If You're Considering Separation...

When a couple is thinking about separation, sometimes they're not thinking about anything but relief and magical improvement. "How much better it would be if..."

There was a discussion the other day on the unschooing chat, and afterwards Glenda Sikes created this really nice list:

Here's what I came up with to contribute to a "things to consider when thinking about separation or divorce"... It doesn't look like much, but it makes for a lot of thought :).

1. Based on current employment situations, can we afford two households? That would include monthly rent + utilities, plus move-in deposits for those things. Will s/he have to obtain furniture, kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, etc.?

2. For a one-vehicle household (or if the second vehicle is not especially reliable), how will a second (or more reliable) car, and liability insurance for same, be funded for the spouse who doesn't mainly use the one vehicle?

3. If health insurance is provided by one spouse's employer and the whole family is covered, will the ex-spouse be able to afford the COBRA coverage or to otherwise replace the health insurance?

4. How will the children's lifestyle change because of changes in finances due to separation or divorce of their parents? Will fee-based activities have to be discontinued? (In addition to things like sports, acting classes, music classes, consider things like World of Warcraft and Xbox Live.) If the kids currently receive an allowance, will that be continued?

5. If two households cannot be supported based on current employment situations, how will we continue unschooling? Be realistic, and be specific. How will our kids' social lives be affected if both adults are at work at the same time and the kids are not driving age (with their own car)?

6. If my spouse and I split up, it's realistic to expect my ex will date and possibly remarry while our children are still minors. When our children are with my ex, I will have ZERO control over the people my kids are being exposed to. Am I ready to put my kids in that position?

7. How will I feel not having this person in my life any longer? This is my best friend -- do I *really* want to lose my best friend? How will it be to not ever kiss or hold hands with or make love to this person again? It's not common for couples to get a second chance, but we have the ability to make that second chance happen right now -- wouldn't it stink to not take it and then to regret it later (for example, when s/he remarries!)?

Glenda Sikes built the list from a discussion; it's a good checklist of considerations.

Sylvia Toyama's additions:
That's a good list, Sandra. I thought I had only addition, then as I typed more occurred to me.

What about relocation issues—once you divorce, what are the odds either of you will relocate? Will you follow your ex, or expect them to follow you? Are you willing to agree to stay where you are so that your ex-spouse can have time with the children? Would your spouse agree to such limits as well? If not, would you be comfortable sending your children to visit their other parent hundreds or maybe thousands of miles away? Who would pay for that travel, and where would the funds come from?

Also, while things may be bad now between two people, separation/divorce adds another layer (or several) of anger, disappointment, frustration, and hurt which can lead to really mean behavior towards each other, with children often caught up in the meanness. Yes, sometimes things can be worked out peaceably enough, but that can take a tremendous effort—and lots of trust. Things often get worse at some point, before they get better.

And, once you go to court to decide things like custody, support, visitation, limits on relocation, property distribution, etc, you've involved the courts in your life and in your children's lives. You open the door to having your children evaluated by experts and recommendations made on their behalf by guardians ad litem and psychiatrists.


Jill Parmer:
I recently learned in the state I live in (Colo.), step parents have the same rights as parents. They are allowed to "put their hands on their children", meaning they are allowed to spank and physically grab and wrestle children in order to control them. (told to my by a police officer.)

So not only zero control over the people your kids would be exposed to, but another person (possible future step parent) would have equal rights as you, over your children.


Jennifer Cramer wrote:
Maybe add something like "Will it get any easier to work together for the best interests of the children if we are separated or divorced?"

Jen (who says it's not her original idea but she learned it from Ren or Meredith or someone and if she finds an exact quote will send it)

[Jill might rephrase this later, but it's good for now.]
One more idea/question I thought of has something to do with the price the kids pay for the parents' decision to separate. I don't have the clear wording yet, but something about the brunt of the burden being on the kids, who are the ones who will end up moving weekly or twice weekly to visit the other parent, of not having their own base, being uprooted often. Or possibly not having access to one parent as much as they need, if one parent moves away. Or in my case, losing a connection with both my parents who chose to put their new relationships at a higher priority than my relationship to them.

Something like....

What is the price your kids will pay if you separate?
- Not having the stability of a home base.
- The unsettledness of "moving" once or twice weekly.
- Losing their things in between homes.
- Losing a connection with the parents as the parents take on new relationships.
- Losing resources that now need to go to two separate homes.
- Becoming pawns between resentful parents.
- Getting mixed up between loyalty and guilt (needing to be careful what to say to each parent, not being able to declare their love for the other parent).


"fascist PC garbage"?

In June 2018, a request for ideas to keep a marriage together was posted at a bad time, worded in a bad way, and there was a frenzy of horribly negative and bad advice. It took two days for it to settle. Some people left the facebook discussion, some were thrown out, and the mom with the original question wrote that she was stunned by some of the negative advice.

Another Mom ONE:
leave. leave. leave. leave. LEAVE.

this is abuse, plain and simple. get out and get your family safe. i dont care if i get banned from this silly group. your son is in danger and you must remove him. no excuse. PM me and i will 2000% help you. done with this fascist PC garbage.


Another Mom TWO:
I totally agree with you! And am shocked at advice other than to leave from the person who runs this page!! Ridiculous
First Mom, ONE:
R.E.A.L.L.Y. W.T.F.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/303347574750/permalink/10155859035019751/ I should not have put that post through, in that way, at that hour. I ended up staying up all night, with that furious overnight riot.

The first time I posted a pro-marriage comment, someone wrote "I didn't know you had become a fundamentalist Christian." But I'm an atheist.

The comfort of a child living with his own biological parents has nothing to do with religion.

The advantages of a stable, long marriage are not imaginary, not political, not "PC," not "fascist" and not "garbage." Helping families get along better is not "ridiculous."

But negativity is contagious. And divorce is contagious.

If you're having problems, don't ask people who write or say things like this just above. Find people who can help you think of ways to stay. If it doesn't work you can separate, but if you ask cynical, negative, divorced people who want to justify their own divorce, they will drag you down with them and insult you if you don't want to go.

From a discussion on Always Learning in November 2015 (added to this page in October 2018), the summary response from the mom with the original question. My intro at the time was "Here is a beautiful response from the anonymous mom with the original question I think it will help everyone who reads it." I've added links to some of the things she mentioned.

My only regret in writing is that I didn't write the group sooner.

It gives me lots of hope that there are other marriages who have been here and moved past it. I pretty much got the advice I expected and it came with some specifics that will help.

When I first signed up for Just Add Light and Stir I enjoyed reading and thinking about the messages every morning but I haven't given them time to sink in lately, I'll take that time again, it helps.

I never wanted to consider divorce, I was afraid he was going to walk away. My boys happiness is far more important to me than my own, I can find so much joy in their smiles, unless their safety was at stake (which it isn't), leaving daddy is not on the table.

Karen James' suggestions to soften into the little moments is exactly what I need to do. There are lots of good moments if I don't crowd them out by getting prickly about the bad moments. I will more consciously shift my focus.

I don't have any close friends where we are but I'm very lucky that the group of mommas we spend a lot of time with is a very positive group. There is never any husband bashing.

From Sandra: -=-The next step is not to think those things, and not to store them up and polish them and wonder when the right time to say them will be. -=-

Of course. So simple, not easy, but simple. I can do that. I can change my thought patterns and stop thinking those thoughts (I did know there was never a time to say those awful thoughts if I wanted to keep the marriage). The image of keeping thoughts and polishing them up is a really good description of what I was doing.

In response to the "who do I think I am?" part, I think I'm going to work on shifting my emphasis away from identifying as an unschooling mom more to being mom and wife. My husband isn't very interested in unschooling as he understands it, but after a good conversation we had the other day, I think that's just cause his understanding is based on my very flawed original understanding from years ago. The important parts (he knows school is unnecessary in any form) he gets, he just wants some "Structure" for them. Take their hands and show them new things they couldn't find on their own. Of course! I think I probably focused too much on the freedom early on when we really discussed it together and since school age was so far away he just let it go. But as my understanding evolved I haven't let him in on that particular evolution of thought. He is willing to read stuff I email him so long as I don't send too much. I don't need to unschool, if DH feels better without that label as long as my boys are respected as people with opinions and individuals we can make it work.

The Service , chores/gift and gratitude pages of Sandra's site have been my favorites since I found them. I'm a terrible housekeeper by my mother's standards but I've been able to shift my attitiude and do what's necessary with joy and both of my boys not only help but will initiate cleaning. (Is there anything sweeter than a 5 year old saying "Momma, can I do the dishes?" cleanliness is SO not a learned behavior!)

It would make DH happier if I could keep the house cleaner though. That wasn't possible for a long time but I finally got diagnosed as severely hypothyroid a few months ago and I have the energy to do it now. I can find ways to reestablish housekeeping as a higher priority for him.

My husband had a sad and lonely childhood. Sometimes I forget that he's got a really big hole to fill there. He is much needier than I am. He does work hard to provide a good paycheck at a job he doesn't love so I can stay home with the boys. I do thank him for that, but not often enough.

We have the fairly classic roles of male provider, female homemaker and mother. Being reminded that the role of "daddy" is fairly new is a great reminder to be grateful for the time he does spend with them.

I love the reminder from Mary to look for thing to be grateful for AND things I can do for him. After I wrote this post I did walk around and ask myself what I could to to "say I love you" for him, I ended up cleaning his desk and plugging in his wireless headphones. So simple but I felt better and he noticed and appreciated it. I've done that occasionally but doing it daily would be so much better!

After the reminder from Sandra that it is a new expectation it was so helpful to think about why I expected/wanted him to spend more time with the boys. Partially I'm jealous that he gets to sit down and do exactly what he wants for hours with very few interruptions. A lot is that I know the boys are so happy when they do get focused attention from daddy. I never considered it before but he probably isn't very comfortable in his role as daddy. He knows he doesn't want to be like his father but I haven't built up his confidence by correcting his every misttep (I've been a lot better about that the last year or two but the dynamic was probably too firmly established already).

He does know I want more time with him and I know with two little boys we won't get a lot but so many of the opportunities we do have he seems to almost actively avoid by going to bed early (he's a night owl, going to bed early used to only happen when he was sick and now seems to also happen when he's frustrated with me or the boys) or just spending the whole time on his computer.

I will be more welcoming, I will stop criticizing his choices that are different than mine (not even in my head). I will be more present when he is with the boys so I can redirect when they do start to frustrate each other (and I will find a way to do it without it being a critique of him! Milkshakes anyone?) so playtime is more fun for everyone and maybe he'll want to do it more or at least it won't end in frustration. I will look for the sweet and kind and lovable things about him and let them crowd out the parts I don't. I will be sweeter and softer and kinder. I will NOT send a bill or expect a response. The home will be sweeter and softer and kinder because *I* have changed. Anything further is bonus. I will reread this daily and then weekly until I no longer need the reminder.

Thank you all SO much. I can do this.

That discussion is here: https://groups.io/g/AlwaysLearning/message/76138

Here is Karen James' response (mentioned above):
-=-Are there any times that complaining to a spouse about their behavior and how it makes me feel are actually helpful?-=-

It's good to complain if you've paid for a service or product that doesn't match the standards it has advertised. I don't think it's a good idea to complain to a person whose behaviour doesn't live up to our expectations, especially if that person is someone we hope to have a relationship with. Talking with that person might work if the person is open to it, and the conversation flows both ways. I love Sandra's leaning on a truck page. Some of Doug (my husband) and my best conversations have grown out of playing a game together, or working side by side in some way, or driving in the car.

Leaning on a Truck

-=-It's still really hard for me to look at my husband and see Him and not the Man-I-Wished-I'd-Married (or rather how he falls short of that).-=-

For now, don't look for Him, with a capital H. Look for little things you like about what he's doing moment to moment. If he smiles at the boys a certain way, and you like the way that looks, soften into it. Enjoy that. If you like the way his shoulders span under his t-shirt, take an extra moment to appreciate it. If he sets down his cup gently, or he is careful about something, take time to see that. If you enjoy staying at home with your children, remember to appreciate the work he does to help you have this time with them. Most importantly, look at the children you and he have made together. Appreciate them. They wouldn't be who they are without your husband. Build up a cache of little things that are good about your husband, and let them be the colours you paint his portrait with.

When the resentment lifts a bit, and it feels natural, and you've spent some time noticing things you do enjoy about him, let him know what you appreciate. You don't need to say it always with words. It can be with a touch or a look.

Be someone he enjoys being with. If he likes movies, find movies he enjoys and offer to watch them with him. If he likes certain kinds of books, pick up one or two for him and place them on his pillow. If there is a certain kind of music he enjoys, have it playing when you know he's coming home. Make his favourite food. Plan a vacation in a place he likes. Be a good friend to him. Be someone he can feel loves and cares about him very much.

Surround yourself with friends that encourage you, but don't commiserate with you. Help your friends see the same good things you've found in your husband so that they will be less inclined to speak negatively about him. If you have some more serious issues you need to talk with someone about, consider consulting with a therapist or life coach.

Sandra has a list of people who understand and support unschooling here:


Karen James

I had objected to one things in that post, and Karen came back to clarify:
-=-BUT DON'T SAY "that was a nice way to smile at the boys," or "I'm glad you set the cup down gently." That sounds like criticism, because it is. It's saying "THIS one single time you weren't a failure."-=-

Oh yes! Don't say those things. Just notice those things. Notice as many little things as you can to build up a sweeter picture of your husband for yourself. Then, when you feel confident you won't be condescending, because you've grown to truly appreciate more about your husband, let him know that you appreciate him, when it makes sense to.

Sorry, I wasn't very clear there. :-)


When I went to find the links to the original discussions to these last two discussions ("facist PC garbage" and the one from Always Learning), I found this, on facebook, also by Karen James:
***Perhaps there's something I haven't thought of that we could try.***

I think one of the most important things to remember is that we have choices. It's the choices we make, consciously or unconsciously, that take us into the future. Telling oneself (or telling another person) there is no choice but to leave is just as bad as telling oneself there is no choice but to stay.

Make thoughtful choices. Try different things. Some things that came to mind for me might be, put on happy music when you son and husband are in the room together. A comedy on tv, maybe. Paint a wall an uplifting colour. Fill the house with wonderful smelling foods. Create an environment of warmth and welcoming. Say nice things about either in front of the other. Try to set everyone up for success in ways that support their personalities. Try to be creative and think outside the box.

One never knows what might inspire a shift in thinking for another person. For my dad, a helium balloon that said "I Love You!" brought him more joy than I ever would have guessed. He was delighted by that simple gift. I could see things shift for him right there as I sat across from him watching his joy. Watch and listen closely. That's been a great tool for me.

Be mindful of how you feel and sound and act, not to merely please anyone else, but so that you can make choices that are truly in your own and your family's best interest. When something improves, try more of whatever inspired the progress. Build on anything that makes things better.

If things improve, just think about how much your son might learn--about his step-dad, about himself, about the nature of love and relationships and commitment, and the potential for personal growth. If you do decide to leave, you'll know you tried your best. You made thoughtful choices for thoughtful reasons, hopefully making things easier and clearer as you continue to move forward.

These are links to ideas that will help with kids, but I think there might be a lot of useful information and ideas there for spouses and partners too. (They may have been shared already. My apologies, if so.)

Considering Decisions
Better Choices
Make the Better Choice

Spouses Divorce Becoming a Better Partner

Seeing and Avoiding Negativity Negative approaches to peace

OUTSIDE articles and links:
Staying in an unhappy marriage could be the best thing you do, new study suggests

Two books considered together (nice commentary):
The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study
The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially

(if a paywall comes up, use the discreet/ incognito/private window option in your browser)