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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: I Stay with My Husband for the Sake of the Children

Dear Stavroula,

I am 50 years old, married, and have three children, the eldest of whom is 12 years old. My husband and I have been living as man and wife in name only for five years. I know he has a permanent relationship with someone, possibly from his workplace. Although he has never openly admitted his relationship, every time we discuss it, he urges me to get on with my life, because as he tells me, he stays with me only for the sake of the children. And from the moment he told me, he is free, as he claims, to do whatever he wants.

You will ask me, why don’t I leave him. The reason is very simple and very complex at the same time. My husband is very well-off, with his own business and a lot of real estate. When we got married I quit my job because I wanted to raise the children as a stay at home mom. On the one hand, it is very difficult for me to start from the beginning; while on the other hand, I am afraid that if we divorce, our children may be relegated to second place. Moreover, I do not want to disturb them from the life they have at the moment. I do not know what can happen if he remarries and has other children. But I am drowning in this relationship and I feel that I am at a dead end. But every time I put in my mind the prospect of divorce, I panic. I do not know what to do…

Sevi

Dear Sevi,

Many parents decide to stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of their children because they do not want to hurt or upset their children’s lives. And the truth is that many children, when faced with their parents' divorce, even if it is amicable, can feel that their whole world is turned upside down, feel insecure and guilty and even feel that they no longer know where they belong.

In addition, there are many practical problems for both parents, the one moving out and the one that the children continue to live with most of the time. Especially in Greece, things are difficult for the divorcing father and that is why many men choose to stay in unhappy marriages more easily than women.

However, children whose parents are experiencing an unhappy marriage may have similar feelings. From an early age, children can perceive the icy atmosphere at home, the lack of physical intimacy between their parents, the belittling of each other, even when they do not experience more extreme situations, such as quarrels, shouting, or outbursts of violence.

In fact, they lack the model of a healthy relationship, and when they grow up the might perceive that the lying and dishonesty in their parents' relationship had negative effects on their own adult lives.

That is why there are many experts who suggest that even if the parents with problems in their relationship do not divorce, it is not good to present to their children an ideal picture of their relationship, but to be honest with them to the extent possible and with regard, of course, for the age of the children.

It may be a good idea to seek the help of a mental health professional. It is not easy to decide what is best for oneself and one's family in such situations. After all, every family has its own dynamics and its own conditions. The expert may help you to clear your mind and better manage the situation, whatever decision you make. Also, many times parents living under such conditions can experience high levels of stress, low self-esteem, and even deep depression. This is why it can often be difficult for them to make the best possible decisions for themselves and their family.

At the same time, it would be very helpful to find some outlets outside the house that give you joy or pleasure. Meet friends more often, take up a sport or hobby, sign up for a club, meet new people. Try to have time for yourself. Your personal happiness directly affects the happiness of your children. If you decide to stay in your marriage even under these conditions it would be good to discuss with your spouse ways of managing problems and strategies of living ‘together’, so that you both feel better. The same obviously applies in case you decide to divorce. The ideal, of course, would be to work with a specialist, to save your marriage, if, of course, you both want to save it.

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