We Stayed Together For Our Kids. It Works. (2023)

Divorce can be difficult for kids. But, by all accounts, trying to stay together for the kids can be even more problematic. Children are extremely intuitive and can pick up on rifts in their parent’s relationship — without fully understanding what’s behind them. Plus, it’s easy for feelings of anger or unhappiness to spread, and there are plenty of horror stories of parents who stayed together for the kids. So couples who are unhappy to the point of divorce and can’t work things out are often advised to, well, get a divorce.

Divorce isn’t always the answer, though. Some couples have found ways to live together as a family for the kids’ sake, while not being together as a couple. They act as co-parents but otherwise go about their lives separately. Will it work for everybody? God, no. But some couples make it work. Melanie Crawford and her husband, Warren, separated six years ago but still live together and parent their three kids. How does this scenario work for them? Honestly, they say, pretty well.

Fatherly spoke to Melanie and Warren about how they arrived at this situation, if there’s any weirdness between them, and what they do to make it work for themselves and their children.

So, how did you get this arrangement that you have today?

Warren: Well, we separated. That took time. But we figured out, together, that we could co-parent under the same roof. So, now, what we do is that one of us will take on the parent role. One of us will sign off and the other basically signs on and takes over control. The other is free to do whatever they like.

Melanie: It took us an entire year to restructure our relationship. Some people say, “Well, we stayed together for the kids.” All that really means is “We opted for misery for the sake of our kids.” Which is not at all what we’ve done. We re-structured our lives to achieve the goals that we still shared in common.

Over time, some of the things that make a relationship: the romantic aspects and spending time together without the kids, those just died for us. That’s not uncommon and it’s not that big of a tragedy. But we re-structured everything over the course of a year, because we did have to experience every holiday and we had to figure out how to deal with all those things. We’ve been successfully living this life now for five years. And as the kids have grown, we’ve explained the situation and lived quite openly with them, about how our family differs from what they might see at a friend’s house or learn about in school.

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So, how did that go? Talking to your kids about your new arrangement?

W: As we grew, so did the kids. So I could tell when I was going through struggles, that they were showing it too, crying and stuff like that. But once we figured out how this was working, then they [tried to take advantage of us like regular kids]. So they’re like, Who can I ask for candy? They want to figure out who is in charge today at whatever time of the day.

M: That allows us to be supportive of one another where, during marriage, we were constantly bringing each other down and sort of sabotaging our entire family unit by being unhappy and not coping with the things that are making us unhappy.

Was living in the same house originally the plan when you two got separated?

M: Two months before we announced our separation, we privately dealt with the end of our marriage. To be honest with you, I was ready to end the marriage long before Warren was.

Warren: [Laughs]

M: Like, we probably spent a couple of years in disagreement, living unhappily, together, within the house. I would say that once Warren came to terms with how I felt, and began to feel the same way himself, that’s when we decided that we don’t have to break and run. We don’t hate each other. We just aren’t working well together. I think once both of us came to feel in agreement that what we had now wasn’t working, that’s when we decided to keep as many things as normal as possible and support each other. Neither one of us can do this alone; we are not equipped to be single parents or to have adversity with each other or animosity. That’s just not going to work. And we knew that right from the beginning.

W: We had gone through two months of working this through, and then it was just a big shock to everyone else when we said we were separating. We were like, “Hey, everybody! Whoops!”

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What happens when you two switch over parenting duties? Does one of you get out of the house? Do you have a different apartment?

W: We have the option [to leave]. We can either just go to our room and have peace and do whatever we want to do, or we can leave. The responsibility of parenting has been taken away from us, basically.

M: But Warren does live with his dad in Hamilton intermittently through the week. So when we first initiated this process, he moved out and I stayed here in the home and for that first year, when we were rebuilding our lifestyle, I was never in the house when Warren was. I would literally go anywhere. I didn’t get another apartment, but I am more interested in dating outside of our relationship than Warren is, so I generally had somewhere to go. But Warren resides both here and, because he works out of the house and works closer to Toronto, he resides in Hamilton with his dad at his condo, too. The kids get to go there too. That frees up the house. But now that we’re five years in, it’s really not difficult for us to be in the same house and maintain who is in charge. But initially, it did require that whoever was not in charge was not on the scene.

So, you say you’re open with your kids about your separation. What does that openness look like?

W: One of the things that we’ve really developed is this relationship where we can do things together, like Christmas and birthday parties. That was very difficult at the beginning but then it became very easy.

M: The kids will openly discuss how much they enjoy [what we’re doing]. We’ll quite often talk about the benefits — and we experience a whole different string of behaviors from the kids — because for a lot of parents, kids will team up with each other against their parents. But I truly feel that Warren and I are more supportive of one another’s parenting styles now — and we’re way less tolerant of the kids manipulating either of us.

W: It’s true. We’re always on the same side. No matter what the kids say, we talk to each other and find out that they’re sometimes full of caca. And we’re always on the same side when it comes to morals and values. We may have different styles of raising our kids, but our values are the same.

M: That’s what we had to ultimately settle on. A lot of people ask us what the one thing that allows us to maintain this style of a co-parenting relationship, and it’s a lack of ego. You really have to know how to put your ego in check and understand the concept that different doesn’t mean wrong. We’re working towards a bigger picture, not an every-day compliance of how you want to see shit get done, right?

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Did you guys go to therapy? Or did you just work on this by yourselves?

M: No, but we’re both survivors of traumatic brain injuries, so we’re are both people that have an amazingly huge number of obstacles that we have to get over, so this is just another one. It sounds funny to say — that our injury is fortunate for us — but in this situation, it does allow for us to have a superior emotional state that’s required in order to achieve this sort of thing. I have the word ‘relentless’ tattooed across my forearm — so you know.

Do you think you’ll move out of the house when the kids go to college?

M: There was once when Warren was thinking about getting another apartment, but we’d also share that apartment. So just like we share this home, we considered getting a separate place that is not somewhere that we live with anybody else. Like, when Warren isn’t at this house, he’s at that apartment and vice-versa, and it would also give us a chance to do things with the kids, like a boys weekend. It’s really just a matter of when it’s financially feasible.

And in terms of finances, we’ve never involved any time of mediation or lawyers or anything like that. There is a cognitive therapist that I see regularly. My deficiencies after my brain injury are more mood-related than Warren’s are. But in terms of finances, we don’t do alimony or child support. We just put all the money that either one of us makes in the pot and we pay all the bills and split the difference and go from there. It’s another one of those ego things.

If things stayed exactly the way they are now, until the kids go off to school, that would be fine. We are in a good place and in a good house and we have lots of space and it’s working. That would be absolutely fine. But if we did anything different it would be to share a second space that’s not Warren’s dads —

W: That’s right.

What about vacations and holidays?

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W: We do the holidays. So if it’s Christmas, Christmas morning we’re all here. The kids love that.

M: Vacations — to be honest with you — they are a nightmare with kids.

[Both laugh]

M: We take the whole divide-and-conquer approach. So, at this stage, a vacation is more of a day trip. I’ll take my daughter to a concert or take my son to a baseball game. Warren takes the kids to a family cottage-like house on a private lake. I would say that our vacations are not the typical ‘week at Disney’ type of thing. If I want to do something with the kids — like go to Wonderland — I’m not going to attempt that with more kids than I have hands. So we divide and conquer, and that’s how we manage those types of things.

What’s your co-parenting schedule? Is it one week on, one week off?

M: It’s very fluid. Wouldn’t you say that, Warren?

W: Absolutely. That’s what creates the harmony in our house. We’re both very, very flexible. So if I needed days to prep for a training session, Melanie is all on board and she says “Okay, yep, no problem.” And if she needs to go somewhere or has an interview in Toronto, I can say no problem and that I’ll take that day off or I’ll pick them up from school. We’re very, very flexible.

M: The fluidity is on a week-by-week basis. It all depends on whose schedule has what. But in general, on Sundays we project next week ahead and who decides going to be where and when.

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What about when you guys have conflict? Do you have family meetings?

M: Every time there’s a change in guard, there’s a debriefing session. So if Warren is off training and he’s in Hamilton Monday to Thursday, we’ll chat through text and keep each other up to date. And then when he comes home on Thursday, and now it’s my turn to be off duty, we’ll debrief. It’s a natural, non-scheduled thing. There’s no agenda, but me and the kids will update him on everything that’s gone on. What’s going on in the house and what’s gone on at school. When there’s a big issue, and there sometimes is — we have kids who are human — and we do need to deal with things together before we bring the kids, that’s just about us shooting a text and saying, “Do you have a time for an adult talk?” It’s really quite that simple.

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Is it worth it to stay together for the kids? ›

The short-term answer is usually yes. Children thrive in predictable, secure families with two parents who love them and love each other. Separation is unsettling, stressful, and destabilizing unless there is parental abuse or conflict. In the long term, however, divorce can lead to happier outcomes for children.

Why do people stay together for the kids? ›

Staying in the same school, home, and community allows them to have a safe place to develop. Instead of worrying about their day to day needs, they can concentrate on the business of growing up. So, in a very real sense, staying together for your child is a very thoughtful and appropriate thing to do.

How do you stay connected with kids? ›

You'll find that using them daily changes everything.
  1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day. ...
  2. Play. ...
  3. Turn off technology when you interact with your child. ...
  4. Connect before transitions. ...
  5. Make time for one on one time. ...
  6. Welcome emotion. ...
  7. Listen, and Empathize. ...
  8. Slow down and savor the moment.

Should you stay in an unhappy relationship for kids? ›

There's no one right answer to how to dissolve an unsatisfying relationship, especially when there are children involved. But there is one right answer to the question of whether or not you should. If you've tried your best and you know things won't get better, then move on. You'll be better off on your own.

What age is divorce easiest on kids? ›

Oftentimes, people say the best age for a child to go through a divorce is when they are young. Kids who are three or under don't have much cognitive function yet and won't have fond memories of parents that are together.

Why staying together for the kids is unhealthy? ›

Key points. Children pick up on tension in the household even if parents act like things are all right. Staying together with someone only for the children may continue to deepen resentments in the relationship. Resolving issues with your partner helps to model healthy family behaviors for children.

Is it better to stay in unhappy marriage for kids? ›

Research has found that when parents are in an unhappy marriage, the conflict compromises the social and emotional well-being of children by threatening their sense of security in the family. This in turn predicts the onset of problems during adolescence, including depression and anxiety.

Should you stay in marriage for kids? ›

When a marriage is healthy and the parents are working together towards the long-term health and happiness of the marriage and the family, it is always better for the kids. Having said that, there is no reason to believe that staying together at any cost is better for children than divorcing.

What is the best way to connect with each child? ›

7 Ways to Connect with Your Children
  1. Talk (and Listen) to Them.
  2. Take an Interest in their Interests.
  3. Invite Them Into Your World.
  4. Find a New Hobby.
  5. Guilt is Not a Weapon.
  6. There's a Time For Friendship and a Time For Parenting.
  7. Don't Get Discouraged.
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How do you make a relationship work if you both have kids? ›

Dating: 6 Tips For Making It Work When You Both Have Children
  1. So, what are some things we can do in this situation?
  2. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.
  3. Engage in only straight talk with your children.
  4. Learn to love low-key dates.
  5. Set aside some time for your boyfriend/girlfriend.
  6. Make time for you.
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How do you keep a relationship strong? ›

9 Tips for Keeping Your Relationship Strong and Healthy
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  2. Do regular maintenance. ...
  3. Adjust your expectations. ...
  4. Create rituals. ...
  5. Plan dates and surprises for each other. ...
  6. Plan for roadblocks. ...
  7. Give each other space. ...
  8. Be active together.

How do you know a man is unhappy in his relationship? ›

A lack of communication, disengagement, and a sour temperament are all signs you can look out for if you think your partner is unhappy.

Why do men stay in unhappy relationships? ›

Fear of conflict.

Usually, the longer you've been with someone, the more conflicted the process is. It is a sad reality that many men (and women) stay in unfulfilling relationships month after month, year after year, because they fear the pain involved in breaking up and moving on.

How do you know your partner is not right for you? ›

  • 8 Signs Your Relationship Isn't Working (And Whether You Should Break Up or Fix It) ...
  • You're always fighting. ...
  • There's no intimacy. ...
  • Trust has taken a hit. ...
  • Jealousy is getting the better of you. ...
  • You don't spend much time together. ...
  • Your emotional needs aren't being met. ...
  • You're considering cheating (or you already have).
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Is divorce better than an unhappy marriage? ›

It helps you both grow individually. If you wonder why divorce is good, know that a bad marriage can stop the growth for both of you. So, it's better to file for divorce and go separate ways. This will remove distraction in the long run and help you both bring the focus back to your life.

Is it OK to leave an unhappy marriage? ›

Unhappy marriages can be stressful, sad, and frustrating. Whether you choose to stay or leave, remember that you always have options. You don't have to stay stuck forever. Breaking free from a toxic relationship may be the best decision you ever make.

Should co parents spend time together? ›

While it is generally recognized that co-parenting can provide additional comfort and stability for young children after a divorce, experts suggest that spending too much time together after a divorce can have some potentially-negative effects as well.

Are divorced moms happier? ›

In the survey participants were asked to rate their happiness before and after their divorce. During a 20-year period, researchers found that women were happier and more satisfied with their lives after divorce.

When should you quit a relationship? ›

Here, experts explain some of the signs that indicate it may be time to let go:
  • Your needs aren't being met.
  • You're seeking those needs from others.
  • You're scared to ask for more from your partner.
  • Your friends and family don't support your relationship.
  • You feel obligated to stay with your partner.
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How does a loveless marriage affect kids? ›

Constant fighting and stress can cause your children to develop problems like chronic depression or behavioral issues. Often, children whose parents are in unhappy marriages tend to act out or misbehave as a way of expressing their feelings.

What are the signs that you need a divorce? ›

Here are some of the most common signs that it's time to get a divorce, according to relationship experts.
  • There's a lack of intimacy. ...
  • You begin to doubt yourself. ...
  • You are two different people. ...
  • There's been an instance of domestic violence. ...
  • Your partner is no longer making an effort.
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How do you stay faithful in a sexless marriage? ›

Tips for Helping Your Marriage Survive a Sexless Period
  1. Consider Marriage Counseling. Whenever you're having sweeping relationship problems but you and your spouse aren't ready to call it quits, our advice is the same: find a marriage counselor and get talking! ...
  2. Have an Open Discussion. ...
  3. Try Scheduling Sex.
6 Oct 2020

Can you be in a sexless marriage? ›

Can a sexless marriage survive? The short answer is that yes, a sexless marriage can survive – but it can come at a cost. If one partner desires sex but the other is uninterested, lack of sex can lead to decreased intimacy and connection, feelings of resentment and even infidelity.

What are the signs your marriage is over? ›

7 Signs Your Marriage Is Over, According to Experts
  • Lack of Sexual Intimacy. In every marriage, sexual desire will change over time. ...
  • Frequently Feeling Angry with Your Spouse. ...
  • Dreading Spending Alone-Time Together. ...
  • Lack of Respect. ...
  • Lack of Trust. ...
  • Disliking Your Spouse. ...
  • Visions of the Future Do Not Include Your Spouse.
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Why do people stay in an unhappy marriage? ›

The threat of physical violence, further emotional abuse, harming your children by depriving them of a nuclear family, and concern about how friends and family will perceive them are commonly-cited reasons why people may choose to stay in an unhappy marriage.

What does it mean to connect with children? ›

Connection is being not just physically present, but emotionally present. Connection is putting yourself into a child's experience; imagining what it's like to be them. Connection is enjoying, savoring, being grateful for being in their presence.

What is cold mother syndrome? ›

Emotionally absent or cold mothers can be unresponsive to their children's needs. They may act distracted and uninterested during interactions, or they could actively reject any attempts of the child to get close. They may continue acting this way with adult children.

Why we love our kids so much? ›

They make you incredibly happy and delighted in a way no one else can or ever could. Every day for the rest of your life these little ones will occupy your mind, and every step of their lives you will be there holding their hand or guiding them along.

How do you show value to a child? ›

10 ways we can show respect to our child
  1. Soft hands – the way we handle them.
  2. Listen – stop and really listen to their words, their expressions, their face and hands.
  3. Use kind words – even when setting a limit.
  4. Avoid baby talk – speak to them as we would to an adult.

What are the 10 things every child needs? ›

"The '10 Things' which dramatically improve a child's ability to learn are: Interaction; Touch; Stable Relationships; Safe, Healthy Environments; Self-Esteem; Quality Care; Play; Communication; Music; and Reading. Hosted by Tim Reid, actor and star of the WB's sitcom, 'Sister, Sister.

What are the signs of an emotionally unavailable mother? ›

They're dismissive or overwhelmed when the child has an emotional need. They're not interested in the child's life (interests, friend groups, school work). They have difficulty expressing their feelings, even with adults. They're unable or unwilling to provide comfort during emotional distress.

What is an emotionally absent mother? ›

An emotionally absent mother is not fully present and especially not to the emotional life of the child. She may be depressed, stretched too thin and exhausted, or perhaps a bit numb. Many of these mothers were severely undermothered themselves and have no idea what a close parent-child relationship looks like.

Is it normal to love your child more than your spouse? ›

Unfortunately, from helicopter parenting to nation-wide college admissions scams, that devotion isn't always for everyone's benefit. As it turns out, it is possible to love your kid a little too much — particularly if you love them more than your spouse.

Is it hard dating someone with a child? ›

Dating a person with kids is not easy, but if you can make it past all the bumps in the road it's well worth it. Not every situation is the same and you must understand that your partner will need your support and will expect you to understand. They're also afraid; they don't want to chase you off.

What makes a man happy in a relationship? ›

Clear communication, openness to new experiences, and respect for your partner are key if you want to build a lasting, loving relationship. 1. Make your partner a priority: Take time often to let your boyfriend or hubby know how special he is to you.

What makes a relationship strong and last long? ›

Be honest. Secrets and lies weaken the foundation of any relationship. Ignoring problems (another form of keeping secrets) doesn't make them go away. What is important is respectful, open communication regarding your feelings and dreams.

What makes a man feel connected to a woman? ›

Mutual respect, trust, support, and communication — these relationship musts are just as important for a man's emotional and sexual health as they are for a woman's.

Should you stay in a marriage for the child? ›

When a marriage is healthy and the parents are working together towards the long-term health and happiness of the marriage and the family, it is always better for the kids. Having said that, there is no reason to believe that staying together at any cost is better for children than divorcing.

What age does divorce impact a child? ›

Academically, kids going through divorce may earn lower grades and even face a higher dropout rate compared to their peers. These effects may be seen as early as age 6 but may be more noticeable as kids reach the ages of 13 to 18 years old.

Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married? ›

A 2002 study found that two-thirds of unhappy adults who stayed together were happy five years later. They also found that those who divorced were no happier, on average, than those who stayed together. In other words, most people who are unhappily married—or cohabiting—end up happy if they stick at it.

What is a parenting marriage? ›

Also known as a parenting marriage (a concept developed by Susan Pease Gadoua, LCSW), a marital partnership is a non-romantic marriage where the parents stay together and live as a family for the sake of their children. From the outside, a parenting marriage looks exactly the same as a traditional marriage.

How do you tell if a man is unhappy in his marriage? ›

Subtle signs a man is stuck in an unhappy marriage
  1. 01/8​Subtle signs a man is stuck in an unhappy marriage. ...
  2. 02/8​He often jokes about leaving his wife. ...
  3. 03/8​He always has excuses not to be at home with his spouse. ...
  4. 04/8​You often hear him tell single guys to never get married. ...
  5. 05/8​He complains about his wife all the time.
31 May 2021

Is it better to stay in unhappy marriage for kids? ›

Research has found that when parents are in an unhappy marriage, the conflict compromises the social and emotional well-being of children by threatening their sense of security in the family. This in turn predicts the onset of problems during adolescence, including depression and anxiety.

Is divorce harder on an only child? ›

Only children, in particular, may have a more difficult time adjusting when their parents divorce, because they may experience more stress than a child that is sorting through the experience with siblings.

What is the most difficult age to parent? ›

A recent survey showed that parents of 12- to 14-year-old teens had a harder time than parents of toddlers, elementary school children, high school children, and adult children. From toddler tantrums to teen angst, parenting children at any age can be tough.

What are the positive effects of divorce on a child? ›

Nevertheless, there are several ways in which a divorce can beneficially or positively affect children and they include:
  • EMPATHY. ...

Who regrets divorce? ›

80 percent of couples who divorce in the midst of an affair regret the decision to do so. In a study of 1,147 Americans ranging from 40 to 79 years old, two percent of males and two percent of females noted regretting their divorce.

What is a walkaway wife? ›

Walkaway Wife Syndrome is a term used when wives leave their husbands. It occurs when an unhappy wife suddenly divorces her spouse without warning, which opens up a lot of questions.

Are men happier after divorce? ›

An article in Psychology Today reports that men crave relationships and marriage as much as women. Men are often happier in their marriages than women, men enjoy greater financial wellbeing and health from marriage than do women, and divorce is associated with worse physical and mental health for men.

Can you stay in a marriage without love? ›

Children, financial reasons, mutual respect and care for each other or the simple practicality of living under a roof – can be reasons why some couples choose to live in a marriage without love.

Can you date in a parenting marriage? ›

A Parenting Marriage is a shift away from an emotion-based marriage to a purpose-based marriage—parents stay together in order to raise the kids. Those in a Parenting Marriage can come together as a family or have a separate social life apart from each other (which may include dating).

What is a safety marriage? ›

In an emotionally safe marriage each spouse feels valued, understood, and accepted. They may not always agree with each other, but each partner attempts to understand the other's point of view with warmth and empathy.


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