You've gotten a lot of advice, so I thought I would just share my story. I divorced in 1996 when my sons were 3 and 7. We went to a counselor to find out the way to tell the boys and what would be best for them as far as arrangements. The counselor told us they were young enough that they should see and spend time with each parent every day. We tried that for a few weeks and it just didn't work. Too much rushing around and not enough relax time. We tried every few days, then every two weeks, then every month, then every two months and eventually they came to my house and never left. The last 5-6 years, they haven't even spent 1 weekend at their dad's. He's allowed that to happen, which worked for me. I never would have let it. i would have insisted on at least weekends.
When we divorced, I told myself it was the best thing for the kids. I didn't want them to think a normal marriage and life was what my 1st husband and I were living. I knew I could be happier, either by myself or with someone else. I was right in that I remarried a little over a year later and have been very happy for over 10 years now. My kids have the example of my present wonderful marriage and they have lived a life that has included a lot of laughter, respect, and love, as well as how to give and take, how to for sacrifice for each other and others and how to form a partnership in life. They never would have seen or shared any of that if their father and I would have stayed together.
My thought was and is -- How can children be happy if their parents aren't? My husband and I have shown them happiness.
That is not to say that the divorce or living with divorced parents has been easy for them. I didn't realize until years after the divorce, when they were older and more able to express their feelings, just how hard it was and sometimes still is, on them.
Do your best to put aside your personal feelings and understand them. Emotions run high during a divorce, and sometime even 11 years later. They don't need to experience your high emotions. They need you to make them feel grounded and safe. Your child is not your sounding board. Find an adult you can rant and rave to. When it comes to talking to and about your childs' dad, always be calm in front of them and to them. Even when they are in the next room. Their emotions feed off of yours.
In my case, their father and I worked well together for the first few years. We agreed on discipline and shared parenting decisions and time. However, once the kids were at my house more and eventually full-time, I dinged him for child support, his wife didn't like us working well together and things changed to where we have a difficult time getting along now.
The lessons I've learned are:
1. No matter what the kids say about their dad, no matter what the kids repeat that their dad has said about me, for their well-being and happiness, I cannot get emotional or ever, ever bad mouth their dad. Even when he has called me names to my sons, I have to stay positive for their sake. My sons, even now that the oldest is 19, need to feel safe and secure in life and sometimes my home is the only safe and secure place in the whole wide world. Defending myself, telling my side, telling them all the rotten things their dad has done...those things only make me feel better, they don't help the kids in any way. In fact saying anything negative about their dad, no matter what he does/says, only harms them.
2. No matter how rotten their dad is about money or how mean he is to me, he has to be involved when a kid is in trouble or hurting and the story has to come from me. Conversely, he needs to be told when the kids have successes or exciting news and he needs to hear that from them. I am the bearer of bad news and have learned not to get defensive when I convey that news. I've done the best I know how and I don't let him make me feel like a failure when things go wrong.
3. Boys need discipline and sometimes they need it from a man. I held my husband, their step-father, back from discipling the kids when they were younger and I regret that now. I kept hoping their own father would step up. I'm not talking about spanking or hitting, but teenage boys need a brick wall to run up against now and then. At least mine did. :) Luckily I figured out, by the time they were teenagers, that hubby could only do them good. At the time, they hated it and him sometimes, but now the three of them are close. They look to him for wisdom and guidance and I'm proud of the men my boys have become.
That's not to say that they don't look to their dad for wisdom and guidance too. They do and now that their lives have settled some after rough teenage years, it's easy for him to take part and take credit. I can't let that get to me. Whatever works for the boys is what's best for the boys, no matter how much that gets my goat. :)
4. Kids need a permanent home. I don't think we did our kid any favors by giving them two. They weren't sure where they fit in at either place.
I believe my kids lost some things and gained some things from the divorce. They sometimes have a strained relationship with their dad, who didn't help as much as he should have through their rough teenage years. I believe their teenage years may have been easier if their dad and I were together. But...maybe not.
They have gained a lot from my husband who they are very close to and who is a very different man from their father.
I am a very different person than I would have been had I stayed with their dad. I know I'm happier, but I also believe my horizons have been expanded, I have done more, learned more, loved and given more than if I would have stayed in a bad marriage.
Each situation is different, as is each parent, step-parent and ex-spouse. If you do get a divorce, do your very best to put the kids first even if your ex doesn't and even when you want to scream and cry in frustration. Don't kid yourself that the split will be easy for your kids, you or your spouse, it won't, but with love and good head on shoulders, you'll all come through it and might even be the better for it.
My two cents. Okay, this turned out to be long - maybe it is a dollars worth. Good luck.