM

Just wanna say that I totally agree with you. The most important thing in a couple's relationship should be each other. But having just hatched a kid of our own, I can see how quickly the tables turn. I've already started thinking about how we can get back our time together.

Last night we kissed at 9:30pm and it was the first time all day. We both recognized it at the same time and were sad because of it. Hopefully we can find a way to get back to making each other #1 again sooner rather than [too] later.

Posted by: Almost Lucid (Brad) at December 4, 2003 09:23 PM

I was so relieved when my parents divorced. Unfortunately, they re-married each other.

Yesterday's words are still true.

And I'm glad Mr. Y is standing up for what he believes.

Posted by: Courtney at December 4, 2003 06:22 PM

My best advice is that, before making *any* commitments, you have to deal with the present. That means talking with PU and finding work. It'll be difficult for you to come into any kind of relationship - with Mr Y or anyone else - feeling uncertain about your financial and emotional future. First and last, no matter who you're with, you've got to be solid on your own. For others it might not be that way, but you are far too bright and independent to believe that someone else is going to take care of you. Take care of yourself first.

My opinions about marriages that stay together for the kids are hugely tinged by my own folks. I begged them repeatedly over a 20-year span to divorce. Can't tell you how much better things have been since they separated. And Scratcher, lovely man, is an incredible father who got out of a bad marriage precisely so that his son wouldn't grow up in a bad situation. Instead he and his ex share custody of a lovely and *very happy* well-adjusted little boy. Now, that probably wouldn't work for everyone. But Mr Y will know what his pollywogs can handle. Trust his judgement on that one.

Oh, and Helen? Stay sane, honey. This is going to improve significantly with time.

Posted by: Kaetchen at December 4, 2003 05:29 PM

when my mom told her therapist that she was staying with my dad for the kids, the therapist told her that she was unknowingly teaching her children that their unhappy marraige was what a good relationship is all about. shortly after they split for good. i am very thankful for that as my parents (and my siblings and i) are so much better off.

however, the ending of a marraige with children is heart-wrenchingly painful and it takes a long ass time to heal (as you know having been through it.)

i hope and pray that everything will go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.


Posted by: kat at December 4, 2003 05:19 PM

This is always a very delicate and complex situation, as I'm sure you know.

I generally concur that it is usually a bad idea to stay together for the children, but I am sure where there are some situations where it makes sense, or where one parent would lose contact with the children.

The only advice I can think of is to take all of this as slowly as possible so that everyone is sure they are making the best choice before you all go all in to something.

Posted by: Guinness at December 4, 2003 03:46 PM

I think is all depends on the age in which the divorce takes place. My parents split when I was 5 or 6 so I only have 2 small memories of them ever being together. I may be harder when kids are older but kids see whatís going on and when parents arenít even sharing the same bed they get the hint.

As far as custody/visitation staying married should not be the reason for that. Itís all in the quality of the time not the quantity. When divorcing make provisions for holidays and summers. And never ever speak ill of your ex. Regardless of how you feel it is still there mother.

Or perhaps sue for custody. The courts have historically to the mothers but if you think you can prove your case do it. Staying together because your afraid of not winning or reduced visitation is just selfish. It does not help the children at all.

But then again sometimes its better if the father (or mother)should have a reduced role. Double that if they used the kids as pawn to get back and the father/mother

Posted by: Drew at December 4, 2003 03:35 PM

Simons words are so profound, and so true.

I too had parents who 'stayed together for the kids' and what a dissaster that was. When they finally divorced the relief was overwhelming for all concerned.

Maintaining a relationship with my father has not always been easy but i don't think living in the same house as him would have made a difference to that. I think you are right Helen, it is a choice fathers (and of course mothers) have to make, they have to want to be a part of their childrens lives. Some parents who are physically present never make that choice and can be emotionally unavailable, so they may as well not be there.

Abs x

Posted by: abs at December 4, 2003 01:14 PM

Damn, Simon! That was exactly what I was going to say!

Well, not quite exactly. I was going to say "Having kids is the single easiest way to put strain on a relationship". Other than that though, you pegged it.

One more thing, Helen dear. "maybe that's due to fear of being tied to another person in the type of bond that can never be severed, a life-long bond that you will have no matter how much you start hating the other person." Kids are that life-long inseverable relationship. And that was scary as hell in the beginning and immensely comforting now.

Posted by: Jim at December 4, 2003 10:57 AM

And I am totally voting for you in the Best Foreign Blog category, Simon.

Posted by: Helen at December 4, 2003 10:25 AM

Speaking as a father and a husband I can say there are two very clear but distinct issues here. People fall out of love, just like they fall in love. It is not easy to be in a relationship with one person for a long period of time, either via marriage or otherwise. Once kids enter the picture people seem to get this idea that they need to stay together for the kids sake. As you've pointed out, that tends to lead to disaster anyway. It's the same as those who have kids as a way to try and stay together.

Having kids is the single best way to put strain on a relationship. No relationship is going to be 100% rock solid all the time. Indeed I'd say flexibility is the key to making it work. Kids ain't stupid and they pick up on things like this.

That said as a father there's nothing I want more than to come home each night and see the kids. I think some men fear they will lose the love of their kids if they aren't around 24/7, rather than one weekend in two. That's not the factor - it's how you interact with them when you do see them that matters.

End result is different people make different compromises because that's what life is about. If you and Y are meant to be, then that love will (eventually) permeate to the kids involved. That's a bridge to cross when you get to it.

Posted by: Simon at December 4, 2003 10:21 AM
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