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H saying our children will be hugely damaged if we split up

(37 Posts)
HopefulFuture Thu 20-Sep-12 20:31:55

I want to divorce my H. Things have been terrible for a long time and from reading this wonderful forum I would say he has often been verbally abusive and also quite controlling. I have ordered Lundy Bancroft's Why Does He Do That? for more info.

Anyway the thought of living here without him is so amazing and freeing that I am trying to push that idea and am seeing a solicitor next week.

However, H is fighting against it, seems to think that a crap relationship is OK confused. He emailed me a link recently to an article that said that children don't care if their parents are unhappy, so long as they are together.

I agreed with some of the article in that it said kids want to have a routine and know where they are at and be able to keep playing with their friends etc etc. I must say, I do worry about them changing houses twice a week - we are thinking of having 50:50 custody but I also feel that if we handle the whole thing well then the fallout will be minimal.

However, how do I deal with a man who is going to guilt trip me the whole time? Every time one of the children (we have 3) gets upset about this or anything else, he is going to say "Look what you've done" etc etc. I shall have to be strong for the kids anyway but I can imagine the constant attacks from him too. Having someone tell you you are hurting your own kids is so awful but I cannot go on like this.

It is another controlling tactic.

I promise you, your kids will be miserable if you are. Dont let him make you think otherwise. My ex said the same when we split but it was just because he didnt want to lose his control over me.

Get out and dont look back.

Toastwithatwist Thu 20-Sep-12 20:38:34

I was a child when my parents split. I went almost immediately from only knowing an unhappy and tense existence, with distant parents and oddness to having two happy parents and two happy homes. The arrival of stepmother and the way all that was handled was a shitstorm but the split? Best thing they ever did. I know anecdote =/= data but one newspaper article is hardly iron clad either. He's being a dick.

Dahlen Thu 20-Sep-12 20:39:46

Divorce itself doesn't make kids miserable. It's the change to structure and routine and the horrible things that parents do to each other that does the damage. Changes to routine and structure are a normal part of growing up even for children whose parents stay together. It's a question of degree and the ease of which they are implemented. Children are very adaptable as long as they feel loved and are secure in the knowledge that home is a safe, calm place and that both parents love them (regardless of whether they love each other). Tell your H that if he behaves like an honourable man and a decent parent both of you can go on to be happy and, more importantly, the children will be fine.

DowagersHump Thu 20-Sep-12 20:40:10

Your husband is talking bollocks. If you have an amicable separation, your children will be fine. It's much worse for them seeing an unhealthy relationship as their model of what 'good' looks like.

Agree this is another aspect of him trying to control you.

Tell your H that if he behaves like an honourable man and a decent parent both of you can go on to be happy and, more importantly, the children will be fine.

He wont listen though. This isnt about the kids. Its entirely about him.

HopefulFuture Thu 20-Sep-12 21:00:35

Gosh that really struck me WannaBe, of course it is another controlling thing he is doing. I guess I get in such a fug about it all sometimes I can't see the wood for the trees. Thank you.

And yes I agree it is not what you do but the way that you do it. I do feel that if we both remained respectful and try to make the transition as smooth and yes calm, as possible, then we can really limit the damage. I really believe that but H says that is just what parents tell themselves to make themselves feel better.

So good to get this out.

We went to couple counselling but he did all the talking and was trying to blame me for it all. It was fascinating to watch actually and was a powerful tool in me seeing him for what he is. He felt the counsellor was unfairly biased and won't go again. Mmm.

Thank you all for your thoughts, so empowering.

Daisym0use Thu 20-Sep-12 21:46:46

Me and my kids only ever felt relief at leaving my ex. Not to have that awful presence arrive back in the house each evening was heaven. Years on I still remember exactly how I felt when I left, it was totally liberating

LadyDianaSpencer Thu 20-Sep-12 21:55:05

Studies of children of divorced parents, tend to compare those children to the children of non divorced parents. However I don't think that is a valid comparison. The real comparison would be between between children of divorced parents and children of really unhappily married parents. I am not aware if such studies exist. I do think that this fact leads to an unduly harsh picture of the relative harm that divorce does.

EmmelineGoulden Fri 21-Sep-12 11:24:44

Hopeful another thing to consider is that your kids' childhood happiness isn't the only thing to consider. Children learn how to be in a relationship from their parents' relationship. Do you want kids who are happy (assuming this article is 100% accurate) but who grow up to have unhappy and controlling relationships themselves? As a parent you aren't simply looking after children, you are rearing adults.

My parents separated when I was little. I am much better off for not having been brought up thinking the way my father behaves is OK. I've now been married to a very different sort of man for much longer than my parents were together. My mother taught me not to settle for someone who wasn't good enough. My childhood might have been a little happier if they hadn't split (I certainly had a few issues when they first split up), but it wasn't terrible and I've since had over 20 years of a happy, secure adult life.

Lovingfreedom Fri 21-Sep-12 11:39:47

Your kids will be fine, they'll get used to a new set-up and they will understand, in time, why you had to get out of this unhappy relationship. As I've written on here before several times, if I'd had any clue as to how well the kids would adapt to my own separation, I would have ended it years ago.

There are plenty of us out here who are successfully co-parenting. Kids are getting on well at school, are happy, have friends, have fun, see both parents. It's frustrating at times and I get wound up every time I have to deal with my ex and he tries his best to make things awkward for me...but these are only intermittent frustrations now...rather than a constant feature of daily life.

Your DH might try to manipulate and emotionally blackmail you, including by saying that the children are getting damaged by "your" actions, whether you stay with him or not. But if you split up from him you get time to yourself when you don't have to put up with that shite and you don't have to actually live with it.

You know yourself that your kids will be fine. You will always do the best you can for them. And they will never go without anything they need - love, affection, support, their material needs, relationship with their parents...increasingly as they get older, being with their friends and having their own freedom, space, interests..you know all that...and you know you're kids are in no danger of losing any of that if you separate from your husband. They will need time and support to adapt and it's not easy...but it's not that difficult either tbh.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 21-Sep-12 11:52:12

Sounds like he'll try every trick in the book.
Your children will be fine, particularly if you both work together as parents. They may be upset initially, kids don't usually like change very much - but they'll soon settle into whatever routine you both arrange for them.
My kids are fine, healthy, doing well at school & happy too! even though ex-H is an arse

Lookingatclouds Fri 21-Sep-12 11:55:44

I sat and blubbed the whole way through dd's leavers concert in July, and what made me so emotional was looking at her up on the stage and realising how confident she had become over the previous two years. It dawned on me that it was after I left her Dad, who sounds similar to your H, that she really blossomed and that it really was the best thing I could ever have done for her.

My DSD who is older (and lives with me) has also told me that she loves the person I am now, that she can see the difference in me, and how much more relaxed and happy I am. And I think she is also benefitting from the calm atmosphere and seeing me happy in a new relationship that is mutually supportive and loving.

I think both of them have benefitted hugely from me leaving, I should have done it sooner.

BellaOfTheBalls Fri 21-Sep-12 11:57:24

I was four when my parents split. And all I remember feeling is relief that there was no more shouting in my house.

Sit your children down and be clear with them, explain everything without going into detail and even if you or he are being completely shitbags to each other do not let them see it; that was without doubt the most damaging thing that happened to me because it made me feel as if I had to choose a side; I was still having counselling for that 10-15 years later. It will be confusing and probably a little bit emotionally difficult for them, but children are incredibly adaptable and will in the long run be better off for the short term upheaval.

BellaOfTheBalls Fri 21-Sep-12 11:58:06

Gosh, appauling use of punctuation in my previous post, apologies!

Lovingfreedom Fri 21-Sep-12 12:01:44

Lookingatclouds smile. I like your post. It's inspiring!

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 21-Sep-12 12:03:52

" how do I deal with a man who is going to guilt trip me the whole time?"

If you take the position that you are making the right decision and if you truly believe it is the best decision then defend that position at all costs. Even if you feel a twinge of doubt, never own up but stay strong. Emotional blackmail is a very low trick but it doesn't work so well on those who have the courage of their convictions. You love your children and you will do the right thing. So courage... !

Lovingfreedom Fri 21-Sep-12 12:09:08

You only have to defend your decisions to yourself though. You can stop having to explain everything you do to the arsehole who is trying to emotionally blackmail you. You know when you're doing the right thing. You know you're a good parent and always will be. If you need a second opinion, get into the habit of asking someone who's actually on your side (friend, relative, MN..).

Lookingatclouds Fri 21-Sep-12 12:15:16

Thank you lovingfreedom! Yours is too, looks like we've walked a similar path.

We had about 18 months when it was just me and either one or both girls. We went on holidays together, had weekends away, set up a new home and when I had child free weekends I made the absolute most of them, following my interests and seeing friends. I set up my own business and did two jobs so I could support us all (as no maintenance was forthcoming).

I really hope that what I've shown them is that you can be on your own and that life as a single person or a single mum is great, and there isn't anything that you can't do. I didn't need a bad relationship and I didn't need to have a man in my life.

cestlavielife Fri 21-Sep-12 12:15:23

"kids want to have a routine and know where they are at and be able to keep playing with their friends etc etc"

they can do that with two homes or three or four. that has nothing to do with you staying in a miserable relationship.

further, with someone who is abusive/controlling/angry/shouty - you dont know where you are from day to day.

Lookingatclouds Fri 21-Sep-12 12:19:45

Oh I so agree with that "you only have to defend your decisions to yourself". It's hard right now to see the wood for the trees, but given distance what I found was that my own mind became clear, I started to be really clear about what my opinions were and why and then the confidence in them followed. I found that having as little discussion as possible in the early days helped, and especially when I realised that he would try to undermine every single thing I did or decision I made.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 21-Sep-12 12:30:57

"how do I deal with a man who is going to guilt trip me the whole time?" - don't feel guilty.
You can't control him and you can't control what he does. You can only control your reaction to him. If you are doing the best you can for the DCs and you know that, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. You don't have to defend or justify yourself - in fact don't even bother. Nothing you say will ever be good enough, so just do what you have to do, inform him & consult him wherever possible - but be firm & don't allow yourself to feel guilty.

HopefulFuture Fri 21-Sep-12 13:28:01

Thank you all so much. I lurk mostly and have name changed for this post but the support here is just so powerful, thank you.

I won't name check individually but you have all talked about great things to keep telling myself. The point about the children still having love, support, two parents, affection, school, friends etc. All true. Yes they will still have all that.

And the comparison between children of divorced parents and those in unhappy relationships, good point.

Also, it was interesting to hear people say that things were tricky at first sometimes. I shall remember that even if things are wobbly at first, they will almost certainly settle down in time. And I will not let STBXH use that against me.

Yes I must keep telling myself that I am justified in pushing for the split, you are right - don't feel guilt! A new mantra. I guess that is where some personal counselling may come in handy.

Yes the old adage, you can't change a person, only how you react to them. So true. It's just remembering all this stuff. Now I have a thread to look back on though smile.

I'm at work so this reply is a bit rushed. I was just so moved by your contributions. Thank you so much everyone. All your thoughts shared are so appreciated.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Fri 21-Sep-12 13:36:36

We went to couple counselling but he did all the talking and was trying to blame me for it all.... He felt the counsellor was unfairly biased and won't go again.

From what I have learned on MN this is classic behaviour of an emotionally abusive partner. You also said in your OP that he is verbally abusive and controlling.

If you EVER feel a twinge of guilt or a morsel of doubt - remind yourself that you are removing yourself and your children from an abusive situation and that is probably the single best thing you can do to secure your children's future emotional and spiritual health.

Good luck OP

TheWonderfulFanny Fri 21-Sep-12 13:38:12

There's a powerful quote along the lines of "it's better to be from a broken home than still living in one".

As to handling your h, well, you could use some of the tactics from toddler taming?

The thing with abusers is that they're not proper grown ups generally - they've still got the childish impression that the world should revolve around them. So you do some of the things that you'd do with an unreasonable toddler or teenager, and bear in mind that you'll never actually get him to understand your point, and the most you can hope for is a minimum of disruption.

Good luck.

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