Shock Divorce: what to tell our children?

(14 Posts)
PapaSolo Wed 30-Mar-16 16:45:52

Apologies for the epic post. I'm new to the forum and unfortunately in rather sad circumstances. My wife and I are getting divorced and are planning to tell our children this weekend. I am struggling with the balance of honesty and protection.

After being together for 14 years, happily married for 10 and having 2 boys aged 8 and 8 years life seemed great. We are both professionals, working full time and have busy lives but did a good job of juggling work and family life. At weekends the four of us would spend quality family time together: great days out and wonderful family holidays. In retrospect this family time came at the cost of time together as a couple, but I knew many of our friends in similar circumstances: I assumed that was what happened with young children.

In the past 2 years my wife's career has taken off, resulting in more time away from home. Fortunately my job is local and more flexible so I have been able to take on more of the day to day routine with the children.

4 weeks ago, out of the blue, my wife told me she wasn't happy and felt our relationship had become platonic- the four of us had taken over the two of us. She could not see a future together. This came as a complete shock to me: I was blissfully happy. I agreed that certain aspects of our relationship would benefit from more effort, but as she said 90% of our life together was perfect and we are best friends and soul mates I felt we should try and work on things rather than give up: especially for the sake of the children who have never seen us row or fight (we never did) and would be devastated.

She denied any third party involvement and cited several reasons ("not me but her", lack of strong bond with the children compared to me, different ambitions aspirations etc.) none of which made real sense.

To cut a long story slightly shorter, I soon discovered she had started an affair with a work colleague- she finally admitted but said it was not serious and was symptom rather than cause. Even at this point I told her how much damage it would cause for the boys and for us to seek council long and explore every avenue to find a resolution. Sadly she has refused, she has continued the affair (which is obviously a greater factor than she admits). As such we are preceding with divorce.

We have managed to continue a normal family life in front of the children up to now, with days out together over Easter. I was keen not to ruin Easter for them. We plan on telling our 8 and 6 year old boys this weekend. My wife's suggestion is to say we haven't been getting on but as we had alway got on perfectly well and the children know this I don't feel this is believable or fair. It has been a completely unilateral decision on the part of my wife who does not want to stay with me, and as such I feel that should be explained (obviously reassuring that it does not effect her relationship with them.) some research also suggested mentioning that Mummy has met someone else, although I don't think she'll be happy with that and worry it will cause further distress.

Essentially I know that the boys are old enough to understand aspects and ask questions. As they get older and ask questions I will tell them the truth- I don't want to start lying and digging holes. I also don't feel I should be held responsible for the huge upheaval they will experience as a result of this. I have tried everything to fix things- my wife has had a more exciting offer and given up.

Should we just say we don't get on, say Mummy doesn't love Daddy anymore or say Mummy has met someone she wants to be with instead of Daddy?

Burgerbobismydad Wed 30-Mar-16 16:52:01

Oh gosh. I've never been in this situation but I would leave any third parties out of it. I know you are very understandably angry at your wife, but you won't gain anything by telling your kids this, it will only confuse and hurt them. This conversation with your kids needs to be about them, and what will or won't change for them. Leave your relationship with your wife out of it. No doubt they'll find out when they're older anyway, but right now they just need to feel loved and secure. Sorry this is happening to you.

CheckpointCharlie2 Wed 30-Mar-16 16:54:10

Oh blimey, don't have any advice really but you sound so sad sad. I think I would lean towards telling the truth but obv your wife won't want this as you say, it makes her look bad.
I do think you need to work together to make it as pain free as possible but appreciate you are probably completely fucked off and devastated at the moment.

PapaSolo Wed 30-Mar-16 17:12:29

Thanks for the replies and the advice. I'm obviously gutted and very angry. Leaving the personal betrayal to one side, the complete lack of effort from my wife's behalf to try to see if things are fixable to avoid destroying our family and everything our children see as stable life.

I certainly don't feel there is any benefit in mentioning the third party. I was surprised when I read the suggestion on a couple of psychology websites. I think it was suggested to avoid the concern "if Mum falls out of love with Dad, can she fall out of love with us?".

My worry with just telling them we don't get on is that it's not very believable: until last month we all got on fantastically. She's away a lot with work but when she's home we do lots of family activities. Eat together. Socialise as a family and a couple together. I had no idea there were serious issues. The children certainly don't think there are. To our family and friends we were seen as the perfect family.

I have a very close relationship with my boys. Our eldest especially is like me, a thinker, very fair, loyal and quite sensitive. We talk a lot about things that concern him and for the past 2 years due to her work commitments I've spent more routine time with the boys than my wife (breakfasts, drop off, pick up, baths, stories, bed as well as weekend sporting activities).

If I lie and say it was a mutual decision I know that I'll get quizzed and be forced to answer with more white lies. Lies he might find out about sooner rather than later when he's old enough to understand I've lied to him but too young to understand the reason...

Eggsandketchup Wed 30-Mar-16 18:27:22

Your eldest is 8? You know him best, maybe you can explain things to him in a way he'll understand - you can be truthful if you think he'll get it.

I'd be wary of demonising your wife though - whether she deserves it or not. I remember my mother demonising my father to me, and it made me very uncomfortable and I felt sorry for him and felt protective of him - even though he didn't deserve it at all! Kids feel loyal to parents even when they are total wanker shit homewrecking parents.

Do you have much real life support?

DontcarehowIwantitnow Wed 30-Mar-16 18:32:14

Is she leaving the family home?

Whatever you say I would keep repeating that you both love them.

I hope you have some RL support.

LeaLeander Wed 30-Mar-16 18:32:50

Good lord, don't drag the kids into your adult issues. Why should they be made to feel insecure for life because you feel spurned and want to look like Mr. Good Guy?

If you tell them Mommy doesn't love Daddy any more you will be telling them that it's possible Mommy will stop loving them one day, too. Think about it!

All they need to know is "Sometimes grownups get married and then find out it is not the best thing for them to stay married. But we love you both and that won't change.." etc. etc. In fact I suggest you get some professional counseling on how to relate this to your children. What is the big rush?

I sense an undercurrent of hostility in your message and a determination that the world is going to pin this on Mommy, not on you, at whatever cost. You might want to rein that in.

RandomMess Wed 30-Mar-16 18:34:53

Hmmm "We've drifted apart and want different things for the future"

Not really basic enough for the DC but something more along those lines.

DontcarehowIwantitnow Wed 30-Mar-16 18:37:31

I sense an undercurrent of hostility in your message and a determination that the world is going to pin this on Mommy, not on you, at whatever cost. You might want to rein that in.

Jeez he has just found out his wife is having an affair after lying about it. Maybe cut him some slack hey? It is his wife's 'fault' they are divorcing.

He isn't exactly going to say mummy and daddy are divorcing because mummy is off shagging someone else is he?

gruffalocake2 Wed 30-Mar-16 18:47:56

Can you say mummy has decided she doesn't want to live with daddy any more and will be moving out etc... Keeps it a bit more factual rather than emotional but is still clear this is her decision.

I think you sound like you're trying hard to keep things together and be fair whilst obviously completely raw from what she's done and continues to do. This situation genuinely sounds like the stuff of nightmares to me so I hope things begin to look better for you soon.

PapaSolo Wed 30-Mar-16 20:24:29

LeaLeander I've no intention of dragging the children into adult issues. Unfortunately the reason their family is fragmenting is a family issue not just an adult issue and one they will need to be offered some kind of explaination for them to try and process.

It's something we can only do once. I'm keen to do it right and hence I'm asking advice. I apologise if any hostility came across in my first post. I've managed to hold it together and be extremely normal when the four of us are together (including full family days out at the weekend and friends and children over for Easrer Lunch).

Despite my present (and understandably) low opinion of my wife I have not and have no future intention of bad mouthing her to the children. I good friend of mine who's father experience a frightenly similar situation said he can never remember his Dad saying a bad thing about his Mum. As an adult now, with a greater understanding of what went on, he has a huge amount of respect for his Father.

I'm certainly not adverse to taking professional advice regarding how and what to tell them. It's my wife who is pushing to tell them ASAP. I managed to stop her telling them before the Easter Weekend- I felt strongly I didn't want every Easter marred for them by memories of the conversation.

My problem with a vague and less accurate 'bilateral' is what to say for the follow up questions. "We've drifted apart and want different things for the future" is good but will certainly be followed by "what different things do you want?" and "when did you drift apart". We all (my wife included) have such blissfully happy memories of holidays and family time together, I really don't want to undermine their confidence in those genuinely blissful moments by them wondering had we drifted apart already and was it all a show.

Mummy doesn't want to live with Daddy I think is the best option up to now, obviously reassured by telling them how much we both love them and always will. It's true, not too detailed and avoids conflicting versions of events in the future. I can't explain on her behalf, she can do it in the way she feels is best.

Minime85 Wed 30-Mar-16 22:25:16

I'm sorry I haven't read the rest of the thread and feel for you in this situation. My dcs were 8 and just 6 by one week. I got the book mum and dad glue which was recommended to me on here and my youngest found this very useful. We had been arguing so kids knew doors had been closed and mummy and daddy talking without them. But still I would strongly advocate telling them together and not blaming anyone. They don't need to know these things. We told ours that we wanted to stay friends and to stay in the same house meant that we were finding it hard to do that and mummy and daddy needed to live apart. They need to know it's not their fault and that they can ask questions whenever they want to. They can contact the other parent whenever they want and need to. They are both still loved as much and that kind of love doesn't change. Make sure their teachers know. Wishing you all well. You will all come out the other side. We have.

Abhorsen Wed 30-Mar-16 22:35:29

I was in an almost identical situation at Christmas time. My children are 7 and 9 and at one point after my husband moved out they did ask me "whose idea was it".
We told them together that we weren't getting on and sometimes grown ups couldn't live together. Explained we loved them but sometimes adults have to do things even if children don't want it to happen.
I would love to tell them that their dad is selfish and instigated it all but it wouldn't change the situation and wouldn't help, they need to feel secure and that's not how to do it. They also didn't understand when we said about not getting on as there were no obvious arguments or fights but We explained it as best as we could while being very unspecific. if they question me now (3 months on) I stick to the whole grown ups can't always live together and leave it at that. It's been a rubbish few months and I think every family is different so you need to work out what is best for yours, in our case white lies were better than brutal honesty.

ginandmoregin Wed 30-Mar-16 22:35:53

Mine were 6 and 4 at the time, I just said "mummy and daddy don't want to be married anymore but we are still friends". It helped that we had various examples in our families/ among DC's friends of separated parents so we could say "just like X's parents- you'll live with mummy but you'll still see daddy all the time".

Even when exH moved in with OW a few months later, they didn't twig that this had anything to do with us splitting up. I guess one day they'll put two and two together, but I never badmouth him or OW to them and always just trot out the "we just wanted to be friends" line if they ever ask about why he left.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now