Finding happiness when you stay together for the kids

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD talks about what to consider when you are deciding between staying together for the kids, or getting divorced
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Finding happiness when you stay together for the kids

So some people want to know, “Can I even be happy if I'm just staying together for the sake of the kids?” Only you can really answer that question. I would answer that question on the basis of how much pleasure and meaning you get from being a parent. For some people it is their core meaning and their core value. And if a divorce means that you can only see your kid half the time or as in many cases for fathers, maybe every other weekend or once a week or whatever, you really need to think carefully through that because it may mean that you’re going to be a lot unhappier in divorce than you are being married to somebody that you’re really unhappy with. So, often as Americans we think there’s some straight forward solution. Oh, you’re unhappy in your marriage, get divorced. You’re divorced, get remarried. Life doesn't work that way. In every situation with family life you have to think it through in a very comprehensive way. You have to think about all the different ways this is not only going to affect you, but affect you over the life course and affect your relationship with your children. Now, in some cases when parents divorce, their relationships with their children actually improve as in the case of a high conflict marriage or there’s some marital dynamics where the marriage actually makes it worse in terms of the parents’ relationship with their children. Studies show for example that dads in high conflict marriages retreat not only from their wives but also from their children. So that’s one of those cases where things may actually be better for you if you divorce. But the issue of can you be happy in an unhappy marriage, it really depends on you and your ability to contain your partner’s neuroses or the ways that they both you, your ability to have good friends and a good life and a rich life. You know, so much of what we do in the United States is to assume that we’re supposed to get so much joy and happiness and meaning from our marriages, and that’s really a very problematic idea - this whole soul-mate marriage idea - that our spouses are supposed to be not only hot sex partners but our therapist, our confidant, our sport partners and we’re way too dependent on our spouses for meaning. So this is particularly true if you’re in an unhappy marriage. You want to make sure that you’re diversified in terms of your areas of meaning and pleasure.

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD talks about what to consider when you are deciding between staying together for the kids, or getting divorced


Expert Bio

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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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