Divorce. Never mind the details, I just need to minimize the impact.

An anonymous poster on another blog asked the age-old question: how do I minimize the impact of a divorce on my children when I love my husband, he loves me, we are both great parents, and are kids are next to perfect?

Having my closest contact with divorce being a few close friends, one sister-in-law, some ward members, and about a third of the kids in my Primary class, it's plain that I'm no expert. But the poster wasn't asking for advice from Divorce Mediators International, she was asking on a public blog. So my answer is probably at least averagely qualified.

Stephen Marsh responded to the question at hand, thusly:

The next thing to do is to work on an explanation for how you have found something more important to you than your love for your spouse and children…explains why you are willing to hurt them, why you need for them to sacrifice and support you in spite of the harm to them.

You may not like the delivery, but Stephen is spot on. Even before the poster gives any details about the situation, you could see that she found something that trumped those very good things. Something that was compelling enough to dissolve the family over.

In spite of all the loving being dished about, the poster had decided to divorce. The questions themselves implied at least some knowledge of the pain and difficulty that would be involved. There's no denying that divorce carries a smack of devastation. (For example, a popular site on coping with divorce says, “Be honest about the potential for emotional trauma in your individual children.”) And she'd like to lessen the impact to her kids and to her husband whom she hasn't let in on the little secret being discussed on the Bloggernacle.

So, it's simply true that the poster has determined that something is important enough even with the good things that exist to go through with the divorce and allow the trauma that will result to take its toll.

Stephen's position doesn't imply that the poster is selfish or cruel (as some accused), or even that she is wrong. It simply requires her to acknowledge what the real choice is about. And it's about choosing to allow/cause one set of painful consequences in order to alleviate another. Not a fun position to be in, to be sure. And one that requires wisdom.

We are later told that the poster's husband is generally asexual and has, ultimately, no interest in intimacy or a close relationship with anyone, but is committed to his vows and his family, nonetheless.

I've never been divorced, nor in the position of the poster. But from the short explanation given, it seems that the trade-off here is something, remotely, generally, vaguely, like this:

Possible Consequences Set 1:
divorce; separation from parents; lack of companionship; lack of everyday involvement; possible shuttling from one home to another; upheaval in schedule/friends/living arrangements/wards; possible remarriage and step/half-siblings; shared resource; increased living expenses; different rules/upbringing; split loyalties; shared resources; insecurity; sleep difficulties; anger; anxiety; fear; grief; shame; depression; manipulation; loss; moodiness; low self-esteem; poor self-care; excessive sadness; irrational fears or clinginess; poor concentration; etc.

Possible Consquences Set 2:
very limited sex; very limited intimacy; not in a relationship with someone who will “fight for you” or who wants to be “with” you; unable to fulfill “craving” to “be one” with someone; loss of dream of the ideal marriage; loss of romance; etc.

From my best analysis, the first set is mostly felt by the children, with some being experienced by both adults; the second, primarily by the wife initiating the divorce.

I realize this isn't exhaustive in either case, it's just what I could glean from my limited exposure to divorce and the poster's comments. I'm happy to revise the lists with input from those more knowledgeable. The important point is to acknowledge what the real trade-offs are and who will be hurt the most by the alternative choices especially when there is an inequity in power.

There is no way I'll pretend to know the “right” answer, but from an uninvolved position, the latter set of problems looks like the lesser of two evils to me. And, for perspective, I do believe that the parents' desires and dreams come in a distant second (or worse) when they conflict with the responsibility to contribute to the well-being of their children.

In addition, I don't buy the idea put forth by the poster that, “we ?re all hurting regardless,” meaning that the status quo is harmful to everyone involved. I have friends who are less than ideal mates, who are less than sexually compatible, who have had an illness or injury that left then unable and/or unwilling to be intimate physically or emotionally. I can't think of an instance where the kids were “hurting” because the parents didn't have sex enough, unless the parents responded to that situation in a way that was hurtful. And I've seen nearly platonic relationships where the parents responded in a way that allowed the children to thrive in an intact family.

Another approach posed to the situation one that is far too common in our culture is the idea that those in less than ideal marriages should get out, based on some notion of living with integrity. Staying in an imperfect and/or lacking marriage is said to be “living a lie.” We all know that “honesty is the best policy,” so good Mormons must strive to live an “authentic life” by being “true to oneself.” After all, didn't President Hinckley counsel us to “be true”?


First of all, kids don't give a hoot about parental authenticity. “Mom, dad, please be more authentic. If you are angry at me, don't talk calmly and apply consequences, throw a vase at my head.”

Second, what is “inauthentic” about staying married to someone with whom we made vows, who we love, who loves us, who is a great parent to our children, and who is committed to providing a family for his children? Even if the sex and intimacy and “oneness” aren't even on the same planet as our dreams?

I'd love for everyone to have a fairy tale marriage and to live happily ever after. But most people don't. And, frankly, would we need marriage vows if most of us did?