One of the most common reasons people stay in miserable marriages is for their children.

When I was trying to decide whether to stay or go my husband and I were in couples therapy,  group couples therapy (yes, that’s a thing).I was also in my own therapy  with another therapist, as was my husband.  And we were both in 12-Step programs. AND we were both in various personal development programs! There was a lot of work happening to save this marriage, but it only seemed to be getting worse and I couldn’t understand why.

I truly didn’t know what to do.

I believed our therapists when they said that anything could be solved in couples therapy. I believed one of our therapists who was a children’s specialist when she told us it was better for children to be raised by two unhappy parents than for the parents to separate. I believed my husband when he pointed out my flaws and how if I’d just behave in certain ways, everything would be ok. I believed that every relationship is 100/100, not 50/50, so if I gave it 100% it’d all work out in the end.

But despite all this work, I was still drowning in the depths of despair, and I really needed someone to tell me: Should I stay or should I go?

I needed a burning bush. I needed someone to take me by the hand and tell me exactly what to do.

And then one day it hit me—like a cast-iron skillet upside my head— and suddenly I knew.

I knew that I had to leave my marriage. And I had to do it for my son.

We’re told over and over again that we have to stay for our kids; that children from “broken homes” (a term I loathe, by the way) do less well in school, are damaged, grow up to have poor coping and relationship skills, and become drug addicts and alcoholics. So we try. And then we try harder. We bend ourselves into pretzels trying to make this square peg fit in that round hole come hell or high water, because if we don’t our children will suffer, and we will have failed. At marriage, at parenting, at life.

But in that moment I saw clearly that what my husband and I were modeling to our son wasn’t what I wanted him to grow up to have for himself.

That while I had this vision of myself as being a strong and powerful woman, I was actually anything but. I knew that my son would grow up to be controlling and critical and abusive, and that he’d choose small, meek, compliant women to prey upon. And I knew that the only way this young, innocent child had any chance at creating a happy, lasting, loving relationship in the future was for me to get out of my marriage. Now.

In that moment I knew that my husband and I brought out the worst in each other, and that individually we probably weren’t the people we became together.

I knew that staying in our marriage was keeping us from finding people we actually liked, with whom we could create meaningful, trusting bonds, and that if we could find that (outside of each other) our son would have a chance at finding that for himself down the line. And I knew that if we stayed together, he stood absolutely zero chance of that.

My ex and I had a dynamic that was toxic for everyone around us, especially our child. But he doesn’t have that dynamic with his new wife, and I’ve never had that in any of my relationships since him.

If you’ve been staying for the kids, consider looking at this from another angle. It just may be the greatest gift you’ve ever given your kids.

Struggling with this? My program, Should I Stay or Should I Go? will help you gain further insight and clarity.