Facing divorce and depression
March 21, 2012 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm lost. I'm facing divorce of my wife of 5 years. I've been with her for longer than that, 10, 12 years. We have a 3 year old son. I need help. How can one survive this?

I "wish" I could tell people that something terrible happened, like an affair or something so dramatic that makes divorce the only logical option. It isn't the case. We just stopped giving a shit. We brought the worst in each other. I yelled at her many times, she yelled back. I once hit a door and broke it in anger. I never hit her. We tried therapy, talking about it, rekindling the romance in so many ways. And we failed every time. At this point, it's hard for me to believe that we even like each other as people. We disagree on many important things, on money, on the way we want to raise our son, on how to fight fairly, on where we want to live. The painful part is that it took me so long to realize all these things.

Back in december something happened and that was the tipping point. A couple of years ago, she and her mother bought a house. She left me out of that, even when she could afford to do such thing because I was carrying the weight of our family's finances. We were there on vacation, they decided to go on a two day trip somewhere else. I said I did not want to go, She said in that case, you can't stay here (meaning in her and her mother's home). I said why not, that's ridiculous. The day they were leaving she insisted. I did not want to go, I didn't have any place to go really, other than to a hotel. Then she called the police, the police came and asked me to leave. So I left. You can say that was humiliating.

I feel this intense guilt, so much sadness, for looking at my life and seeing a decade lost. I don't think this is good for my son, that he grows up in a broken home. But I can't see how the current situation can possibly be good for him. I don't want to be the fifty year old man who waited for his child to grow up to finally rebuild his life. And I don't want all this sadness and this terrible terrible paralyzing guilt.

I've been in therapy for about a year. I'm depressed, reluctant to try pills but thinking that I may have to do it.

I worry about so many things. About being a failure as a father, about screwing my son's life, about being one of those people that get screwed financially and don't get any money post-child support, alimony (we both work, I make about 20k more than her per year).

Did you go through divorce? Did you survive? Did your children turn out to be serial killers as a result? Please MeFi, I know we're all strangers here, that asking for some kind of comfort may be on the pathetic side of things. But I don't know what to do anymore.

I've set up this throw away email tobeortoleave@yahoo.com if it matters.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It is better to be from a broken home than live in one.
posted by Shouraku at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2012 [77 favorites]

One mantra that you need to repeat to yourself until you believe it:

Divorce does not mean "a broken home." In fact, divorce is sometimes the only way to avoid a broken home. Two homes with two happy parents are better than one home with two unhappy and angry parents.
posted by lydhre at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2012 [22 favorites]

growing up with happy, divorced parents is much, much less damaging to a child than growing up with parents who dislike each other and fight constantly. you're making the right choice. be kind to yourself.
posted by changeling at 10:38 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

What I mean to say, is that I my parents waited until I grew up and moved out to divorce. Their stubborn decision to make sure that I was not "from a broken home" made me bear witness to a painful and loveless marriage that traumatized me to my soul.

Sometimes divorce is better for children then helplessly watching their parents emotionally tear each other apart.
posted by Shouraku at 10:40 AM on March 21, 2012 [21 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

I went through a divorce. I survived. We had no children, but if we had, I'm positive they would not be serial killers. Your regret will fade in time. Don't spend too much time thinking that the past decade was wasted. It wasn't.

Take care of yourself, be kind to yourself. It's probably time to try antidepressants. They are a good and helpful thing, and will help you feel less overwhelmed.

And I agree with folks up-thread that happy, divorced parents are better for your son than married, miserable parents.
posted by Specklet at 10:44 AM on March 21, 2012

I realise we're only getting one side of the story here but your wife sounds very hostile and manipulative, and you sound like you've been treated as a doormat here. Of course you're depressed.

I am unclear, however, if you are making the decision to divorce or have made that choice and want to know how to survive the aftermath. If you are trying to decide whether you should leave or not, well, get the hell out - it is no good for your son to see you being treated this way, any more than it would be good for a child to see one parent being beaten. I grew up with divorced parents and I am a happy person with a good career and a rock solid marriage. Having divorced parents does not fuck you up for life.

The next step is to lawyer up. Right now. Protect your son and yourself. Get a referral, find out how things in your state work, get your new lawyer's advice and make plans from there.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2012

Did you go through divorce? Did you survive? Did your children turn out to be serial killers as a result? Please MeFi, I know we're all strangers here, that asking for some kind of comfort may be on the pathetic side of things. But I don't know what to do anymore.

The first thing you need to do is relax. You've got way too much of your personality tied up in this.

You're not a failure. You made some mistakes - we all do. Resolve to learn from them and to not repeat them.

Millions of people go through breakups and divorces. Millions of kids live in homes that are separated by divorce, or deaths, or work, or whatever. This has been the case for basically ever.

So look, take a deep breath. Your life has changed now and you need to find a new path.

The very best most awesome thing you can do for your child is to take good care of yourself. That child will look to you as a model of how to handle adversity and unpleasantness. Be the person you want your child to grow up to be.

If you can do that, you'll be fine. I promise.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

My parents divorced when I was three, and the divorce was much easier on me than on my older brother (9) and sister (11), but to my knowledge, none of us is a serial killer. Based on my experience vs the experiences of some of my friends, I agree with Shouraku.
posted by amarynth at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi. My parents divorced when I was three. With the exception of one weird thing my dad tried to pull (regarding custody) when I was about 10, my parents maintained enough of a civil relationship with one another that I never heard either of them say shitty things about the other. I went to an excellent college and have a career I'm happy in and the best partner in the universe, wonderful cats, and a very good life.

I had friends in college whose parents waited too long to get divorced, or said horrible things about the other parent in front of the kids. I feel much luckier than those people. By far.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. Try to be kind to yourself, and to your soon-to-be ex, even if she doesn't "deserve" it, because kindness is much better for your mental health and your relationship with your child than bitterness.
posted by rtha at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2012

PS: Take the drugs. Give things a chance to be better. Your catastrophic thinking - divorce will be worse, the drugs will be worse, your son will be worse - is a symptom of the depression. Treat it so you can cope with all of these other issues with your healthiest self. You owe that to yourself and to your son.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:48 AM on March 21, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'm depressed, reluctant to try pills but thinking that I may have to do it.

If there's a medical professional you trust telling you that your mental state is such that medication would help, I'd take them up on it. You need to be in the best emotional state you can to handle this.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on March 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Help me here. Your own wife called the police on you?

If this is so, you are better off without her.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:57 AM on March 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

My parents divorced when I was near your son's age. As much as it has affected my life, I would say they made the right decision. One major side-effect I've noticed is not a tendency toward serial killing, but a lack of experience with how people should behave within a loving, long term relationship. It beat having a really bad example set for me, mind you.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:58 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've gone through a divorce, and I more than "survived"...I grew as a person and I'm happier than I have ever been. When it is right, it is right. It is not easy, but it is oh so worth it. Life is too short to stay in an unhappy relationship. And it sounds like you have really tried to make it work. Half the time, it just doesn't work.

You and your kid are going to be great. Keep in mind he is still young enough that the impact will be different than if he were 8, 13, 16, etc. (I'm not implying there will be NO impact, just different). I imagine that once you get through the immediate crisis (decision making, the separating of lives after so many years) and hopefully into your own space, you are going to rediscover who you are, what you need, and ultimately be happier. You will realize what kind of stress you have been living under and you no longer will need to! You will probably feel like a better parent, too.

If you can find a good therapist to coach you through the ENTIRE process, DO! Those reminders that you are doing the right thing and minimizing guilt were absolutely huge for me.

You can and will do this. You will be much happier, and as a result, so will your kid!
posted by retrofitted at 11:18 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are very attached to and involved with your son. You should explore the possibility of joint custody. I've seen it work really well for a lot of kids, as long as their parents stay in the same city/town. Three is very young; your son most likely won't remember living with both of you. Make sure that you create a good comfortable place for him when he's with you. Since you and your wife both work I assume he's in some kind of childcare situation. Maintain that continuity if at all possible.

I agree that you should try the meds your therapist suggests, if they work you will be in much better shape to deal with all of this. and be sure to reach out to your family and friends for moral support. It may be hard at first, but after a while you'll realize how relieved you are to be out of the marriage. Good luck.
posted by mareli at 11:20 AM on March 21, 2012

My parents separated when I was six and I really don't think it bothered me at all. It is just the status quo. They're both happily partnered off now and when I was a kid, it was just how things were. Divorced parents won't ruin your son. Don't let it ruin you.
posted by hepta at 11:24 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't offer much help except to say take care of yourself. You are going through so much stress right now that exercise will help you keep the stress down so you can handle things better. It will also release all those neurotransmitters in the brain that anti-depressants do to keep your brain in tip-top shape.
posted by eq21 at 11:36 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My parents divorced two years ago after 30 yrs of extreme unhappiness. Apparently, they both decided to wait till we were grown and out of the house before they would separate. That meant dealing with years upon years of hearing them constantly arguing (more like heated brawls), constant tension you could slice with a knife, and everybody depressed.

It effected every aspect of our lives growing up. My mom was depressed by the state of her marriage, which made her not really try to be a good mother. My father overcompensated for the problems by spoiling us. Which did nothing but cause MORE tension between them.

They couldn't even agree on groundings. So when we did something we should be punished for, it would cause a huge shit storm between them. Thus making their children feel even shittier.

It would have saved me and my siblings a lot of mental anguish if they had divorced when we were younger. Now my parents are divorced, my brother HATES my father, my mom an I have strained relationship from years of bickering with eachother and my mentally challenged sister still acts like a 5 yr old. All this could have been avoided if they would have spared us the whole " unhappy but together parents are better than a broken home".

Spare your son growing up in a hostile environment and do him a favor by divorcing your wife. Just make sure you are being the best parent you can to him.
posted by Sweetmag at 11:37 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good lord I'm glad my parents divorced rather than stuck it out for my sake (I was 6). There wasn't a lot of yelling, but they were like oil and water, and frankly I don't know how or why they married at all. They ended up meeting people who were PERFECT for them, and they've been married to these people for 20 years.

It will take a lot of time to get over this, but you will move on, and I hope you meet someone as perfect for you as my stepmom and stepdad are perfect for my parents.

Oh, and please don't ever badmouth your (ex-) wife to your son. He needs to think of his parents as the people who keep him safe, not as bitter enemies to each other.
posted by desjardins at 11:39 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wish my parents had divorced sooner. It was so much better than overhearing the yelling matches. One piece of advice that is important is to never, ever badmouth your ex. She may not be your wife any more, but she will always be your son's mother.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:40 AM on March 21, 2012

I "wish" I could tell people that something terrible happened. [...]
Then she called the police, the police came and asked me to leave.

I'd say that's pretty terrible.

I feel this intense guilt, so much sadness, for looking at my life and seeing a decade lost.

Try to see it as: look at how much of my life remains, which I can use to create a better, healthier existence for myself and my son.

I've been in therapy for about a year. I'm depressed, reluctant to try pills but thinking that I may have to do it.

I totally get that it's hard to start taking pills. But once I did, my life was so much more manageable. I would suggest trying them, and if after a month or two you don't like them, talk to your psychiatrist about a different solution for you.

Did you go through divorce? Did you survive? Did your children turn out to be serial killers as a result?

My parents did. My brother and I survived and turned out just fine. Likely better than if we had been subjected to screaming matches our entire childhoods.

You can do this. Lots of people do and turn out much happier and healthier in the long run.
posted by sugarbomb at 11:48 AM on March 21, 2012

My parents divorced when I was 3, and were exceedingly careful about remaining civil with each other when my sister and I were around. We're now both married in healthy relationships, gainfully employed, and have fairly typical relationships with both parents.

posted by InsanePenguin at 11:57 AM on March 21, 2012

My parents divorced when I was 3, and none of us are serial killers. I never thought anything of it until I was in high school and my best friend's parents divorced after years of emotional estrangement -- and after seeing how much my best friend wanted her parents to go ahead and split up and be happier. And I also saw how better off her parents were after they split and remarried other people.

FWIW my mother never remarried, and she's happy being single.
posted by toerinishuman at 12:12 PM on March 21, 2012

My parents divorced--and it was a superugly, nightmare divorce. 3 kids. 20+ years of marriage.

We survived and thrived, and we've all gone on to find our own happiness and healthy relationships. Here's the good thing about being from a broken home, for me anyway: I became super-protective of myself and determined to not fall into that same misery. I spent a long time figuring out what a healthy relationship looked like--how do you communicate? what do you compromise on? what do you NOT compromise on? etc etc--and I've actively pursued that. It hasn't been perfect and I had a lot of crap to deal with as a result of my parents' disastrous marriage, but I'm actually thankful for it. And, most importantly, I'm OK. We all are. At some point, it will be the new normal, and your life will kind of work its way around the gap, and then it will fill the gap. You, your wife, and your child will all be okay.

Also: NEVER, EVER say a single bad word about your child's mom in front of him. Nothing--not even a joke. This is so hard and confusing for kids.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 12:33 PM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

We disagree on many important things, on money, on the way we want to raise our son, on how to fight fairly, on where we want to live.

This will not change if you are divorced, and in fact the differences will be highlighted. The existence of your child guarantees two decades of this woman having a primary role in your life. I highly recommend joint counseling so that you can learn to be effective, respectful, coparents to your child, whether you stay together or not. And try mediation if you separate, for the same reason.
posted by headnsouth at 12:48 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I haven't through a divorce myself, but my parents divorced when I was a little younger than your son. My parents also had a volatile marriage with a lot of screaming and yelling and breaking things.

I rarely believe in hard and fast rules, but in this particular circumstance I'm going to give you some really hard and fast rules.

1)Rule 1. Never fight in front of your kid. Period. Try and get your wife to commit to the same rule. If she won't, then you exit if she starts fighting in front him. This is the most important rule. My parents never stopped fighting even after they divorced and it really did cause permanent psychological problems. My brother is 45!! and he's still dealing with his problems with anger and conflict. We never saw adults model how to handle anger maturely, so we're still screwed up about how to express anger. PLEASE STOP FIGHTING IN FRONT OF YOUR KID.

2) Rule 2. Never say anything nasty about your ex-wife in front of your kid. Even if she's the worst bitch in the world and she called the cops on you and she's being unfair and unkind. Doesn't matter. That's his mom. He'll only ever get one mom. You can't bad mouth her. It's just that simple.

3) Rule 3. Try to be kind. Even if your wife's being unfair and mean and nasty, try as best you can to be kind. Don't engage with the meanness and the nastiness.

4) Rule 4. Commit to being apart of your son's life. He needs two parents.

5) Rule 5. When, down the line, you meet someone new make sure she's willing to love your kid. That's the most important quality in a new mate.

That's it. If you can follow those rules. I think you and your kid will be fine. My parents broke almost all of those rules (my father managed not to break number 4), but we're still productive people with happy lives, but things would have been a thousand times better if they followed those rules.

This doesn't have to be shameful and it doesn't have to hurt your kid.

Good luck.
posted by bananafish at 1:08 PM on March 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am going through this now with my significant other, who feels a lot of guilt that his previous marriage (with a child) failed. I have a special perspective on this because my parents divorced when I was very young and so I have seen both sides of it, both as a child and now, as an adult, through him. The two points I have emphasized to him are these:

1) You need to get over the idea that if you had stayed in an 'intact' home, that would automatically guarantee your child a blissful, happy life. This is simply not true. And in many cases, it is better for the child to see you not with his mother but having a successful and productive life and being a good example for him. My stepfather was a huge role model to me---perhaps not at the time, but in hindsight over the years, as he has stepped up and done a lot for me. I value that relationship. I would rather have that relationship, even if it means divorced parents, then have together parents who can't communicate and who role model that.

2) Nobody is going to remember who had Christmas when the kid was 2 or 5 or whatever. What matters to the kid is not the mere fact of who lives where or has this schedule or that one. It is the pattern of love, affection and devotion they feel from you. I never felt like my own father treated me as a priority, and I still don't feel he does. One example my partner actually witnessed of this was a few months ago, my older sister was having some sort of crisis and posting about it on Facebook. So I called my mother and I called my father, left identical messages with each of them to read her posts and then call me back. Mom called back within two hours. Dad did not call back at all. Three days later, I finally got in touch with him and he had a lame excuse that he has been busy and didn't get my message. THAT is what affects kids---not the who loves where or drives them to hockey or whatever, but this---I called both parents, and Mom was the only one who called me back. And no matter where you live, with your kid or not with them, you have the power not to be that guy.
posted by JoannaC at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in a very similar situation about 5 yrs ago, and I am here to offer hope. i had been with my (now ex) wife for 6yrs before we got married and then a year later had a son. the marriage lasted 4 yrs until one day, out of the blue, she just decided to go. I was devastated, and felt like I could no longer trust my decision making process, because, after all, if i had f*cked up this one, the one that was supposed to last forever, how could i be sure about any big decisions yet to come.
My 3 yr old son basically saved me. Remember how, the day your child was born, you reset your life clock...you no longer put things in terms of where you would be at a certain age, but where you would be when he was at a certain age? You can use this to see your life in a new way. Your son is young and will almost certainly not remember this or the time before, so it's up to you to make your relationship with him the best it can possibly be.
I took this approach to the divorce...path of least resistance for almost every aspect except custody. She was going to get half of everything anyway (I live in Wa.) so i let go of the material stuff, but insisted on things like right of first refusal, and power in all decisions (not sole power put at least equal).
On the days i have him i am focused on him and little else, it's the time when he is with her that is still hard, so i fill that time, really fill that time, with selfish things for me. I got and stayed fit (the divorce and depression packed on the pounds) and made new friends by playing team sports (even sports I suck at).
I made my work schedule work around my schedule with my son to maximize time with him (luckily i can do this) and made sure that I was an active presence at daycare, preschool and now elementary school (classroom volunteering is a great way to know the mind of an elementary school child).

It takes time. I was bitter for 3 yrs, but never let it show in front of him. i know I am more engaged parent than i would have been had the marriage lasted. the one on one face time is the best thing ever, ever, ever.
Enjoy being a parent. I never get a sitter, i just plan things for when he's with his mom. i let him sleep with me whenever he wants, it's seldom now (he still comes over and crawls in at 6 am some mornings), but on those long lonely nights right after she left his presence was a far cry better than crying myself to sleep.

I have no idea how he's going to turn out, all i know is that i care more about him than i do about anything else including the 'failure' of my marriage, and that i am going to continue to try my absolute best to make a good life for him.

If you need a good laugh, try Louis CK, he's one of us.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I spent a decade of my childhood wishing my parents were divorced. If only it had happened sooner!
posted by chiquitita at 4:21 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Getting Past Your Breakup is a great book to use as a roadmap through this time. It's very comforting to have someone tell you that all of the emotions you are feeling are normal (and to let you know what you are likely to feel in the weeks and months ahead).

For what it's worth, know that many people report feeling somewhat "past" their divorces or at peace with them after about two years. Obviously this varies depending on the circumstances, but I was relieved when I heard it. You will make it to that point too.
posted by luckdragon at 6:55 PM on March 21, 2012

My husband just got kind of mean, and it took him leaving, and a year of couples therapy, for me to realize that his constant putdowns and unkind behavior made me feel small and unlovable. You will not only survive, you will move forward in life and be happy again. Or at least not miserable, and that's saying something. Anti-depressants have been a big help to me; YMMV.

Make it a priority to keep joint custody of your child, and to be a great parent. Divorce wasn't easy for my son, but staying married would have been worse.

You might actually have an interest in the equity in the house, as it was acquired during the marriage. Get a good, calm, smart lawyer, and get a fair settlement. If you get any kind of assets, set them aside for child care/child support needs. Keep in mind that your child's needs come 1st, and that your needs matter, too. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My ex- and I separated when our son was six and things seem to have turned out pretty well in the end. We had joint physical and legal custody and just shared all expenses down the middle so that there was no child support. It wasn't all smooth sailing for our son but we all got through it and survived. He's now a healthy, seemingly happy senior in college with a very nice girlfriend and lots of creative hobbies and interests.
posted by octothorpe at 7:53 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi! Welcome to the club!

I say this because I just signed off on my divorce agreement today and am now waiting for the judge to sign off on it and make it final (about a week, according to my lawyer). I won't go into detail about my situation other than to say it has some similarities to yours, and some differences. Most significantly I have a seven year old daughter and she has been a big concern of mine everyone through the whole ordeal.

I "wish" I could tell people that something terrible happened...
In the long run, no you don't. Anything bad you say may come back to your child and potentially cause problems in other ways. It is hard to go wrong by taking the high road and living by the adage "if you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all", no matter how tempting the alternative may seem. You will have plenty of opportunity to say the most horrible things you can to your therapist and/or lawyer, other than that keep it to yourself.

You don't say where you are in this process (you sound like it is pretty early) or where you are located (divorce laws vary widely from state to state and country to country) but I hope you have a good lawyer. If not get one now. I am fortunate to have some connections in the local legal community and was able to quickly find a top-notch lawyer, and the same is true of my soon-to-be-ex. The two lawyers know and respect each other and work together well, which made things a lot less ugly than I thought they would be. Here in Georgia (and many other states) the legal system now encourages divorce to be a process of negotiation and compromise, saving an adversarial trial as a last resort. If you are in the US you probably have at least a couple of alternatives to letting a judge/jury settle things and your lawyer should be able to tell you about these in detail. On the other hand, some of the best advice I got was to avoid the temptation to use your lawyer as a therapist. If you find yourself venting to your lawyer, back off and save it for your therapist; around here lawyers charge about three times as much per hour as a therapist so you will only be burning through your war chest that much faster (see the next paragraph)

As for your financial concerns, you probably realize that the only people who benefit financially in a divorce are the lawyers. That is not to say they don't earn their money, it's just that they are the ones cashing checks and both of you are the ones writing them. Choose your battles wisely; every time you call your lawyer to complain about something will cost you. In my case we are not in a community property state and child support is determined by a complex but understandable formula, and alimony in general is frowned upon. At the same time the rules governing property division can have some unexpected twists; for example gifts given by third parties (her father's Christmas gifts to me, for example) are not considered marital property, while the gifts we gave each other during the marriage are marital property and thus subject to the equitable division goal of Georgia divorce law. All these stipulations and many others (concerning retirement accounts, home equity, and others) came into play while we negotiated our settlement, which basically took two full days a couple of months apart, the second of which was with a highly paid (and worth it) arbitrator who let both of us know when we were being unreasonable and was an impartial third party that we both trusted more than we trusted the opposing lawyer. The bottom line was we ended up with a financial arrangement that was more generous than I wanted and less generous than she wanted and so probably fair. There was not much room for negotiation in child support, but I thought it was reasonable. We are both doing OK financially and no one is having to live in a run-down hotel eating beans for dinner.

Which brings us to the biggest concern: your son. We might well have gotten divorced sooner but neither one of us wanted to put our daughter through a divorce. While she is sad about it, she seems to be taking it in stride. She continues to do very well at school and has not had any behavioral issues that either of us can see (not to say she is perfect, but she is as close as any first-grader I have seen). As long as we work together in terms of visitation, child support, and so on it keeps her out of the middle of the divorce and that is a major goal. Here in Georgia divorcing parents are required to go to a parenting class and although it is all common-sense advice, the class does a good job of encouraging responsible behavior. If something similar is available in your jurisdiction I would encourage it even if it is not required.

I worry about so many things. About being a failure as a father, about screwing my son's life...
The fact that you worry about these things indicates that you are a good father who won't screw up your son's life. The fact that you cannot be a husband to your son's mother is generally not related to your ability to be a father. As many above have alluded to, their parent's divorce after years of conflict was more of a relief than a stress. I have been thinking about this topic for many months (since July 7th, 2011 to be exact) and although younger children are probably less aware of their parents' conflicts, they also have fewer worries of their own to stress them out during a divorce. I can only imagine how much harder our divorce would have been on our daughter if she were a teenager going through all of the stress of dating, high school, deciding on a college, and so on. By divorcing now you can start getting into a routine that will seem normal by the time your son has the bigger worries that come with adolescence. In terms of custody, decision-making in terms of schools, medical treatment, religion, and on and on, only your lawyer can give you good advice based on your particular situation and jurisdiction.

In short, last summer I was where you are now, but now that I am nearing the end of the process I am convinced everything is working out for the best. Be patient, get a lawyer you have faith in, and be prepared and willing to get support where you find it (I got a MeMail that was a nice pat on the back just when I needed it). You will survive this, many have. In large part, your behavior now will impact how things go; the one thing you can't impact is your ex's behavior. So hold your head up and forge ahead; feel free to MeMail me for more details on my experience.

One last thing, be aware that attorneys can ask for all sorts of things during interrogatories. Once again, this varies with jurisdiction, but all your electronic communication may be asked for (possibly even this AskMe), so don't say anything in writing online, in email, or in any other electronic medium that you wouldn't want your ex and her lawyer to see. I have framed my description of my own divorce with that advice in mind and if we converse over email that would apply as well. Face to face I might be more open, but in general I stick to what I said in my second paragraph and avoid talking about the details of my divorce to anyone who doesn't have a need to know. Good luck and hang in there!
posted by TedW at 8:42 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, it doesn't get any easier. But you get better at it. And you will feel better on your own than you do now, in constant contact with someone who is hostile and unloving. Without her around you will have the space to give yourself the love and care that you need, and to share that love with your children.

Best wishes.
posted by macinchik at 11:08 PM on March 21, 2012

My parents divorced when I was 14. It made them so much happier as people, I wish they had chosen to do so a decade earlier, when they realized they were a bad match and started into the counseling.
posted by ead at 6:16 AM on March 22, 2012

My parents divorced when I was 3 and my sister was 6. She had developed a stutter due to the tense home environment that disappeared after the divorce and separation of my parents. I'm glad I was young enough that I don't remember the divorce itself. I'm very lucky that my parents put my sister and I first; they didn't argue in front of us, they made the effort to accomodate our feelings and wants, and they didn't trash-talk the other parent when he or she wasn't around. We lived with our mom and stayed with our dad one weekend per month (and a week for holidays in the summer and winter), plus talking on the phone every Sunday while I was growing up. Dad made the effort to spend quality time with us, and pretty much always refused when I would beg for a toy or something. Instead we visited museums, cooked meals together, raked his lawn, played games, and went biking, hiking, and camping. He taught me how to write a check, fix my bike, make an omelette, and appreciate Bob Dylan.

I don't understand how my parents ever got together-- they are so different! I feel like I got the best of both of them. It's going to be hard for you and your ex-wife to work through the hurts you have caused each other, but please don't hesitate to make that effort. Divorce won't ruin your son.

Also I'm getting really choked up thinking about how much I love my parents.
posted by stompadour at 9:10 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've said this before here, and I'll say it again: I wish my parents got a divorce instead of staying together "for the kids" and fighting all the time.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Xany at 1:57 AM on March 28, 2012

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