One of the most accepted reasons that a lot of people stay in miserable, abusive, or otherwise ridiculous relationships is to keep the family together. He’s staying with her because of the kids, people whisper. Once the kids leave, they’re done – they’ve been done for a long time. I’ve heard it among friends. I’ve said it about others. For a while, I thought that I would be one of those people.
So, with some shock, at present, I respectfully disagree with those assessments.
I submit that while some may believe that they stay in terrible relationships and marriages because of their children, it’s actually due to a much more subtle reason that I can only describe to you now, after some time removed from the situation.
When I first broke up with my ex, naturally, I hated being away from my daughter and her half-sister. But after spending a good part of three years with a family unit, and changing diapers, reading stories, going to parent/teacher meetings, brushing hair in the mornings, I was a little surprised to notice after a short time that not seeing the kids on a continual basis was not the thing that bothered me most.
Nope. After the ex, I went out and got an nice apartment that had a lot of room and a spare bedroom for my daughter, grabbed some furniture, and almost immediately started having Grace over, which was great. Also, I had a chance to meet and spend time with other people, which eventually led to my present relationship. But I would notice that when I walked by my daughter’s room , filled with her playpen, some clothes, some blankets, toys and books, when neither of the kids were at the house, I would get a chill. Even seeing her door from my master bedroom was bothersome.
As time went on, I noticed myself closing the door to her room when she wasn’t at home. This didn’t help. Still I could feel that empty room calling out to me. I tried sleeping in her room on the floor, and found that didn’t help either. I even tried moving the bed around didn’t work. The couch in the living room was even less comfortable.
It occurs to me now that it wasn’t just being away from my daughter that was painful, it was that haunted, empty room, and I submit that is the dark secret for many parents, men and women, that keeps us from that necessary divorce or split: fear of that empty room.
As time as gone on, I no longer fear the empty room. My daughter shares a room with her half-sister at her mother’s house; here, she has a room all to herself. Within that room I have pictures, a bookcase, two beds and a dresser. All match. All of her toys are exactly where she leaves them when she leaves our home; her dolly is in her crib and covered with her blanky, gloves are in the wrong drawer, birthday balloon still in the closet, Elmo in my daughter’s bed, piggy bank (with change), still sitting on the bookcase, and puzzles strewn all about, and the scribbled picture she drew me in crayon as a present… and I can look at all with a smile.
Don’t be afraid of the empty room.
Happiness can still follow. Believe it.