I have heard it said many times, “We are not going to stay married just for the kids.” There are some real flaws and often selfishness embedded in this statement. Let me explain.
It is honorable when someone does something they do not want to do for the benefit of others. I get it: A lot of people don’t want to be married to each other anymore. The real question is: Do we do something we don’t want to? Or, do we get divorced and try to find a better life?
Staying married just for the kids.
Those who stay married and work to repair and protect their marriage rarely regret it. It may be “for the kids” or it may be for other reasons, but laying down your life for one another is the definition of living out the gospel.
Living out the Gospel is always the right decision. My dad told me growing up that divorce is one of the most selfish decisions you can make. He explained, “For some, divorce is seeking a better life for yourself at the expense of others, including your children.”
It is hard to get over the fact that life isn’t about our happiness or our comfort. The world just can’t deliver. Only Christ can bring comfort, security, contentment, and joy. If we look for it anywhere else, we’ll find ourselves exhausted and lonely. Instead of trying to find your own happiness, seek to bring it to your spouse and your kids.
Kids love their parents with such pure love. They are amazing. They give us grace. They look up to us even though we give them so many reasons not to. It is really, really rough on them when they can no longer be with the two people they love so much. They want to live in a house with their mom and their dad, not one or the other.
I remember talking to a sweet 10-year-old girl. Her parents had just divorced. She was sobbing and told me, “Well, at least mom and dad are going to be happier.” It certainly seemed easier for her parents to chart out new paths for their own happiness, but it didn’t work for this poor girl.
Divorce is just plain tough on kids.
Having two homes. Having multiple sets of grandparents. Adjusting to step-parents, step-siblings, step-grandparents. Being a kid is tough enough without piling all of this onto it. For the child, the divorce presents complications for the rest of their lives. I have many friends with divorced parents. Their holidays and family events are complicated. Multiple homes. Multiple places. Family dysfunction is a reality in stable homes. It gets even more complicated when you add divorce and multiple families to the equation.
Being a committed spouse is being a good parent.
Keeping the marriage covenant is a gift to your kids. It preserves stability for your children. It sets an example for them. It sets an atmosphere of love, grace, and sacrifice in your home. You can’t really separate marriage from parenting because they are so intertwined. One of the best things I can do for my kids is to show them what a godly marriage and family look like. If the marriage is full of love, kindness, and grace, that is the environment a child typically experiences. If it is flat or cold, that sets the temperature as well.
My daughter will sometimes complain when we go on a date. My response to her is, “You don’t realize it, but you really want us to go on dates. You have no idea how hard it would be on you if your mom and I fought a lot or ended up divorced.” Don’t feel guilty when you leave your children to enjoy a date night and take care of your marriage. You are being a good parent! Getting away from the struggles, loudness, chaos, and mess of home life can be therapeutic. For us, going to a quiet place and having a conversation is all the time we need for our minds to settle and re-focus on God’s blessings in our lives.
Kids can change things.
A lot of marriages suffer a loss of satisfaction when kids come onto the scene. Those little rascals can cause a lot of fatigue! They are wonderful, but they take time and energy. So, take time away from them to enjoy one another and be refreshed. If babysitting is a financial hurdle, switch up with another family so you can both take time to date.
One last caution.
One last caution when it comes to kids and divorce: watch out for justifications. I hear it all the time. “Well, the kids will be better off. Kids are resilient. They’ll adjust. They’ll do fine. It’ll be better for them. People get divorced all the time.” Satan is the great deceiver and one of his goals is to sell us the worst. Instead of justifying divorce, work toward restoring the marriage. The gospel has the power to restore anything, no matter how bad you think the situation is.
Now, I realize there are situations of abuse and/or infidelity where divorce is necessary. But, in most situations, with prayer, investment, and commitment, God can restore the marriage to a really great place. Also, I realize that many of you reading this may be divorced or may come from divorced backgrounds. If this is you, remember Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” Thrive where you are planted. God does amazing things out of difficult circumstances.
To sum it up, invest in your marriage. Seek to grow closer to each other year after year. We pray you never even catch a whiff of crisis, much less experience it.
Grace Marriage Mission
Consider this post and decide on a time to connect with your spouse. Maybe it’s a conversation at home, a date night this week, or a weekend trip to get away and focus on your marriage. Which will it be?
Brad Rhoads is co-founder of Grace Marriage.