How to deal with a soon-to-be ex-spouse
March 27, 2013 10:04 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are getting divorced. At times she erupts at me with either overt or barely disguised hostility. How do I deal with the emotions caused by this?

I am really trying to do this as amicably as possible, but we're currently in the absolute worst part of it. We're waiting until the end of the school year to tell the kids and have me move out. So for the time being we're stuck living with each other.

For most of the time she either ignores me or talks to me as if nothing has changed. But then if I do the slightest thing that annoys her she lashes out. In almost every case it's a situation in which she had a stated or unstated expectation of me that she perceives I haven't fulfilled. This is, of course, a repeat in miniature of our marriage in which she believes that I wasn't there for her in numerous ways she thought I ought to be. Fortunately this almost never happens in front of the kids.

I'm no saint, but I'm doing my level best to be as friendly, civil, and amicable as possible. I never fight back; I never answer her hostility with anything but a genuine, "I'm really sorry you feel that way." Any attempt I make to smooth things over is either ignored or rebuffed.

I give all that backstory not for advice on how to deal with her or to get strategies for interacting with her. It's clear that there's nothing I can do to change her behavior. What I'm looking for is how to handle the feelings of powerlessness and frustration these interactions cause. I have no outlet for these emotions. is there a way that I can look at this that isn't so infuriating? A way to feel compassion for her? Some insight into what she's going through that can help me understand how she's feeling to help me forgive and move on? Or is the only recourse to simply separate myself from her emotionally? I'd hoped that we could remain close, but I'm scared now that it may be impossible.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Why are you waiting? Do you think it's going to affect the kids' schoolwork? Because honestly, having parents in the house who act like this with one another can't be good for them, either.
posted by xingcat at 10:07 AM on March 27, 2013 [29 favorites]

You could try to mentally frame it as her going through a very difficult time in her life and having a lot of anger that she doesn't know how to deal with, when the cause of that anger is right there in her face every day making her life harder. You should separate yourself emotionally from her now and try to arrange things so that your actions don't affect her much or at all. And try not to think about the future. Once you guys are apart and things settle down you could be friends again. But there's no way of predicting that now.
posted by bleep at 10:09 AM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

I understand that you want to not cause your kids upheaval, but honestly, I think the fact that you're still living there and pretending everything is normal is putting an enormous amount of pressure on you both, and that's contributing to the lashing-out. I would move out now.

I realize that this isn't what you asked for, but the best way to handle the feelings of powerlessness is to make sure that you alleviate them at the source - and in this case, the source is the fact that you're still living in the same house and acting like everything's normal when it isn't.

I suspect the reason why you didn't want to tell the kids now was to spare them - but they already can tell something's wrong, I guarantee it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on March 27, 2013 [32 favorites]

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

Viewing this through the prism of my own difficult divorce (and we had three kids) I can only strongly suggest that you move out now. Don't wait until the end of the school year (and really, what's the purpose of that?).

Right now, it's not an amicable household. Chances are the kids will (if they already haven't) notice that something is off. They can probably feel the tension.

But importantly, for everyone's mental sanity, you need to start the divorce process and leave. The only way to deal with the negative interactions is to limit them as much as humanly possible, and that means you need to move out.
posted by kinetic at 10:10 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's clear that there's nothing I can do to change her behavior.

This is a false premise. Saying "I'm sorry you feel that way" may be fueling her resentment, regardless of how genuine the statement is.
posted by TheCavorter at 10:10 AM on March 27, 2013 [28 favorites]

I think sometimes divorcing couples get too hung up on the notion of being amicable -- setting themselves a standard that is artificially high. Really, all that's needed is to be civil and non-disruptive.

You don't need to give up your rights to be treated with respect and dignity during your final months under the same roof. The reason you are frustrated and infuriated is because your wife isn't holding up her end of the deal.

I would suggest a sit-down with her to restate the rules of engagement: between now and summer, you will both treat each other with due care. Just because her outbursts don't occur when the kids are present, doesn't mean that they don't pick up on your frustration and sadness after the fact. Mom needs to show some restraint, and you need to set some boundaries.

Only other option that I can see is to hire someone to listen to you vent. (Therapy)
posted by nacho fries at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Exactly what TheCavorter said. Shorten it down to "I'm sorry." There's a big chance it will calm down the strong emotions she's feeling.

The best way to not feel powerless is to have a plan and act on it. This plan can be to change her behavior (not only by not engaging, but by seeing how you exacerbate things). It can be on how to move out. It can be starting divorce proceedings. But while you're in a static situation, you're going to feel powerless because you aren't doing anything.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:15 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

There isn't much you can actually do in this situation and I strongly suggest you do not even try to remain close, at least initially. Maybe in a couple of years you can be amicable but in almost every case I know of where couples tried to remain close after a split they end up cycling in and out of a bad relationship and just keep tearing at open wounds. You have kids so you will have contact but I suggest you minimize and compartmentalize it until you get to the point where you can reliably remember that you are not responsible for her feelings.

I tend to deal with bad situations like this that I know will end with a simple mantra of "This too shall pass" and look forward to when it does. Making it end sooner is also a good strategy as everyone else has mentioned. Today always beats tomorrow when planning.
posted by srboisvert at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I never fight back; I never answer her hostility with anything but a genuine, "I'm really sorry you feel that way." .... I have no outlet for these emotions. is there a way that I can look at this that isn't so infuriating?

You are well within your rights to say "stop yelling at me" or "I'll be in the living room if you want to talk civilly about this" or even "I don't want to talk about this with you" or "we're getting divorced, I'm not responsible for [thing she's complaining about]."

You sound exceptionally passive, which can be infuriating to a person who is trying to engage with you. You are still co-parents and you still live together (explain why though?). Refusing to engage at all is not compassionate.
posted by headnsouth at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Nthing that moving out sooner would be the best thing - kids sense tension and unhappiness between their parents even if they never hear fighting, and it will effect them. Also, the more resentment builds up now between you and your wife, the harder it will be for you both to have an amicable (or even civil) co-parenting relationship after the divorce (which will, again, make things harder for your kids).

However, in the short term you really need some safe places to vent your feelings - either through talking (e.g. therapy) or physically (e.g. martial arts class or other high-impact activity) or both.
posted by unsub at 10:22 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there any reason you can't move out now? The kids know you're fighting, even if it doesn't happen in front of them. You're probably not going to stop fighting as long as you live together. It's going to make you feel powerless and frustrated as long as you feel obligated to live in the same house. And if you feel that way, think about how the kids must feel. It's probably better for you to do this sooner rather than later.

Until then, the tried-and-true ways of dealing with bottled-up feelings are: therapy, vigorous exercise, regular activities outside the place that's making you frustrated. Choose at least one.

And I know you're not looking for advice on how to talk to your wife, but "I'm really sorry you feel that way" comes across as horribly passive-aggressive and insincere. I get why you're saying it, but it's essentially a dressed-up "sucks for you." Consider changing it to a less weasely "I'm sorry. It wasn't my intention to make you feel that way," or something similar.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:23 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Never having been divorced, I can't offer advice on that aspect, but having been married for 25 years I do strongly suggest you shorten it to "I'm sorry." "I'm sorry you feel that way" would greatly intensify any hostile feelings I might be having.
posted by HotToddy at 10:23 AM on March 27, 2013 [20 favorites]

Been there, done that. We actually stayed in the same house for about 3 or 4 months after we agreed to divorce. Two of those months we had told the kids. I think that rather than move out now, tell the kids and start the process of helping them now. It will be easier and more civil if you two provide a joint front with the kids about explaining or discussing it. I think modeling civil behaviour towards each other will also be a long term help to your kids.

As for how to deal with the emotion, I am not sure, but I think that no matter how you react, there will always be a point of contention. Your wife is angry, rightfully or wrongly, and she will vent. I suggest simplifying your response and not engaging in the arguments.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:33 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

"I'm sorry" doesn't seem appropriate if you're not sorry and I would hate to say that to someone I feel is actually being irrational in the first place. I might say, "I'd rather not argue about this," and walk away.

Nthig everyone else, I suggest moving out earlier or following JohnnyGunn's advice and telling the kids now.
posted by shoesietart at 10:46 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

My folks told us two months before they moved out and my dad made himself scarce but was still around to do dad stuff before he moved out. I feel you may be doing everyone a disservice by feigning something that can't be feigned. If I were you I'd do what people have suggested specifically

- shortening the reply
- to yourself saying "This is why we are getting a divorce, if this were reconcilable we would have reconciled"
- exercise and spending a lot of time with your kids and staying away from your wife

I appreciate that you want to stay emotionally close and I know nothing about your specific situation but sometimes with splitting up partners this desire is actually unreasonable [that is, you maybe want to stay emotionally close but you don't want to do the things that she requires for emotional intimacy, as a random example] and this can actually just make things worse. I'd try to approach it more as a "Whatever happens happens, I am open to us trying to remain close" while realizing that remaining close is a choice that you both have to make individually (not together) and you may not approach it at the same speed or with the same premises.

Mostly focus on the things you will still be doing together which is being parents to your children. If appropriate, I'd try to take your wife aside for some "Hey this is hurting our children, is there a way we can not do this in front of them? What do I need to do...?" and then just listen. Who knows, it may be more her deal, may be more your deal, but you're both responsibile for sorting it out and not making your kids' lives a disaster between now and whenever the new normal sets in. Kids know something's up. Don't let them think that the new normal is the two of you being shitty to each other and them being trapped.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

nthing that "I'm sorry you feel that way" is actually a bad thing to say; even if you mean it sincerely, it is very easily received as the classic, passive-aggressive "non-apology apology," which is aggravating under the best of circumstances.

is there a way that I can look at this that isn't so infuriating? A way to feel compassion for her? Some insight into what she's going through that can help me understand how she's feeling to help me forgive and move on?

She's losing her marriage. This, for many people (even people in unhappy marriages who want to get divorced), feels as traumatic and painful as a death, with all the attendant anger, disbelief, fear, and grief that comes along with it. Women, especially, are inundated with a million cultural messages about how marriage is fundamental to our happiness and role in society, and so a failed marriage is seen as a personal failure. It also can be a major signifier to women about getting older, and about getting "thrown out" for younger women (NOT to suggest that you're leaving her for someone younger -- obviously you give no indication of this; I am just saying that this is a very real fear that can get triggered under the circumstances, given our culture where women's youth and beauty are prized above almost all else).

None of this is to excuse her hostility, but to suggest a context in which you might want to place it. The bottom line is that your wife is obviously in terrible pain. Whether it's your "fault" or not, whether it's her own personal baggage she brought into the marriage, whether she's always been a difficult person or used to be really easygoing before things changed -- when it comes to having compassion for her, these things are largely irrelevant.

I am sorry that you're going through this, and that she's going through it, too. On preview, I really second jessamyn's advice about trying to find a way you two can find a place where you can at least be on the same page about how to deal with things in front of the kids. Because even though the two of you aren't going to be on the team called Husband & Wife any longer, you are going to be on the team called Co-Parents for the rest of your lives. If you can come from a place of gentleness for her in order to transition to being on that team, maybe she'll be able to come from a similar place for you.
posted by scody at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

I have not read all the comments above, but if your children are school age, they are old enough to feel the vibes. Kids are not dumb; especially girls. If there is a girl involved it is possible that your wife is unloading on her. It is also possible that a girl picks up on your wife's 'eruptions'. Please resolve this arrangement ASAP.
When your wife no longer has you to target, do you think she will become serene or start to target the children? Be sure your lawyer is well aware of your current situation and gets you co-parenting rights.
posted by Cranberry at 11:02 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh my god, "I'm sorry you feel that way"? Dude, I am super sorry you are going through this, but that is such a shitty thing to say to someone that I have to tell to you I am not at all surprised that your soon-to-be-ex is lashing out at you. That whole response is likely indicating to her that you a) don't care about her feelings, b) aren't willing to figure out a way to make her feel better, c) don't think her feelings are valid in the first place. That can't be conducive to cohabiting in any way. And if that has been your go to response to her for the last few years, it may have been majorly contributing to the decline and fall of your marriage. :

Instead, maybe try saying something like, "I'm sorry. I forgot that that bothers you. Here's what we can do to fix it. Will you do X, so I can do Y?" X and Y need to be actionable stuff so you can at least attempt to be partners in this process while you wait things out (which is ultimately a bad idea in and of itself so I hope you'll reconsider that, not only for your sake but for the sake of your former wife and that of your children).

Good luck. I know this sucks. Don't forget that she's in as much pain as you are -- have compassion and patience for her in the same way you'd like her to have it for you, and maybe gently telling her that might help with your interactions.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:06 AM on March 27, 2013 [17 favorites]

If, as an adult, one of your children came to you and said they were having this problem, what would you advise? Would you give your kid advice on how to tolerate behavior that is the very least mean? Or would you encourage them to protect themselves because they deserve to be treated decently?

Because your kids are watching you and your wife to learn what's acceptable in supposedly-loving relationships. And the message they're going to get from observing or even just feeling the tensions between you and your wife is that it's okay to lash out--and, perhaps more importantly, that it's okay to tolerate behavior that is borderline abusive.

Because you have every right to be resentful, angry, demoralized, and saddened by this behavior, but you have even more of a right to protect yourself from it. The answers above illustrate why it's not a good idea for the kids to feign normalcy now--but it's really not a good idea for their futures, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

This compassionate approach to unpleasant experiences helped me overcome my feelings of powerlessness and fear toward my dad:

I think of something he did that made me scared or angry, and I put myself in his position, without judgment. How was he feeling? Frustrated? Angry? Why might he have been feeling that way? It might be obvious, or I might have to guess, or substitute something that would leave me feeling that way. Ok, now I understand a bit about his perspective (again, forget right or wrong, this is just cause and effect). If I'm still emotional (anything other than understanding and compassion) about how he feels, keep examining.

Now that I understand more about how he felt when he did whatever, I forgive him for it with compassion. I say the words in my head.

Now I think about how I felt in response to whatever he did. There are many choices for ways I could feel, but for some reason I chose fear/powerlessness...that's fine, no judgment...I just take responsibility for how I chose to feel...(btw, I know our emotional responses don't always feel like choices, but they are, and more importantly, treating them as choices allows us to escape powerlessness).

The next part is difficult but powerful. I examine the experience to see how I grew in some way from it, or learned something, and then I thank him for the experience, from the perspective of "I like this part of me that developed as a response to that experience, and I recognize your part in creating this part of me that I like". In your case, you could thank your wife for helping you become a more empathetic, understanding, and compassionate person.
posted by Holidayalltheway at 12:04 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Other option: "I'm sorry my words/actions/inaction made you feel that way." You acknowledge her anger, you say you're sorry, and you take your share of responsibility for what's happened.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:21 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is really hard work to stay calm and polite in the face of someone whose angry behavior makes you want to defend yourself and fight back. (My mother would say, "It takes the patience of a saint" and you are probably not a saint.)

My advice is give your own angry feelings a place to go. Not unleashing them at her (that works against your larger goal of protecting the kids and making the divorce as civil as possible.) I would suggest a journal. Write out what happened - what she did, what you did, defend your actions, express your feelings (anger as well as compassion) and analyze how you actually responded - giving yourself full credit for everything you didn't say as well as noting anything you wish you had done differently. Don't worry about making sense or legibility - just let the writing flow. No one else should ever read it. Just make sure the journal is kept secure - maybe a password protected file instead of a hard copy.

Also, exercise, particularly running, can be a great release of that "fight or flight" adrenaline that gets released when someone attacks you - another way to give the angry energy a place to go.
posted by metahawk at 1:03 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Personally, after trying to make things work locally for this past year between the ex and myself, at this point I have only one solution; distance and shared-custody.

If all goes well, I will be putting an ocean between us within the next couple of months - the kids will come and stay with me during vacations and holidays and with their mom the rest of the year.
posted by jkaczor at 1:13 PM on March 27, 2013

I'm going to disagree with the other people saying to shorten your words to "I'm sorry." I don't think apologizing for someone else's bad behavior is going to get you anywhere. That's just reinforcing the blame the other party is already putting on you. I can see how "I'm sorry you feel that way" would rub some folks the wrong way. Maybe something like "I understand that you're upset and I don't feel like we can have a productive conversation when either of us is angry." Maybe that's the same thing, but it seems more explanatory.

I also disagree with the idea that staying is better for the kids. The only way to fix this is distance. At a bare minimum, go start a dozen new hobbies, and take the kids out without your spouse. At this point, the less you're around one another, the better.
posted by cnc at 1:32 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm wondering of your lack of reaction might not be fueling the situation, your wife is hurting, and yes she is handling it badly, but I from her point of view she is hurting/angry/resentful whatever feeling a super strong emotion about the end of your current relationship and you're basically saying "so sad too bad" which is not helping anyone.

You need to move out, you staying there with all the strains and undercurrents is not doing any good for the kids, rip the damn band aid off and move out. The sooner you do that the sooner they and your wife can get move on and given sometime you guys can get to some sort of place where you can be civil to each other.

Right now the person she used to turn to when hurting, is no longer available and the cause of the hurt at the same time simply by being there reminding her. I am assuming you are the one leaving her from the way your question was worded, so I am really not sure what you hanging around achieves except delaying the inevitable and possibly breeding false hope in your wife. If you really do have to stay, for some other reason than "think of the children" be around the house as little as possible, do the jobs etc that are your responsibility and keep out of her way, it will be good practice for you for when you do actually leave, for both of you.
posted by wwax at 2:03 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Maybe this is out of place, but you sound really unsympathetic here. She's dumping you because you constantly disappoint her, and all you are wondering about is how to handle your own emotions (not make her feel better) and when she tells you about something that bothers her, all you can say is "I'm sorry you feel that way"?!

I dunno -- I think what's really missing here is empathy on your part. Imagine you were in her situation. Your husband disappoints you and doesn't want to make any effort to fix it, even to the extent that you have to get a divorce. That's a pretty shitty situation to be in. What if that happened to a friend of yours? Wouldn't you feel like the guy should at least make an effort?

Do you even care what she's feeling? If you don't, try to, because it will make your experience of co-parenting with her waaaay easier.

As far as managing your own feelings, I'd just focus on being empathetic to hers. It will calm you down and probably calm her down as well. And then you can focus on the facts in question in any particular discussion.
posted by 3491again at 2:12 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

i think it would be better to move out now rather than waiting. school will give your kids some normalcy while they are adjusting to the family changes. they are surrounded by their friends and regular activities rather than having the whole summer to brood on this.

a genuine, "I'm really sorry you feel that way."

you probably don't understand what this statement actually means. it is basically telling someone you wish they didn't feel the way they did for your own convenience and then it gets couched in an apology. it isn't an apology in any way shape or form and it is highly insulting. don't. ever. say. this. again.
posted by wildflower at 2:24 PM on March 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

Because you have kids, the base issue of stated and unstated expectations that go unfulilled, and you doing things that annoy her, is going to continue far into the future. When you are physically separated from her, the frequency with which is translates into lashing out at you may go down. However, the stakes for failing to come up with modus vivendi will be even higher: brush off her concerns and expectations and she could instead start dicking around with your custody arrangement. Or bad-mouthing you to the kids. Or taking you back to court for every little thing. It's not a problem that will just go away if you can somehow put up with it for the next 3 months.

I don't know if you guys have been in counseling recently in the road leading up to this decision, but if you have been and felt like you didn't make any headway because you were trying to save the marriage, I would recommend you schedule a few more sessions over the coming months so that you can work on this precisely in the context of trying to establish a working co-parenting relationship in which expectations are fair, communicated openly, and every effort made to achieve them.

As for finding a spot of compassion: look, I'm a person who believes that most people are inherently good and not out to hurt others but sometimes our self-interested nature gets in the way of our intentions. She believes that you weren't there for her in the ways she needed you during the marriage. Those needs may have been unrealistic in general, or perhaps unrealistic to expect from you specifically due to your inherent nature or circumstances or whatever. Regardless, if you assume good faith: she's not expecting these things to set you up for failure, and she's not snapping at you when she feels let down just to make you feel bad; it's coming from a place of real hurt. You can acknowledge the legitimacy of that pain without accepting full blame for it.
posted by drlith at 2:42 PM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Oh, my god, this is so completely resonant with how awful my marriage was before my separation. Show this thread to your wife and see if the replies by Headnsouth, These Birds Of A Feather, and 3491again resonate with her. If so, my friend, your passive aggressiveness is what's torpedoing your marriage. Hint: you are not now, nor have you ever been, powerless, and your refusal to engage is in every way an active choice.

These Birds of A Feather gave great advice about how to more productively respond. Validate her feelings--they make sense to her even if they don't to you--and be generous and proactive about suggesting solutions. You don't have to do everything she wants or asks, but as someone you at least used to love and will need to coparent with forever, it is good policy to be as kind and generous as you can bring yourself to be. Even if you are dead set on ending your marriage this absolutely guarantees a smoother relationship going forward.
posted by Sublimity at 4:40 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd say, "I'm frustrated too. I'm sorry."

You might want to discuss some strategies with your wife on how you are going to deal with this stuff, because you're still both together and she's getting very annoyed.

"I'm sorry you feel that way" is just a shitty thing to say, it basically says, "You're the one with the problem, neah!"

Either engage with your ex-wife in a productive manner or get out. Whatever it is that you're doing is NOT nice or working or doing your kids any favors.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:25 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

We're waiting until the end of the school year to tell the kids and have me move out

I would suggest that, if you're the brunt of outbursts, and your soon-to-be-ex can't be civil to you, it would be better for you and your kids if one of you moved out, rather than waiting.

The unhappiness that's landing on you, that's brewing and stewing in her? They feel that. Moving out sooner may be less disruptive, in that they now have at least one home free from histrionics.

Because your kids? They know things are bad, trust me.
posted by zippy at 5:59 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Rereading the question and the thread again. If the chorus of answers explaining why "I'm sorry you feel that way" is an inflammatory response has started to make you realize that your response to conflict has been less than helpful, try this on for size. Your marriage is frankly collapsing and you are directing your efforts to trying to smooth things over. This is roughly equivalent to finding that the foundation beams of your house are rotted through, and choosing to address the issue by applying a fresh coat of paint. Wanting to smooth it over says that the situation is less "there's nothing I can do to change her behavior" and more "I don't really give a shit about what's bothering her or how to deal, and wish she would just shut up."

You may wish that the conflict would just go away, but it won't. Just like the rot in the beams won't magically go away just because you don't want to deal with it. In both cases you need to deal with the problem head on and do the hard work of repairing the damage AND the fundamental issue that caused it. Replacing the rotted wood won't work in the long run if the leak or termites or whatever haven't been fixed. Likewise in the dealings with your wife. Where is her anger coming from? What expectations have gone unaddressed? How did she ask and how did you respond when she asked? How did she react when you didn't come through, in the moment? How do YOU deal with your frustrations and disappointments with HER? Do you bring it up or do you "smooth it over"? What happens then?

In point of fact, if you two have kids together, you are going to be interacting for a long long time, even if you divorce. These very same patterns of relating are going to be with you for a long time unless you examine and change them... Including very likely with your next partner.
posted by Sublimity at 6:24 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Who decided to get a divorce-- you, or her, or was it completely mutual? If you're leaving her, your current expectations are totally unreasonable.

Even if she made the decision, it sounds like she is feeling very hurt right now so I agree with those who say to try to empathize with her.
posted by BibiRose at 6:40 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Child of divorced parents here. My folks split up when I was 7 and told me while we were sitting in the car in a shopping parking lot (apparently out of some misguided idea that it would be neutral ground, instead of telling me at home or something). It sucked.

Given my experience, my advice is that you need to tell your kids IMMEDIATELY. If time machines existed, you would need to have told them yesterday. There are no time machines, so do it now.

Your children know. Believe me, they know. You are not doing them any favors by pretending things are okay. In fact, you may well be laying the ground for beliefs about relationships that will screw them up well into their adulthood.

Tell your kids, preferably with reassurances about how although you and their mom are separating, it won't affect your love for them and your relationship with them. Make arrangements to move out with all reasonable speed. And then work on building a civil relationship with your soon-to-be-ex-wife and an honest one with your kids.
posted by Lexica at 7:53 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

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