I Couldn’t Stay In My Marriage For My Kids. Will I Ever Get Over That?

Eight years ago, my husband had an affair. It was a month-long fling with a co-worker who weighed a lot less than me and was about ten when my husband and I met and fell in love.

His confession came with lots of tears, and explaining how he literally didn’t know what happened, he just knew he couldn’t stop it.

He couldn’t stop it.

He couldn’t keep from having sex with her in our family car by the beach on a Friday night when I was home with our three kids who were 7 and under. He couldn’t stop seeing her again despite our 13 year love affair. He didn’t want to stop it despite the vows he took, and the family he’d made with me.

Woman sitting at beach
I sometimes wonder if I tried hard enough to stay in my marriage despite his affair. (@yee_yanne via Twenty20)

Why I Couldn’t Stay Married to My Former Husband

And for six years, I tried to stay with him like I’d never tried for anything in my life. But there came a time when I had to look in the mirror and realize who I was doing the staying for. It wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for him. It was for the children we’d had together.

It wasn’t for the years we’d spent fighting and making up. It wasn’t because of the undeniable love he had for me and how sorry he was, or because I thought we were great together and he made me feel safe. That was the story I told myself though–especially at first. I wanted to believe them with everything I had in me, but those illusions died a slow death after his confession.

The marriage I thought we had wasn’t a thing any longer–it simply didn’t exist. He took that away by not coming to me to tell me he was feeling lonely and unloved and was thinking of getting attention outside of our marriage.

He said nothing of the sort; he acted fine; he was going through the motions while I was in survival mode staying at home caring for our kids, making sure the bills got paid on time. I did all the household duties on my own because his job was a huge responsibility and stressed him out.

And that was the ultimate betrayal–the silence. He didn’t care enough to try to talk it out, but he could go to another woman.

After I realized that, I still tried to stick it out for our kids. But, we were repelling each other like two positive sides of a magnet. He’d go to work, I’d swear I’d try harder when he got home, and we’d fall apart day after day after day never learning how to put ourselves back together.

When our kids started to notice the tension–and boy did they notice it–I realized I was fighting to stay in my marriage for them, but instead I was harming the very people I was trying to save.

We came to the conclusion after some really tough discussions, fights, and tears, that divorce was the best option for our family. I wanted to be in my marriage for my children; So I wouldn’t have to drop them off at the local park so my ex-husband could take them for the weekend. So I wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning alone and not hear the sound of their feet walking down the hall. So we wouldn’t have to negotiate holiday and birthdays.

I didn’t want to stay in my marriage so I could be married to the man I’d said my vows to almost two years prior though. And that was reason enough to walk away. We had to do it for us, and we needed to do it for our kids.

Everyone’s well-being was at stake and I’d fought with myself for long enough. The lies I was repeating in my head were selfish. Staying together for the kids was destroying us, and in turn, would destroy them.

I know this, and yet, I still have pangs of guilt. I still wonder if I tried hard enough. I still have moments when I feel weak and broken and I’d give anything to get things back to the way they were.

We didn’t just end our marriage–we changed our family dynamic to a happier, healthier one even though we all struggle at times.

And I have to believe that will be enough because the alternative would have caused more harm to my children, and would have robbed us of a better life– one that my kids get to witness right now.

When I having a knock-down moment and go into self-blaming mode, it helps to remember how far we’ve come, but I wonder if I’ll ever fully get over the fact that I just couldn’t stay.

I just couldn’t.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

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About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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