Thursday, February 23, 2012

When Is a Relationship Really Over?

I am writing about a failing relationship in a new book. 

There is no doubt that the relationship in the book is doomed.  Of course both characters are flawed and have emotional baggage and issues, but don't we all.  Yet the fate of their situation is easy for me to see.  Nothing mysterious is going on, they are not struggling with tough decisions--it is just OVER.

It is rarely like this is real life.

We stay and fight and try and work on situations that may be salvageable, but how do we know when to actually end it?

Certain people say short of physical abuse, you should stay.  You are married after all, and that is supposed to be forever.  And of course if children are involved that is a whole different story.  Here is a paragraph from an article by Jayna Solinger: 

Generally, it is better for children to suffer a bad marriage than to cope with divorce. According to University of Michigan psychologist and divorce expert Neil Kalter, the misery of an unhappy marriage is less significant than the changes after a divorce. The children would rather their parents keep fighting and not get divorced (Marriage 64). Although this does not seem logical, it shows that children want their parents together at all costs. Also, contrary to popular belief, the alternative to most divorces is not life in a war zone (Zinmeister 30). In the vast number of divorces there is no strife or violence that could ruin a person’s childhood; the divorce is usually driven by a quest for "greener grass." These divorces almost always make the child worse off and create a number of unnecessary problems for the child. If parents would concentrate harder on working conflicts out rather than their own personal happiness, the children would be much better off.

While I do agree that parents should try and be their best for their kids, this paragraph makes me feel the child would learn that he is stuck once he is in a terrible situation.  That is not a message I would want to send my children.

On the other side of the coin, leaving might NOT be the worst thing:

Divorce, however, is not always a terrible thing. In a few given situations it proves to be for the best. The two situations that may prove beneficial for a person to get a divorce are abusive relationships and infidelity. When one parent is abusive, whether verbal, physical, or sexual, to the children, it is more beneficial to the child if the parent leaves (Huffman 4). Also, if one spouse is beating the other, the marriage should be ended. If a child watches his/her parent get beaten his entire life, he/she could think that it is fine to act this way or severely resent the parent for staying.

And so, the quandary.

How is one supposed to know what path is the better?  Hindsight here, as always, is 20/20, and we will never know the results of our decisions until years in the future.

I remember reading a little book called Life Advice from 4 to 104.  Little kids gave advice about how to hide bad tasting vegetables in your milk, teens advised how to sneak in after curfew.  A man of 92 said the biggest decision with the most consequences you will ever make in your life is the person you choose as a mate.  When I read it I was younger and did not understand the implications.

I get it now.

Day 64 of 100 Unfortunate Days

Day 64

How can you tell when you should leave someone? Is emotional neglect enough? How about being called a c**t, or having your grammar corrected in front of friends and family, or having your antique furniture you were saving from your family be put on the curb for trash pick-up? Or being told you were being ‘trained’ after your newlywed husband refused to talk to you for a month? Maybe being told you were not really sick but looking for attention when you had pneumonia? But on the other side of the coin, what if you have not worked in 15 years and this same man supported you and gave you everything you could ever need. Vacations and diamonds. A perfect house in one of the best neighborhoods and school systems in the United States. So am I a hooker? Does that actually make me a prostitute? Should I have left my honeymoon when he told me wasn’t speaking to me because he “realized what he had gotten himself into” by marrying me—and he did not like the way I packed? Can you really stay married to someone and feel that they are an asshole half the time? He thinks I am a waste of space and wonders if my father is disappointed with me because I am such an underachiever. How I am wasting my God-given talents? Can a person like you—or love you—and not talk to you? How many times can you try to talk to someone, or go to therapy, or read books to help salvage an emotionally ridiculous relationship? Can you stay in the relationship and retain your dignity and not have people think that you are a doormat?


  1. Been there, still there, I learned to shut up, tried some solutions and finally ended up writing humor to keep sane. The kids turned out good for the most part, but if God had not been there for me, I probably would have lost it. Life is mostly lemons and at 69 I can still smile and remember the good times. The rewards are the children and grandchildren and the blessings they bring to my life.

    1. It is so nice to hear that you can look back and smile--and be happy right now because of your kids and grandkids! Sounds like a wonderful life Maggy...:)

  2. "The children would rather their parents...not get divorced." Hmmm. Since when do children know what's best for them?

    I'm with you, Penelope. I don't think it's healthy for kids to see parents accept a bad situation. In my opinion, if a marriage can't be fixed, it should be ended. And if it's ended, the parents can minimize the trauma by making the split as amicable as possible. I think the actual divorce process--all the back-biting, recriminations, and tub-of-war over child custody-- is what hurts the kids, not the separation itself.

    Of course, every marriage is different, so why try to make a blanket statement about what is best for the kids?

    The character in 100 unfortunate days? Yeah, she should have left him during the honeymoon.

    1. Thankfully the person who wrote the article does not run the country. Kids don't want to go to school, church, or Sunday school, they don't want to eat their vegetables and would never brush their teeth or bathe.
      I agree with you that all the fuss is what hurts the kids and getting stuck in the middle of everything--or worse--not told until the day of the divorce and then POW...

  3. My theory is that you feel a deep "knowing" and you do what you know you have to do, sooner or later. If you can't be sure what's best, I'd strongly encourage you to seek appropriate help for yourself. (So, private therapy, if necessary, for example, not couples' counseling.) But I agree that, when children are involved, both parents have a duty to them to make every effort to fix their marriage. Cases of violence, abuse, and/or drug dependency change things and the victims of these should get the hell out while they can. Forgive, but keep yourself and your children safe, for pity's sake.

    As to what others think - if you'll pardon the vulgarity, who gives a rat's @ss? Whether you stay or go, it's you who must live with the consequences, not them. Apart from your spouse and your kids, it's nobody's business, so screw those judgmental outsiders and the horses they rode in on. :-)

    But seriously, divorce ain't easy. My financial situation certainly suffered from it: my kid and I live in an apartment and not a house, he's had to do without a lot of the pricier gadgets and toys, and we haven't had a vacation since 2004 (though he has vacationed a little with his dad). So what? I've sheltered, nourished, nurtured, educated, and loved him, to the best of my ability. I haven't always "got it right," but neither has anyone else, so I refuse to crucify myself or allow others to do it for/to me.

    As to what kids want - what the hell do they know? Also, the self-interested little buggers don't get to dictate their parents' lives (well, more than they already do). My kid, little stinker, once told me he'd like me to "be lonely forever." When I asked him why, he said, "'Cause it works for me." Wise-guy. :-D

  4. Wise guy is right...:)
    Somtimes things that are so obvious to everyone else in the world pass right by us and we have no clue what the hell is going on.
    Good job Mina--you did great by your son--and I swear the pricier the gadget the more IQ points they lose...
    As for me--I will no longer judge anyone for thier situations. Everyone has their reasons for what they do. And I agree with you Mina--your decisions should not be based at ALL on what others think.
    Have a good night ma'am :)

  5. I have to agree with many comments here. Since when do kids know what is best for them? I feel like instead they grow up (as you mentioned) feeling stuck and that they don't deserve better. Granted, I think too many divorces happen because of boredom or a sense of entitlement. Some things have to be worked through, not just walked away from at the first sign of strife. But when you've done everything you can, then it's time to make yourself happy. Because that is also a lesson our children need to learn... that we should be striving to create happiness in our life.

    I remember this Day from the book. Just reviewed it today at my blog. Hope you approve. (and by the way, I like how you tie in various "Days" to your posts).

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer's not necessarily horrific blog

  6. I think our kids (not all) --this generation-- are being raised to think they DO know better. I cannot say that is a good thing (that is fodder for another post...)
    I very much approve of the review!
    Thank you so much.
    Several people have commented to me that the book was frustrating to them too. Don't know if this works against me. I have thought several times to redo it--to make more of it. It is different...

  7. You know it is time to leave when you can't do the things you love when the other person is in the house. This may not mean that the relationship is over, but it certainly means that you have some restructuring and deep pondering as to what you really want out of life. How to know when a relationship is truly over? I'm not sure. Perhaps a sign is if you don't get upset to hear that something bad has happened to your significant other. Sometimes, even just a rough day at work for Mr. Aniko will make me want to cry because I don't want him to have that stress, etc. If I ever just didn't give a damn, that would be a huge sign things were over, really over within me.

  8. Your first sentence is really interesting.
    It sounds so simple yet I think it holds so much wisdom.
    I think we develop a kind of inertia around people we no longer care to be near. Sometimes this is probably our sign--but we miss it. Sometimes I think you have to go through something like this to understand it. (I mean that for ME--not others).
    I read this somewhere:
    "If you are going through hell--keep on going."


I would LOVE to know what you think. All spam or comments with links will be deleted.