I have been asked the same question repeatedly over the past 10 years: How do I know if I should get a divorce? And this question has a friend: I am getting a divorce, so what do I do about my children?
These two questions presuppose a third question, a bigger question: What’s a healthy home life for children?
That’s what we’re going to address, including your marriage, reasons to divorce, reasons not to, and how to salvage or support homeschooling in the midst of all of those dynamics. Even if you’re in a happy relationship and you see no likelihood of divorce, this topic can give some insight into times where you are in conflict and how to be better friends to others in the community going through this.
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The best relationships are sustained by mutual goodwill
Imagine a relationship with a friend where they continually ask for favors but never give you any support. Eventually, the asymmetry in that relationship will wear you down and you won’t want to spend as much time with them.
Imagine your children. We spend so much time trying to teach them what we know is best for them, even if they don’t like it. Coming to an approach that meets their need for being happy with your need to complete the subject is what goodwill means in that relationship.
Goodwill is the exchange of mutuality. When you create a dynamic of mutual exchange, there is a level of trust there. Even when compromises have to be made, you are aware that the other person has your best interest in mind. Which dynamic exists in your marriage?
When marriage is not founded on goodwill
You may have a spouse who’s proud of you for homeschooling or thinks that it’s a great idea. You thought you were on the same page, but when your partner starts asking you questions about your children’s education, it makes you feel criticized and untrusted. The reason you feel that way is because you have experienced a lack of trust in other areas of your marriage.
When you feel challenged by a decision you’ve made in homeschooling, you have to ask yourself: Is this a real question or is it just exertion of control?
In an unhealthy relationship where goodwill is not presumed on a regular basis, the argument of homeschooling just becomes one of many. When there is not trust, you cannot be confident that the questions being asked are with your best interest in mind. In a relationship where the dynamic is persistently dysfunctional, homeschooling is not a unique argument. When you embark on the discussion about homeschool, the same control dynamics you experience in other aspects of your marriage will be present—and it will not go well.
When do I consider divorce?
When you are in a marriage where goodwill is persistently denied—either in one direction or both—it’s incredibly difficult to stay married.
I am a huge fan of individual therapy for both married partners. Sometimes, certain types of abuse can cause couples therapy to lead to more problems at home. Find a therapist and build your personality and strength of self that doesn’t have anything to do with the marriage. Some marriages begin to survive and thrive as the “victim” becomes a stronger version of self.
If you are in a relationship without violence or abuse, having both parents in the home together with the children is the best possible outcome for them. If a non violent marriage can survive and the partners can grow in goodwill towards each other, staying in the home together is better for kids. If you cannot meet those criteria, there may be no other option than divorce.
How to make divorce better for kids
One obstacle to a good divorce outcome is if the socioeconomics of your family plummet. If your children can experience a similar socioeconomic lifestyle as when the parents were married, that is incredibly helpful to their wellbeing and stability. This economic transition can be difficult with divorce, so the next step is to make a place that feels like home for your kids—a place that feels like home to them. Make sure children have whatever they need at both locations so they don’t feel like they are living out of a suitcase.
You also have to consider how you want to continue educating your children. It is possible that homeschooling may not be the best option. You are now juggling several new factors, including where your income is coming from. If you aren’t already working, you will not be available in the ways you once were. Homeschooling is only the right decision if it allows everyone to flourish. If you’re in this situation, you likely think homeschooling is the best option for your kids, but don’t be afraid of school as an option too.
Human beings deserve lives of goodwill, of peace, and of wellbeing—every human, not just your kids, but you. It’s okay to want your life to feel good. Children don’t need martyrs for mothers. They need clarity, consistency, kindness, and a vision for their future. You can give them all those things, married or divorced. These are not easy decisions to make, but if the decision you make turns out not to be the one you wanted, you can make another one. There is no shortage of time to continue improving the quality of your own life.
- Read “Between Two Worlds”
- Financial planning: wife.org
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