Divorce (prevention of, for unschoolers)
April 25, 2016, on Always Learning, Sarah H. wrote:
I've stumbled on a great marriage resource at www.alturtle.com. If anyone is interested in some captivating reading, or is experiencing some hard times in their relationship...I highly recommend it.

This is a quote from an article I was reading tonight:

"After many years of working with couples, I have come to this conclusion. It takes two people to start a Marriage, or an intimate partnership. It takes both to decide to divorce and carry the splitting through to its end. But it takes only one of them to lead the way into a great relationship. The idea is that either one of you can stop a divorce from happening. This idea has, over the years, proved to be my most upsetting contribution to couples work. More people have written me about how angry the thought makes them. Great! Get angry, but please engage this idea, and its truth"
It reminded me of some of the wise marriage advice I have heard from this group.

I hope it's of use to someone out there, it has been for me :)

Sarah


In a discussion Gail Higgins responded to this:
Honestly, I find myself wondering lately if it'd be easier to be a single parent. Then I'd have to deal with the issues only on a part-time basis. I know that's bogus, but I find myself thinking about it a lot. Can you tell that I have a tendency to try to find the easy way out?
I found myself nodding with all the wonderful responses about this issue and just wanted to comment about this part.

Don't even wonder. Don't even waste a minute of your time considering it. All your energy should be directed at solutions within your marriage. If you are a single parent, there will be no energy for much of anything. Unschooling will be the least of your concerns. I'm ten years down the road from where you are. It doesn't really matter who was to blame or if you tried hard enough. When your kids are teenagers and haven't had their dad in their lives every day that really doesn't matter.

I was a single parent. There was nothing wonderful about it. I remarried an absolutely wonderful man who truly does get unschooling and we have a strong happy marriage. We have five kids between us and my two absolutely love him. So do I. He's a wonderful "dad" to them and they see their biological dad several times a year when he comes and stays with us or go to visit him in the summer.

We've tried our best to have a "good divorce" but I don't believe there is such a thing. My kids' dad was here last week and I drove him to the airport early one morning after he had told the kids goodbye. He talked about possibly moving closer and how it might be too late for his relationship with his daughter but maybe not his son. It truly breaks my heart. I hugged him goodbye and said..."seems like after 10 years this would get easier." It doesn't. I cried all the way home.

I long ago stopped wondering if I could have done things differently. However, I adamantly tell others considering a divorce to exhaust all avenues. If you think you can give it a year and try everything you know to do before you give up..think again........give it two...or three. 10 years goes by in a flash but for a child it can be most of their childhood.

Try self-help books, counseling--go alone if he won't go with you, consider a marriage retreat for a weekend, find a way to spend more time together and try and remember what it felt like to fall in love again. Be creative. Be giving even when it doesn't feel like he is giving. Be loving..even when it may seem he doesn't love you. It could pay off and that "could" may make all the difference in the world for your children.

If there is no abuse, children need both parents in their lives.....together....every day. Probably a statement not supported by some but I stand by it and I think my children would agree.

Gail


Sandra, a response from a discussion on Always Learning, in September 2014:
I don't like divorce. I don't want any children who can avoid that disaster in their lives to live with it for the rest of their lives (and any parent who wants to think it doesn't affect the child forevermore is practicing self-comfort at their children's expense). I would much rather, when and if it's possible, help the parents both be the kind of people who care more about their children than they do about themselves.

Something BIG happens when a person turns away from selfishness to service.
Something HUGE happens when a person can care about another person more than about himself.

The big, huge thing might seem mundane and invisible. It might be a marriage that can last 40, 50 years, so that grandchildren can visit their grandparents in one place, not a morass of single or remarried grandparents here and there, with no familiy photos out because they don't want to acknowledge their former marriages. It might be children who are not put in the position of choosing where to live, or taking sides, or lying to their mother to keep her from crying, or growing up expecting people to abandon them.

And when a person becomes selfless, they become better people. More comfortable people to be around. It makes others want to be generous with them, and kind to them.

I changed number in that last paragraph, so it's not good for quoting, but I'm leaving it as I wrote it.
Being a better person is better than opting not to be.

Caren Knox-Hudley wrote, on Unschooling Basics in 2012:
For years, I believed that my parents' divorce was not harmful to me. When it happened, it felt like a relief—the house was so much LESS tense, there was more laughter.

I separated from my husband 9 years ago, still believing that I hadn't been harmed by divorce.

It's only been in the past couple of years that I've been able to acknowledge how deeply painful and damaging my parents' divorce was. Because of my obliviousness, I caused similar pain for my kids.

This hasn't been easy to feel.

Not every child will be harmed in a car crash, but that doesn't mean if a crash is avoidable, it's OK to ram our car into someone else's.

One thing I failed to consider when I was in such denial/ignorance/oblivion was this: How much better would it have been if my parents had bucked up, done the work to get closer and happier, and stayed together? What would I have learned about relationships, and commitment?

Given a choice between a miserable marriage and unhappy family life or divorce, divorce seems the better choice. But there are other choices, choices that CAN and DO and HAVE made the difference in peoples' relationships. There's the choice to grow your relationship and your marriage, and do what you can to make it as good as it can be.

I don't spend time mired in the past, wishing I had done things differently, but if I had known what I've learned after being on these unschooling lists—things about being generous, taking responsibility, helping create a peaceful home life, appreciating my husband—we would never have separated.

It is incredibly freakin' difficult being a single unschooling parent - and this is WITH the support of the boys' dads.

Caren


Kelly Lovejoy, responding to:
So what do you do when your marital relationship becomes questionable and you don't have the money for counseling and you have young kids and no trusted babysitter?
Google Retrouvaille. or—wait: www.retrouvaille.org

It's free.** It's a weekend at a hotel—all expenses covered—meals and room. You'll need to find a sitter for the weekend—no kids.

It's a Catholic-based marriage counseling for all (and no—I'm athiest) faiths. It could save your marriage. Saved mine.

It's NOT easy—it's WORK. But when you need to start somewhere...

~Kelly

** For more information on Retrouvaille and another marriage conference: SandraDodd.com/marriageretreats
includes a recent testimonial from an unschooler who went

Su Penn, responding to quotes (quotes have been partly paraphrased after the fact to make them more general):

I'm reminded of a situation a while back. I'd been asking for weeping willows for a few years, but he didn't want to spend the money, with our having lost my income when I quit my job to stay home. After a couple of years he went out and bought two of them as a gift for me on my birthday. He went outside and starting digging a hole in the yard and I went out and asked what he was doing. He said he was planting weeping willows. I told him I wanted them in a different location, and showed him where.

paraphrased by Sandra Dodd after the fact to be about
a situation at MY house with a weeping willow,
though the original story wasn't mine

If I were your partner, I'd have been frustrated and hurt by this, too. I'd have felt criticized at a time when I was anticipating making you really happy with something you had wanted for a long time. Could you have let him plant the trees, and then just enjoyed looking at them and appreciating them both as a kind of tree you love and as a representation of his love even if they weren't where you would have put them if you had been in charge?

I had a real gift when I was pregnant with our first son six years ago and so sick for so long that I could not do anything: no housework, no driving a car, no nothing. David, and a friend who lived with us at the time, had to step up and take on all of my responsibilities as well as their own. The gift in this--one of the gifts, because there were surprisingly many--was that I had to let go of wanting them to do things the way I would have done them. I had to let them do things "wrong." It made me much less controlling in the long run.

If I see that we're not communicating properly and he doesn't see that we're not communicating properly, does that mean that I'm trying to make it a problem because I want us to comminicate better?
My partner David and I went to a Couple Enrichment workshop some years ago. The whole point of the afternoon was to get people to own their own problems, to recognize that a problem belongs to the person who is experiencing it as a problem. Our example was that David is untroubled by some things that I see as clutter. Our house at the time had a landing on the stairs that often had things of his on it that he would leave there literally for months. It didn't bother him; it bothered me. I wanted to make it his problem and blame him for it and force him to change his habits, but because I was the only one bothered by this habit of his, it was actually _my_ problem. And owning it as my problem has changed the way I approach him about things like that, and how he responds. It has really changed things, allowing us to find better solutions.

I hear you saying that you are dissatisfied with the way you communicate as a couple. OK. But you are writing as if "we're not communicating properly" is an objective reality that only you are enlightened enough to recognize. It's not an objective reality. It's your perception. You're not "trying to make it a problem"; you have made it a problem. That doesn't mean your concerns aren't something to take seriously, but if you see him as recalcitrant and deficient because something that bothers you doesn't bother him, it's harder to approach him in ways he can listen to and respond lovingly to.

A story about communication. David and I have been together a long time and twice have been in conflicts that threatened our relationship, so I have some experience with getting it really super- duper wrong and also with getting it right.

David and I were in couples therapy. This might have been ten years ago. In therapy, I did most of the talking, because I do most of the talking everywhere. But it seemed to me that he wasn't pulling his weight in therapy, and I was feeling discouraged and hurt by it. Finally, in a session, I told him that I needed to see him doing his share of the work in therapy and if he didn't, I'd leave him. He said he didn't think he could do what it would require for the work he was doing to become visible to me, that for him, a lot was happening internally but he didn't need to verbalize it and wasn't sure he could. We left that session feeling like our relationship was doomed.

A couple of days later, I was driving my car, feeling discouraged about things. And suddenly it hit me that if I loved him, I should trust him, and that if he said he was doing the work, I should believe he was doing the work, even if my definition of "doing the work" was so narrow that what he was doing didn't fit it. And that moment of insight transformed everything.

I thought the problem was that David didn't talk enough about his feelings or something like that. It turns out that the problem was that I was unable to accept David as he was. You said elsewhere that you end up feeling like you've got three kids to take care of, and I know that sometimes I get stuck feeling like I am always the one to make a change (this happens with the kids, too, where I catch myself wanting a conflict to be resolved by Eric, who is 5, changing his behavior). But every time I have stopped trying to change someone I love and focused instead on changing my own behavior or expectations, becoming more tolerant, it has been transformative.

Su


Pam Sorooshian:

I'm so sorry if that's the impression you got. I'm not dismissing the consequences at all. I'm saying that not ALL marriages have to last forever in order for the kids to be happy.
Divorce because mommy doesn't like the way daddy communicates is always going to mean the kids are less happy.

People can't know what unschooling is like until they do it - it doesn't "work" until it is a commitment - you can't say, "We're going to try unschooling for a year and see how it goes," because there is always the threat of school hanging over the kids' heads and that threat will destroy the unschooling atmosphere.

The same is true with marriage. If you are holding onto the idea that divorce is one of your options, it hangs around like a big huge dense fog bank - poisonous fog. As long as divorce is one of your options - one that you're actively considering - your marriage is not going to improve.

If your husband is destructive in such a way that the KIDS would be better off without him in their daily lives, then by all means consider divorce. Otherwise, you married him, you made children, and you DO owe it to your children to be selfless enough to find a way around whatever obstacles you perceive as being in the way of YOUR happiness with him. Otherwise, you are choosing your happiness OVER your children's well-being. You can rationalize that all you want - convince yourself that there ARE children out there who are happy in spite of their parents' divorce, but you'll know, inside, that you were selfish and did not put your children first. Your happiness will be sullied by that knowledge.

IF you mentally commit to staying married to their father and to making the happiest home possible for them, you'll discover that there are many options that you haven't considered and you'll be better able to "hear" the ideas being offered to you here. You are engaging in a lot of all-or-nothing thinking, right now, and that is because you keep thinking, "I'll just leave," "I can't take this," "This isn't fair to me." And, finally, every time you think, to yourself, "I deserve to be happy, too!" then you're creating a dichotomy - "HE must change or I won't be happy." Not necessarily true. If you can truly give up the idea that he has to change in order for you to be happy (and not resentful) IN your marriage, you'll find out there are all kinds of good possibilities and your image of what you want is just one of those.

-pam



Is "divorce" is something that you used to try get your dh to listen and take you seriously? It's easy to say when it's on your mind. If you did and your feeling bad about that tell him don't stew. Say it now, do it now, live it now.

I realize that divorce wasn't the main part of your post but it is possibly the main part that needs change before unschooling can happen.
For whatever reason you see your family in crisis, your dh needs fixing of some sort and you want to unschool your children.
You can do this all at once by changing what YOU do and what YOU see as in need of repair.

Take today, change what your doing and make it work. Cook a different meal, take a bath, be with your DH peacefully and hug your girls. Life is what you make it and YOU can change you.

Laura
Unschoolingmaine.com


Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

In the whole wash of e-mails about spousal cooperation yesterday there was a comment about setting a bad example by making your husband happy:

YOU give in and go along for the sake of peace.
Make HIS life happy and joyful and good.

Does that not set a bad example for the girls? That moms are responsible for making everyone else happy at the expense of their own happiness? I think that if I witnessed that growing up, I'd never want to get married.

It seems to me that this message contains two assumptions. The first is that it is only at personal sacrifice that one can make another person happy. Somehow a dichotomy has been established wherein only one person can be happy at a go. But marriage isn't a tug of war. It's a partnership. Giving to someone on your team is going to work well for you as much as it is for them. The second assumption is that giving is only one sided. One of the oft stated, but never guaranteed, discoveries with unschooling is that generosity begets generosity. While I've been writing an e-mail came in with this in the text: "The one thing that I can single out that has most helped my marriage is unschooling. After I started treating my children nicer, more respectfully and gentler, it just sort of spilled over into my marriage. What a difference it can make. And then it just spills over into friendships and family at large. And now I notice my husband being more respectful and kinder." If you give so shall you receive; if you are kind people will be kind in response; if you smile the whole world smiles with you. I think there is a third assumption. It's an assumption that this is a short term relationship. When David and I were first married I can recall keeping a sort of mental tally of what each of us had done for the other. I didn't want to be left having given more than I received. I have no idea what the balance is now. I have no need to know. And I don't know when I stopped keeping my tally, but I do know that it was part of feeling happy and safe in my marriage. I don't know how you stop keeping score, maybe you just do, maybe you just decide that whatever happens tomorrow, now is what counts.
Does that not set a bad example for the girls? That moms are responsible for making everyone else happy at the expense of their own happiness? I think that if I witnessed that growing up, I'd never want to get married.
If I'd seen my parents happy and sharing and working together I would have thought it was possible to be happy in marriage in ways I didn't realize until long into my own marriage.

People talk alot about modelling the behavior you want to see in your children. So, if you want politeness, you are polite, if you want generousity, you are generous, etc... It seems to me that if you want your children to have happy marriages you work to make your own happy and you live that happy marriage in front of your children. If you want your children, girls or boys, to see that men are stupid and wrong and powerful and women are smart and right and powerless, than nagging and complaining and making bitter asides are a good route to take. But if you want them to see that a loving, supportive relationship is possible, with work and with kindness and with giving without expectation of reciprocity, then live that, then model that.

David and I were talking about gifts tonight as we were making dinner together. He said that he doesn't work at our marriage, none of the things he does for me are work, because those things are gifts. And if he can see them as gifts then toil is no longer a part of it. He's right. When I fold the laundry with the image of Linnaea dancing in her dress of choice it isn't labor at all. Or when I wash the dishes thinking about how much easier and more pleasant fixing the next meal will be, it is less about the toil in that moment and more about the joy in the next. But if I think about how many times I've done the dishes recently and how I don't want to do them tonight and I'm tired and why can't someone else do this and I always do them... it is all about labor.

Being happy in your life isn't a bad example. Giving to people you love isn't a bad example. Loving someone enough to not see every fight as a win or lose situation isn't a bad example.

Schuyler


From January 2013, on Radical Unschooling Info, on Facebook:

A mom wrote: -=-I did not ask for advice on fixing my marriage. I was wondering what some options are for me to make an income while being a single parent and still continuing to unschool.-=-

SandraDodd response:

The volunteers (every single one of them volunteers, many with happy marriages that weren't always happy, many with now-grown children) never promised to answer people's exact questions. They're here to discuss how unschooling can work well.

A person who divorces might not get to "still continue to unschool." There might someday be your new husband, your ex-husband's new wife, and those four would pretty much have to agree on things. And if you ask a judge to enforce child support, how likely is he to do that without also mandating that you put your child in school?

An intact marriage/family has MANY more rights and freedoms than a split family involved with the court system.

And there are dozens to hundreds of people who will read these exchanges, and their lives might be strengthened by what they think when reading this.

If you can fix your marriage, you should do it for your daughter's sake. If you think that's trivial, read this: http://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Legacy-Divorce-Landmark-Study/dp/0786886161


A mom posted this. I'll leave her name off, but it's powerful.
Don't assume the kids get to live with mom either - The kids could be "given" to the dad by the courts and weekend visitation to the mom - I saw one case of a friend where the dad got the kids and she had to work to pay child support to the dad!!!!! AND he was the one that cheated on her - which is why she asked for the divorce in the first place. Divorce can be very nasty and ugly if the parties involved are fighting and being vindictive.

I saw my own parents divorce after 25 years of marriage - A marriage I remember as being "just fine" no fighting, abuse, etc. The 3 older of us children were grown, I was 18 and next to the youngest but my younger sister was only 5. It was ugly for years and years afterwards - my mom suddenly walked out on dad for another man, I saw my dad get down on his knees and beg my mom not to leave him. My brother was 21 and he did not speak to my mom for 20 years - while my older sister and I struggled mightily with it all - things like where do you stay when you go home to visit - as we would not stay with mom due to the man, etc. Anyway, I watched my dad struggle to pay child support and had no say so in how the money was spent - for instance the other man could spend it on his kids, go to the bars, etc. I saw my dad buy things for my sister and then the other man would sell it for the money. If my dad took my sister shopping and bought her clothes or bought groceries for them it did not count as child support - he had to pay the money / cash. When my younger sister was with dad she never mentioned mom and when she was with mom she never mentioned dad. When she was old enough to ask, she asked to live with dad (high school) but mom fought it; so back to court they had to go and the courts said yes. It's been 27 years and my dad has passed away BUT it still affects our family dynamics.


A dad came to vent once, or to engage his wife in an argument in public perhaps; I forget now. But Cass Kotrba responded beautifully. The dad's words first, and then Cass:
-=- My questions and concerns were... OUR children being allowed to throw their trash wherever (and yes we have trash cans throughout OUR home). Our children not washing their hands after going potty. Our children being able to eat food and candy wherever they want. Our children cruising the house with messy hands. Our children getting and doing what they want when they want, like going to the bowling alley and spending money on frivolous throw away games and toys. -=-

-=-I was wondering if this is accepted behavior with unschooling families because to ME it seems unhealthy, rude, disrespectful, a lack of discipline and a way to set up for bad behavior down the road and a way to create stress now which is what we are dealing with. I would not like for my children to behave the way I have described in someone elses home.-=-

You are asking us what the inside of your home "should" look like and we can't answer that for you. We can tell you that life and creativity are often messy processes. In my house I choose to think of it as a "creative and/or joyful mess". You can choose to look at your wife, children and home with a critical, judgemental eye or with a loving, compassionate, joyful eye full of gratefulness. How wonderful that you have 4 beautiful, healthy young children running around your home creating happy messes. How blessed you are to have this bright & brave woman in your life providing all these rich, memory making experiences.

Changing over to unschooling is a BIG change for all of you. Not to mention the added challenges of your wife being pregnant with your fifth child. Switching from a traditional parenting/schooling perspective to an unschooling one is wonderful & very much worthwhile but it is by no means without its challenges. It can be a messy deal. Working through those challenges takes time, love, patience.

When you have an employee or a work situation it is ok to have expectations and standards that they are required to meet. But families don't work well under that type of top down management system. A strong family is a team. You are a member of that team. You are not the coach or the manager. You are there to play & work, just the same as everyone else. If you come into the game & see that your pitcher, quarterback or whatever is struggling, what do you do? Do you beat that person down or do you try to help out where you can to try to keep the game going in a winning direction? What is best for the team? How can you help improve the things you are unhappy about in your home? To what extent is this an actual problem and how much a lack of perspective on your part? Can you find a way to see your wife in a more compassionate, loving light? Have you yourself ever spent a day caring for the 4 children either in the home or at an event? Do you think such an activity might give you a different perspective?

A lot of what you are worrying about in the statements above seem to indicate a fear that you are losing control. Where does that worry come from? Do you really believe it's good to try to control other people? Children learn kindness, patience, generosity & respect by being treated (& seeing Mom & pets treated) with love, respect, kindness, generosity & patience.

You are upset about a bowling trip where family funds were spent. Was it money you could not afford to spend or is it the way in which it was spent that you object to? If you had been included in the trip & had been wrapped up in the fun & excitement of the moment with them do you think it would have still seemed like a waste? Have you ever gone to the bar to have a few drinks when you could have stayed home & drank them less expensively? Would you enjoy it if they could try to include you in some of these fun type of family outings?

Think about what you are really upset about & why. Do you think that being grumpy & cross with your wife will help you guys come to a better place or make it more difficult? Are a few dollars and a bit of stickiness/untidiness worth ruining relationships over? How much would a divorce cost? How messy would that make life? Can you find a way to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

-Cass *


Lori Odhner:
Couples whose marriages are sick are often skittish about seeking help. A friend of ours did a study of why couples wait until the marriage is all but lifeless to finally go for counseling. The reasons they gave were vague.

If parents want to give the best to their child, including warm clothes and good health care, an intact family should be at the top of the list.

Many of the maladies that claim marriages are completely curable.

Lori was one of my first La Leche League leaders, and was unschooling years ago. She's also a member of "The New Church," and being married to a minister ended up working with church-related school, and didn't stay with homeschooling in the long run, but she and her husband are very involved with the promotion of healthy marriages. Most of their work and Lori's writings are applicable to anyone, religious or not, within their church or not.

The rest of that post could be disturbing, as it's a true story of a couple not having sought medical treatment for a child, but that's the point: Some things are completely curable. It's here: http://archive.aweber.com/marriagemoats/7Q4jg/h/Marriage_Moats_Sickness.htm


Unschooling Partnerships is a discussion list created by unschoolers to help other unschoolers apply the principles developed in the examination and implementation of unschooling in their partner relationships. Follow the link for a better description.


A list of online marriage-strengthening sites and resources: http://www.caringformarriage.org/website-reviews/

From Lori Odhner's "Marriage Moats":

This morning I read the blog of a classmate who is battling stage four cancer. She and her incredibly devoted husband have given everything they have to fighting this. They have zoomed across the country to pursue alternative treatments, which involve pain, nausea, time and expense. Recently they sold their home in order to move closer to a doctor who is on the cutting edge in oncology. They cram what is left of their previous life in between the incessant injections, scans and surgeries.

I wonder if her husband still has his job, given the consuming demands of this disease. It is also hard to believe that insurance is covering all or most of these procedures, the transportation to get there and the accommodations during each stay. One needle, never mind the medication that went into it, cost $3000. Yet frugality does not seem to appear on their list of priorities. They made no mention of turning down a test because it was too dear.

I have the utmost respect for them both, and they are in my prayers. I relish that they are able to find gifts in the midst of all this agony, and that they are supported by friends and family. Probably their sense of cherishing each other has never been more poignant.

Marriages get sick too. They need emergency treatments, cutting edge procedures. I personally make a stab at providing books and resources to people who are in pain. There are expensive options out there too. John and I watched Tony Robbins in action, as he brought a miraculous healing to a husband and wife not thirty feet from us. His trainings carry a hefty price tag, along the lines of one specialty needle. There are fleets of therapies, boot camps for anger management, cruises, counselors and relationship programs that offer miracle cures for couples. Divorce Busting, Imago, Beyond Affairs Network, Retrouvaille, Hedy and Yumi and PAIRS are all care providers in the field of marriage that have found ways to shrink the tumors that threaten the life expectancy of love.

There was a little more, particular to her religion. It's all here.

Also from Marriage Moats (brief, simple):



If you're considering separation...

SpousesUnschooling can make us better partners!

Generosity (written about parents and children, but the principles apply)

Some reasons people divorce and other articles