Wednesday, June 14, 2006

No one-size-fits-all solutions

From a chat today with advice columnist Carolyn:

Wondering: I appreciate and agree with the idea that not splitting up with someone you're not really in love/happy with is selfish (that person deserves to be happier, too). I'm wondering if you could comment on that in relationships involving kids (and does age of kids matter?). If both partners are fairly clearly not happy in the relationship, but both feel strongly that they don't want to mess up the kids' lives...? Not being the potential custodial parent particularly sucks, it just isn't the same not living under the same roof as your kids, no matter how stressful staying can be. There is more clear support nowadays for the idea that two happy parents living separately is better for kids than two unhappy ones under the same roof, but I knew that when I was in an unhappy relationship and -still- my reaction was 'yes, I believe that generally, but not for -my- kid' - and now I see a friend going through something similar (worse, because he would likely end up non-custodial). Sorry, not exactly a question...

Carolyn Hax: No, it's fine, I think I understand the question in there. Kids complicate things--immeasurably. Which is why I don't "support" either camp, the stay-for-the-kids or the go-get-happy-for-the-kids. I've seen both decisions up close and -so- much of the choice hinges on the specific personalities/strains/temperaments/life circumstances involved. I guess what happens is that the definition of "selfish" gets a lot more complicated, because you're not thinking "your needs, my needs" anymore, which of course is complicated enough. But kids mean it's yours, mine, theirs--and you are the guardian of theirs. No one can know what will tip his or her own family's scale, much less someone else's.

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