*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Arguments, different ideas about the future, financial issues, or little things that add up for years can make a relationship unstable. Building a family requires love and dedication each day, but sometimes partners drift apart without even realizing it.
And when they have kids, telling them their parents need to stay away from each other for a while without making a permanent decision gets even harder.
My friend Allison is working through several issues with her husband, James, trying to make their marriage happier, but letting their kids know about the changes they need isn't easy.
"Alec and Debra keep asking why we can't have meals together or go shopping as a family. They want to watch a game with both of us, and that just can't happen right now," she said.
The couple has been having issues ever since Allison decided to work from home. She's been earning a good salary, but it meant James had to take on some of the kids' responsibilities, take care of some meals, and also drive them to practice when she couldn't do it.
"He was used to me doing all that and him coming from the office at 7 pm to hug us all and have a tasty dinner. When I have my office at home, there are times when I can't stop what I'm doing, and he has to go and do it. He got upset about it and can't understand how he's supposed to juggle kids' activities with his job," she said.
The issue is connected to their agreeing Allison would be a full-time mom when they got married. In the meantime, costs went up, and James's income wasn't enough to cover the home and their two kids. So, Allison believed it was logical for her to start working and help him.
"He didn't see it as helping, though. It was more like putting a burden he didn't even know existed since he wasn't involved in taking the kids anywhere. Now he suddenly realized what it's all about, and he's very stressed," Allison added.
Living in the same house no longer works for them as they keep arguing about everything, and the kids are reacting to the constant tension between them.
"We agreed we need to consider the new working situation for both of us. But we can't do it in the same home. He will move out, and we consider it a separation. I keep asking myself, 'how do I tell the kids without mentioning divorce?'" Allison said.
The problem is they're not sure what to tell their kids about it because they don't know if it's something permanent or just a way to think things over calmly and get back together.
"We don't want to tell them we are divorcing because we might not take that step. Keeping them in suspense isn't ok either," Allison said.
They've let them know so far that James will be packing spare luggage and going to stay with a friend for two weeks.
'Separation and divorce are issues we're still dealing with. For now, our kids realize he will go, but it won't seem like a final step to them," the mother added.
Do you think kids should find out about a divorce possibility, or is it better to tell them last to avoid hurt feelings in case their parents get back together after all?