Splitsville Revisited

Since posting the previous entry about young family break-ups almost two years ago, I’ve continued to think about the subject. Just to restate, my wife and I are doing fine. Though it hasn’t been smooth sailing since balancing a young family, careers, and a house can have some bumps in the road. Or even some potholes or other traffic violations.

Admittedly in the previous post, I was harsh, judgmental, and maybe a bit condescending towards those who choose to split. Even despite my little disclaimer at the end suggesting that we can’t judge others without knowing everything involved. I had also written a follow-up which I didn’t post that prescribed what was needed to make sure a relationship would weather hard times. Um, yeah.. Like I’m a love and relationship guru. We all have our opinions, but the tone of both posts were not right. BTW, if you read that previous post be sure to read the comments.

Very quickly if you are interested about the two families in the previous post. It turns out that one of the parents in the family with four kids went through depression and got involved with drugs and alcohol. The parent straightened it out and moved back home before they eventually sold their home and moved elsewhere. The self-centered jerk of the other family is still a self-centered jerk. Apparently the jerk hid half of their salary from the spouse while they were married and still feels the former spouse should work visitation rights around their schedule. But enough gossip.

The real reason for revisiting this is some realizations I had after hearing from a friend about how other acquaintances with kids were having tough times. In general they are all two professional parents balancing careers with family life and they all seemed to have some sort of problem. One person wanted the other parent to keep from working so much. Another person hated that they now live out in the suburbs instead of back in the city. These two items alone show what is probably the biggest stress on the relationship. The transition mentally to being a parent in a family. While there are the physical and time demands of parenthood that take their own toll on a person and a relationship, I think the mental transition to becoming a parent takes an equal toll. Every parent makes that transition to differing degrees.

By mental transition I mean the switch from being independent to part of a family. Even as a couple, it is very easy to remain independent. I think it truly is when that transition is made to parenthood that we really start to lose that independence. Many of us have spent many years between education and working long hours to get where we are in our career. Usually couples can weather that demand on our time especially if they are both independent and are both career oriented. But the trajectory of a career can be something very difficult to slow down or put on hold if that desire to advance it is there. Plus a certain position may have been attained which has strong time demands. Do you ask to step back and take a lower position with less stress and less time required? It’s not an easy decision.

Another transition is the social aspect of it. Many of us loved living in the city with all it has to offer and many of us had to move out to the suburbs to find a place we could afford in a nice neighborhood. Some have quite a bit of difficulty with that transition. Plus some have trouble with the limited available times going out to see friends, movies, or live music. Even more importantly there seems to be rare times to spend with the spouse. It can be quite a transition that not everyone is comfortable with, despite their knowledge and understanding that this is the way life is as a young parent. On the flip side, becoming a martyr with your free time for the sake of family can be just as damaging. As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. But knowing yourself and what is possible goes a long way.

Discussing the topic with my wife, she suggested that mid-life crisis can also play a role. Many professionals who have kids later in life have that crisis when the kids are young as opposed to when the kids are teenagers like during my parents generation. Many of us stop to take stock of where we’ve gotten and what we want to do with the rest of our lives. That can be impetus to part ways if things aren’t going well especially under the stress of early parenthood.

So while I still have difficulty hearing when the parents of a young family decide to go their separate ways, I do understand more about the increased stress that early parenthood brings to a relationship.

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~ by Frank on December 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “Splitsville Revisited”

  1. Dear Life According to Frank,
    13 December the date of your post, it was also 34 years ago that you attended my wedding. I was musing yesterday about being married that long, and I found myself quite fortunate, given how so many couples give up before kids or after kids– really anytime— I don’t really think the stress of children is the reason for the majority of break ups. All relationships have their ups and downs, I know that mine has, but overall it has been a very good marriage. After nearly three and half decades of life together– we are both glad we stayed together, and we agree that we have never been bored with each other. It is luck or hard work? I think it is love, work and commitment–particularly a commitment to work things through, which has been keys to our success as a couple

    • Love and marriage are quite complex. Some fall out of love after drifting apart over the years. And I think while some people are naturally going to fall in and out of love more easily, others will stick with it for many more years. Plus any sort of stress is going to test any relationship be it love or regular friendship. I think early parenthood is one of those stressful times in a couple’s time together, so it tends to be a time when they break up.

      Congratulations on the 35 years. That’s quite a milestone.

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