Q: Dr. Hurd, what do you think of the idea of staying in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the children?
A: Here’s the problem with the concept of staying married/not staying married for the children’s sake. When you’re a parent, and when you take it seriously, then you cannot totally separate being a spouse from being a parent. Both of these are very crucial functions/roles you have in your life. For the sake of conceptual abstraction, we delimit and separate these two concepts—spouse and parent. But in daily life, they are integrated. For some this is truer than others, but it is true for most if not all. Usually, the younger the child the truer this is. In other words, when you have a 12 year old rather than a 2 year old, the issue of breaking up becomes less about the child and more about you, as a happy (or unhappy) spouse. When you make your own living, it’s usually less about the child—’I can still support myself and the child’—than when the spouse you’re contemplating divorcing makes all or most of the income—’I’m going to have to rely on the man I’m divorcing to continue to pay my livelihood, despite the fact I left him.’ Your responsibility to your child is to be the most responsible and HAPPY adult you can be. These two things are interrelated, as well. Happy people honor their responsibilities better than unhappy people. And people who take their responsibilities (chosen ones, that is) seriously attain more happiness in the long run.