Married couples in conflict don't always provide what's best for their children. Further, according to Philip Cowan, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, the way husbands and wives treat each other has as much impact on their children's academic confidence, social adjustment, and behavior problems in school as the way the parents treat the children. A high-conflict marriage or a marriage that isn't working can negatively affect children in a way that might never happen in a single-mom family.
---Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., Raising Boys without Men
DH and I were rarely in open conflict. But we didn't treat each other well. We didn't cherish each other as we promised in our wedding vows. I can't say, exactly, why that is. I know I tried over the course of our 16 year marriage. I tried to reach DH, I tried to show him how his decisions affected me. I loved him the best way I knew how until his unresponsiveness caused me to shut down and implement other coping mechanisms.
Financial distress may have been the catalyst for my decision to end our marriage, but the truth is I'd been subconsciously seeking a way out for years. Two friends have quoted Anais Nin to me, and the quote is fitting:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
For years I'd subsumed my identity to the marriage and as a result lived but half a life. What does that teach my son? DH and I never openly showed affection, never laughed together. For the past several years I've barely been able to look him in the eye. We didn't celebrate each other or seek out the opinions of one another or rely on each other for support. In our family Jack would learn that that's what a relationship between husband and wife looks like. I don't want him to learn that.
What I want Jack to learn is that happiness comes from within. Money, possessions, and relationships do not bring happiness. Each of us is complete unto ourselves. How could I teach him that while allowing a bad marriage to mask a big chunk of the best of me?