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Are You Just Staying Married For The Kids?

parenting marriage


Are You Just Staying Married For The Kids?

Staying married for the kids with a parenting marriage might be just what you need

Every family law attorney I know is dreading going back to work tomorrow, and all for the same reason: After clamoring to get their 2015 client cases completed by the end of the tax year, they will be faced with a barrage of phone calls first thing Monday morning from new potential clients (It’s not that these lawyers don’t want new clients, it’s just that the volume of calls can be overwhelming).

According to one attorney, there’s a 30% increase in the volume of calls in January (link is external)over other times of the year.  Because of this huge uptick in divorce filings the first business day in January, the day has actually been dubbed, Divorce Monday (and January is called, Divorce Month).

If you are not among those motivated to file, you may be wondering why anyone would leave in the middle of their kids’ school year? It doesn’t make sense.

If, however, you’re a petitioner, you’d likely say that the holidays were more than you could stand in your loveless (likely sexless) marriage; you may have wanted out months ago but, as Fall approached, you decided that you didn’t want to ruin the kids’ holidays so you endured all the family obligations. Now, however, enough is enough. With the turning of the calendar page to the New Year, your first resolution will be to move forward in filing the paperwork: You’re determined to make this your year to be true to yourself and take charge of living the life you want to lead. Waiting much longer, you’re afraid, might do you in completely.

As your finger is perched on the button that will change the fate of your marriage (and your life), the last thing you want is for someone to come along and talk you out of your convictions, or someone who’s going to try to make you feel awful or ashamed about wanting to divorce.

Let me say upfront that it’s not my intention to make you feel bad or wrong. And, were it not for a completely viable, but not widely known alternative to divorce, I would not be trying to butt in to your life. As I tell my clients all the time, I have no agenda as to whether your stay in or leave your marriage. In fact, I have a saying: “The world doesn’t need more married people, the world needs more authentic and happy people.”

Kids are not harmed by divorce per se.(link is external) There’s ample research out there proving that divorce isn’t the worst thing that parents can do to kids (fighting terribly and subjecting them to vitriolic hatred toward each other is the worst thing you can do to your kids! Staying married in that state is actually worse for kids than if you got divorced!). I’ve seen many people divorce and, because they handled their emotions well, the children also did well. I’ve also witnessed couples do significant damage to their kids by staying in an unhealthy relationship and trying to “make it work.”

But, because it’s true that a two-parent household can have tremendous advantages over two single-parent homes, it’s worth asking, “What if you could stay for the kids AND lead your own life—possibly even having outside romantic relationships?”

I know what you’re thinking, “People do this already, Susan. It’s called an AFFAIR. Just look at the  36-million-member site, Ashley Madison!”

I’m very well aware that romantic affairs goes on illicitly, but what I’m suggesting is that this can happen in an above-board, respectful kind of way.

It’s called a Parenting Marriage and more and more couples are turning to this option as a way to “stay for the kids” while not staying stuck in a bad marriage.

As spouses, you basically change your job description from lover, best friend and co-parent to co-parent first and foremost, maybe friends but no longer lovers.

In the past six years, I’ve helped dozens of couples across the U.S. transition from their traditional marriage to this non-traditional variation on the theme. Many are finding it surprisingly workable. Of course, it’s complicated and the need for clear agreements in place is paramount, but it can be done if you and your spouse want the same things.

Next week, I’ll share some stories of the couples that have tried a Parenting Marriage and the various outcomes they’ve had. If you’re intrigued, stay tuned. If you’re offended by this Parenting Marriage idea, I invite you to tune in again next week and just listen to some of the ways people have made this arrangement work. You might be surprised.

In the meantime, I’d recommend, for those who can, that you hold off filing for divorce—just until you learn a little more about this emerging trend. You may ultimately still choose to divorce but it will make me feel better knowing that you explored one more option before calling it quits completely.

[Susan Pease Padua]

As a child of divorced parents, Susan knows first-hand how disruptive an unhappy marriage and subsequent marital dissolution can be. When her mother and father split in 1981 (on their 28th wedding anniversary), marriage counseling was unheard of and emotional divorce support virtually nonexistent. Her own experience, combined with years of working with couples in distress – both in striving to save their marriage or transition out of it – led Susan to become passionate about offering support to people at perhaps one of the most crucial junctures in their lives. In 2000, Susan founded the Transition Institute of Marin and began providing information and counseling to this underserved population. Books Eight years later, Susan wrote, Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go (New Harbinger Publishing, Inc. © 2008), a book that provides objective guidance to those struggling in a rocky marriage as well as invaluable information on how to navigate the divorce process. Contemplating Divorce became a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller its first week in publication. In 2010, Susan completed a meditation book for those challenged by difficult emotions during and after divorce entitled, Stronger Day by Day, Reflections for Healing and Rebuilding After Divorce. Susan’s latest book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, is a collaboration with journalist Vicki Larson. You can learn more about this project by clicking on The New I Do page. Susan has helped hundreds of people gain clarity in their relationships. Her private therapy practice consists of couples, individuals (local and distance therapy clients) and the many relationship or divorce support groups she runs. Susan in the Media As an often-featured writer for the Huffington Post Divorce page, Susan also writes a regular column for and Susan has been a guest on the CBS Early Show as well as numerous radio shows across the U.S. and Canada and has also been featured in: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Psychology Today Magazine, Divorce Magazine, The View From the Bay and more.

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