I learned to hate marriage before I even understood love.
It happens all the time. He's unfaithful. She needs to decide whether to leave him or stay for the sake of the kids. Marriage is not easy. But, as someone who lived through this as a kid, let me tell you this: staying for the sake of the kids is the WORST thing you can do for the kids. Here are five reasons why:
1. I understood everything that was happening. And it hurt.
"She's too young to understand," my parents used to say. Little did they know, I was never too young to understand. I knew exactly what was happening. Mommy and Daddy don't like each other. I witnessed my parents’ dwindling marriage as a child. Arguments turned in long droughts of ignoring each other and hurt feelings. The longest one lasted a year.
"Go give the gas bill to your father."
"Go upstairs and tell your mother I don't have the money right now."
Why don't mommy and daddy talk to each other? I mastered ignoring skills at 7-years-old.
2. I won't be happier if you stay together ... quite the opposite, actually.
I was happy on the outside, but crying on the inside. And eventually, I became the biggest cry baby EVER. Any time something bothered me, I would cry. I was really crying in frustration because I felt like no one was listening to me. Stuck in the middle of two bickering adults who didn't stop to ask me how I actually felt, I cried out of frustration any time something bothered me. You're becoming such a cry baby. Be strong like your mother.
3. I am just now learning that all men are not like my father.
My parent's marriage became a heated game of tug-of-war. They were both pulling the rope as hard as they could until, eventually, the other fell—defeated. In my teens, it all nearly fell apart completely. My father spent less and less time at home and went out late on Saturday nights. Nothing boiled my mother's blood more than that.
And then he cheated.
That's when I learned (at 17) that if you don't give a man what he wants, he will find it elsewhere. His words, not mine.
I'm learning now that not every man cheats.
4. I don't want to hear the fighting anymore.
As much as I wanted to stand by my mother, I hated listening to her bash my father. I hated hearing my father bash my mother even more because I felt like he was selfish for doing what he did. But frankly? I didn't care. I secretly prayed they would get a divorce so I wouldn't have to hear it anymore.
Because of their marriage, I probably wouldn't recognize love if it hit me.
5. Staying for the sake of the kids is a made-up reason to avoid moving on.
My mother's excuse—staying for the sake of the kids—is a mask. She loves him so much that she STILL can't let him go. So, do I look forward to marriage, you ask? Hell no. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if my parents got divorced. Would my mom be happier? Would I be more open to dating and be less ... cold? Don't get me wrong: I love my parents. But I could have lived without the fighting.
The one important lesson I've learned over the years? Don't make the same mistakes my parents made.
Sometimes the best decision you can make for the sake of the kids is to stop pretending.