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  5. Staying together for your kids, like Donna and Ed Kelce did, is good — if you do it right, a therapist says. Here's how.

Staying together for your kids, like Donna and Ed Kelce did, is good — if you do it right, a therapist says. Here's how.

Julia Pugachevsky   

Staying together for your kids, like Donna and Ed Kelce did, is good — if you do it right, a therapist says. Here's how.
  • Donna Kelce shared her reasons for delaying her divorce from Ed Kelce.
  • Both parents wanted to raise Jason and Travis Kelce together until they graduated from college.

When contemplating divorce, it's not uncommon for parents to wait until they're empty nesters to flee the coop themselves.

Donna Kelce, mother of football players Jason and Travis Kelce, approached it a little differently. In a recent episode of "The Martha Stewart Podcast," Kelce, now 71, said she and her ex-husband Ed Kelce decided to postpone their divorce until their sons had not only left home, but both graduated from the University of Cincinnati.

Kelce, who was married to her ex-husband for 25 years, told Stewart that it's "very, very difficult to raise children on your own," and preferred to work together as a "team" with her husband to raise their sons.

Dr. Isabelle Morley, a clinical psychologist based in Boston, has met many clients in couples therapy who opt to stay married until their children are older, usually waiting until they graduate from high school. She told Business Insider that these parents usually feel "more freedom to then make a decision for their marriage that won't impact their kids as much."

While Morley said this arrangement is not for everyone, she also believes it can be a great alternative to divorcing when children are young.

"A lot of people think if it's a relationship that is not going to be your long-term romance, that you should just end it," Morley said. 2023 saw many celebrity divorces, and divorce rates for baby boomers have tripled from 1990 to 2021, according to a 2023 news analysis from Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

"But there are a lot of ways to have a marriage and a family," Morley said, that don't necessarily require romance or sex. When done right, she said parents can still find value in staying together for their family, even if they know it's for a limited time.

It can be a lot simpler and cheaper than divorce during school years

Morley said there are three main reasons parents hold off on divorce.

The first is logistical: getting divorced often means constantly coordinating pick-ups and drop-offs.

"When you get divorced, you imagine you spend less time with that person, but if you are coordinating co-parenting, you are still in constant communication with your ex," Morley said. "So logistically, it doesn't save you much."

"If we had split as we probably both would have preferred, that would have been a nightmare with the logistics, getting kids where they had to be and providing all the support," Ed Kelce, 51, said in "Kelce," a 2023 documentary about Jason Kelce.

Beyond logistics, Morley said divorce is also "incredibly expensive," costing over $10,000 in most states. Plus, she said, there are other costs to consider, like buying a separate house or helping with the kids' college tuition.

Morley said divorce can be disruptive when kids "suddenly have two homes, a schedule that can change every week, trying to figure out if they have the clothes they need at the right house or who's picking them up when."

Parents must be intentional for it to work

In order for a delayed divorce to work, Morley said parents should have a healthy enough relationship where they can "co-parent together and be a good model of a relationship for their kids" while living under the same roof.

"People who are incredibly contentious, who dislike each other, who are volatile or explosive — that's not a better situation for the kids," she said. "It's actually better to separate and divorce than to stay together just for the sake of the kids."

Many of her clients focus on creating a positive environment and don't disclose this part of their relationship with their kids until they're older.

From the way Donna and Ed Kelce talk about coming to their choice together, Morley said it shows "they did this with intentionality."

"They had conversations, they did this with a lot of thought and care and it got them a really good outcome," she said, as the Kelces often appear at games together as a family unit. "That's what parents should be doing, whether they're staying together, getting divorced, or something in between."

Strong communication is the most important thing

For parents who feel themselves heading towards divorce, Morley said good communication can help whether they want to save the relationship or postpone splitting up.

"If there's even a tiny part of you that wants to be with that person and try to reconnect, absolutely try to do it," Morley said. "It takes work, but a lot of people can find a new relationship on the other side of whatever phase of disconnection they've been in."

For those who want a co-parenting relationship without intimacy, Morley said her clients often worry about modeling a healthy relationship for their children when they aren't romantically connected as parents.

"You can strengthen your connection and communication in that partnership, even if it's not going to be your long-term primary romantic partnership," Morley said. "You still can do a lot of amazing work with that person that will benefit you for your future relationships."

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