Tell Ruth the Truth

This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.


Lifelong Grief

by Alysse E. (Raleigh, NC)

My divorce story begins with an image of my father, curled up underneath my baby bed while I slept, whispering a tearful goodbye. Later that night, he would beg my mother, “Please, don’t take her away.” Because I was only two when my parents divorced, I have no actual memory of this moment. But my mother has shared it with me enough times that it feels like a real memory. I clung to this image as a child, and in some ways it fed my fantasy that my parents might have stayed married, if only she had allowed him to stay.

Whenever I heard this story, it always struck me that my father did not say, “Don’t leave me,” but only, “Don’t take her away.” My Lebanese father viewed their troubled marriage through the eyes of a culture where family ties are strong and divorce is rare. He believed they could find a way to work things out so that I could stay in his home, even if the marriage was bad. But that was not enough for my American mother, who had grown up in a turbulent home where her own mother had stayed too long in an unhealthy marriage “for the children.” After all, it was 1976, and the culture was shouting that getting out was the best thing to do—that she deserved better. What my parents did not realize at the time is that divorce never works out for the better—especially not for the children.


 

Nearly 38 years later, I am still grieving the loss of my parents’ marriage. The divorce left me fragmented, vulnerable, angry, and, in some ways, homeless. I am always half empty—longing for the family I will never have. When they divorced, my mother and father broke up our little family, but what neither of them realized at that time is that they also broke me in two.

Tug of War. Both my parents love me dearly. Even after the divorce, I never doubted their love for me, not even for a moment. But that love was a double edged sword in some ways because they were always competing for me. For most of my childhood, I felt torn between my them, and their two worlds.

Because my mother had primary custody, I saw my father on weekends and holidays. I always felt guilty when I spent time with one, or like I had to hide my feelings of love for the other. I would miss my mother when I was at my father’s house, and when my father would drop me off after a visit, I would feel like my heart was being torn from my chest every time we said goodbye (I still feel that way to this day!). At a school event, I would be so happy to see my father in the audience, but when he came backstage to give me a hug, if my mother and her new husband were nearby, I would hang back, fearful of showing too much emotion, and perhaps hurting my mother’s feelings. That tug of war feeling has never gone away.

My parents’ divorce also robbed me of precious time with my father that I will never get back. Growing up, my father always tried to squeeze as much time as he could into our summer visits, and the every other weekend I saw him during the year. Once he had a new family, our time together was more limited. Nearly every visit, we would have one “date night,” where we could just be by ourselves. As much as I treasured these moments, they were never enough.

In addition to lost time with my father, I lost someone to protect me from the men my mother mistakenly brought into our lives in her (understandable) search for love; I lost someone to affirm me as a woman during the awkward and painful pre-teen years; I lost someone to greet and grill my potential boyfriends; I lost someone to comfort me when my heart was broken; and I lost strong arms to hold me when I fell and to encourage me to try again. Today, when I see my little girl run to greet my husband at the door, when I see her smile as he picks her up and twirls her around, I grieve for all the moments I lost with my father that I can never get back.

Homeless. The divorce of my parents also robbed me of a real home. Sure, I have my mother’s house or my father’s house. But I mean “home” as that one place where you feel safe and you truly belong.

Growing up with my single mother and two siblings, life was chaotic most of the time. There always seemed to be some kind of traumatic event happening, either with us or other family members. My mother did her best to provide a safe and stable home for us, but on and off throughout my life, there was a man in the house who was not my father. Some of these men were married to my mother and others were not. A few were decent guys, but at least one—the one who stayed the longest—left me fearful and distrustful of any other man who walked through our door. During these years, I experienced a lack of control over my world that left me always anxious and eventually bitter. That changed my perception of home, and limited my ability to feel safe (and relaxed) there.

In some ways, my father’s home was different—more stable. Although I never felt unsafe, I always felt like an outsider. While he and my siblings from his second marriage always welcomed me with open hearts, it was my stepmother’s domain, where I was reminded that I was “the other child,” the outsider from his first marriage, not really part of his new and forever family. This feeling was reinforced for me a few Christmases ago, when my stepmother asked everyone to gather for a family picture. When my father beckoned us over to get in the shot, she said quickly, “Not them!” I remember my father’s face turning red with rage, as he hissed, “What is wrong with you!” On one hand, I can’t really blame my stepmother for wanting to have one picture of just their family. But where does that leave me? It is impossible to forget these moments, which happened throughout my childhood, but this one stung even more because it involved my children.

Broken Family Ties. Divorce also means that my two children will never experience my mother and father as Grandpa and Grandma. Nearly nine years after the birth of my first child, my parents have never been in the same room together with my children. My kids will never know what it is like to have their real grandparents, enjoying them, as a couple. And I will never be able to witness even a moment of them doting on my children as only biological grandparents can. Instead, I get broken bits and pieces—my dad with the kids, my dad and my stepmom with kids, or my mom by herself.

The reality of this loss hit me like a brick one Christmas, when we were driving home from staying at my father and stepmother’s home. I was on the phone with mom, sobbing about the emptiness I felt from the visit. It reminded me of the way I often felt as a child during summers with my dad—half empty, jealous, unsatisfied, and longing for more. As I talked with my mother, I looked over at my daughter sitting beside me in the backseat, and it dawned on me how much I desired something I would never have—to spend a holiday with just my parents and their grandchildren. “It breaks my heart,” I told her through tears, “that our children will never have you and Baba (my father) together—they will never know what that feels like!”

Longing. When I was about four years old, my father and mother briefly considered getting back together, mainly because I was having a “hard time” with the divorce. During this period, we spent one glorious day together at a local park—just the three of us. I can still see my parents smiling and holding hands. That was probably the happiest day of my life. They eventually decided against reconciling, and my father married my stepmother shortly thereafter. I was not invited to the wedding, and I later learned that it was because she did not want him to be reminded of his “old life.”

Today, I still treasure that brief moment of family togetherness. My parents’ divorce left me with an unresolved longing for their reconciliation, even though as an adult I understand what drove them apart. Their marriage was probably doomed from the start, mainly due to cultural differences, unfaithfulness, neglect, and traumatic circumstances (the first six months of my life, we were trapped in Lebanon during the beginning of the civil war). Even though I cannot imagine them still married, I will never get over my natural longing for them to have stayed together.

Lifelong Grief. Once, when I was complaining about my parents’ divorce to a friend (who comes from an intact family), she responded, “You are always talking about your mom and dad getting a divorce!” Maybe it was the way she said it, but it was like she was saying, “Why don’t you just get over it?” At the time, I was too stung by her words to answer, but if I could go back, I would tell her that my parents’ divorce is the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Divorce is the end of a child’s family. My family—the biological mother-father family that God used to make me—ended the day my parents said, “I don’t.” Yes, I have a family, and new and lasting relationships with my siblings from my parents’ second (or third) marriages, and for these things I am thankful.

But I do not have the two people who created me. No alternative or additional family, no matter how loving, will ever replace what I lost. Nothing will repair the broken cord that was my parents’ marriage and now is not, and nothing can change the fact that my children will never know their grandparents as a married couple. I am all that is left of their marriage, and like their marriage, I am broken.

For me, the legacy of divorce for children is lifelong grief. It comes back in waves throughout your life, and it impacts your own children in ways you do not expect. And no, you never get over it.


3rd times a charm

by Ashtin (Iowa)

My dad

My dad

My biological mother and father had only known each other 6 months when they had their shotgun wedding, which my mother was 5 months pregnant at. They were young, even though my mom had Curtis(6)( my brother from a previous marriage) already, Logan was born, then myself.

But at the age of 2 my parents got a divorce I assume for the same reason any Hail Mary marriage doesn't work out. And by the time the final court date my mother was 3 months pregnant with my little brother keeton (the product of Darren and my mom). They end up getting married, and my mom got custody of Logan and I, so under one roof there was 7 people (Darren had two kids from a previous marriage)and two dogs. We saw our dad and Jenn (my moms ex BFF and my dad's new girlfriend/assistant) on weekends, but Darren hit mom a lot and spanked Logan with the metal part of the belt, and me... I don't talk about it, but he was always nice to me calling me sweetie and daughter.


So after mom finally had enough of the beating she left, swearing off men forever but there were still problems and mom signed over custody to my dad and jenn, and then my dad quit his high paying job and laid around all day but my step mom jenn took us to day care because she didn't feel dad was in the right state of mind (drugs) to care for us. So we moved back to Iowa to live with our grandparents till dad got enough money to move into a house of our own. Jenn didn't come with. :(.

Grandma and grandpa are fantastic people!! Hands down the only example if a real relationship I ever have seen. But my mom lost contact with us, we didn't hear from her for 6 months, jenn had come to Iowa after 2 months apart. We got a house and I was doing well in school, and even though I called jenn "mom" there was always an emptiness I felt. My older brother Logan idolized my mom, me on the other hand wanted answers, why doesn't she want me, I am her only baby girl. What possibly could I have don't wrong to make her give me up! But she and Gary (her boyfriend) and keeton showed up on our door step. Shocked and already had come to terms I'd never seen them again. I was hesitant to trust again. But Logan he was head over heels joyed at this.

So we went and had lunch and they left back to Kanas city. We didn't talk for 6 months after that, but when we finally did, we saw her every summer and Christmas break, she would call logan all. The time and I was lucky to speak with her once a month. Logan was always the problem child so I was always put on the back burner. Well my mom moved to Texas with Gary (now husband, really nice guy) and we continued seeing them. But in the summer of 2012 we got back to Iowa and Jen and dad had gotten a divorce. I was crushed! Jenn was my best friend. My brother logan who had always had a problem with authority ran off and started doing heavier drug and left me with just the depressed sobbing angry mess that I called "Dad." I was often put in the middle and heard horror stories about the both of them! And to top it off my mom called and said she couldn't afford to have us done for Christmas. I am 17 now and haven't seen her since that summer. We talk sometimes. I still see jenn regularly.

My life is gravely impacted by divorce. I have never been in a real relationship. I go for guys that treat me like dirt because honestly I've never known anything else. I go into deep depressions, and sometimes I'm perfectly normal. I don't want love to destroy me like it has done my family. So yes I'm terrified of marriage and love, and growing up because what I've seen is only hurt and hell comes out of it all. Life isn't suppose to be lived like this but I keep myself from getting hurt. I just wish someone understood.


Their divorce nearly killed me

Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, the daughter of two yuppies, it seemed like I had everything. I was pretty sheltered, a shy child by nature and nurture. The later cause of my introverted nature was the fact that my parents avoided verbal communication with each other. The only time I remember them directly talking to each other was a rather loud fight.

Instead of providing a good relationship model and any hint of social skills for me, my parents’ example made me evade meaningful social interactions with my peers. I found refuge in school, dance, and music. Unfortunately, my older sister discovered escape through drinking, drugs, and sex.


Fast-forward to late 2003. I was in 8th grade, in the middle of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad stage of puberty. My parents announce that they are getting a divorce. Although they had been practically divorced during my entire life, this announcement turned my world upside down. My life-long depression spun out of control. I started experiencing suicidal thoughts. The climax of my depression was when I held a knife to my wrist. I wanted to kill myself, but I was afraid of the physical pain I would feel. I ended up putting the knife down. The next day, I went to see my guidance counselor at school. I told her what happened, and long story short, I was sent to the mental hospital. After my hospital visit, I continued therapy and medication.

While I no longer experienced suicidal thoughts, I still had much healing to accomplish. I learned that both my mother and my father had been in long-term relationships with other people (their current spouses). I also learned that my mother had been married before she met my dad. I was disgusted with the deceit and lies my parents had been feeding me. I was stronger than they thought, so why didn't they tell me the truth? I was so irate that they would blatantly lie to me!

In high school, I was still very shy and hesitant to develop real relationships. Subconsciously, I think that I was afraid of being hurt by others. My parents “relationship” consisted of mostly silent treatment, with occasional incidents of passive-aggressive behavior. In my mind, that was the pattern that all relationships followed. Throughout high school and the first year or two of college, I thought that in the rare chance that I became married, I would eventually get divorced.

Both my mother and father remarried, the former in January 2009 and the later in December 2011. My sister was in a serious relationship with a great guy. In my own family, I constantly felt like a third wheel in my family. I only started dating in college, but was consistently disappointed by the lack of authentic men on campus. Fortunately, I became more involved in my church community and learned about self-less, sacrificing, true relationships through academic study and personal witness of couples committed to each other, through good and bad times.

I will always carry some scars from my parents’ divorce. I share my story with you to show you that divorce is a horrible experience for children. If you come from a faith background, the following quote best sums up divorce:

"Divorce is when parents cast of their cross and give it to their children."

My story is just a small example of how deeply wounded our culture is by our destruction of marriage. We must work diligently to restore the true meaning of marriage as a sacrificial, life and love-giving union that produces children and furthers the good of all society. Marriage is a beautiful, life-long commitment and must be carefully entered into and protected and nourished by every one of us.

 


Too Bad They Didn't Realize This 40 Years Ago...

by CTW (Illinois)

1973 - two years before the divorce

1973 - two years before the divorce

My parents divorced when I was 9 years old. I've written 2 brief reflections on my experiences and contributed them to this site:

http://www.marriage-ecosystem.org/the-myth-of-divorce-as-the-way-to-solve-all-your-problems.html

http://www.marriage-ecosystem.org/turned-out-all-right.html

And now I have an addendum. My dad's third wife passed away a few months ago (in early 2014). In the aftermath of the third wife's death, my dad sold their house in Florida and prepared to move back up the Chicago area to be nearer to the children from his first two marriages. To everyone's surprise, my mom drove down to Florida with him to help him pack up the house, take things to Goodwill, deliver other items to the deceased wife's relatives, and so on. And then they drove up here to Illinois and now live in my mom's house together.


They seem to get along. They call each other "sweetie" and "love." They go shopping together. They have bought some new furniture. They are preparing a trip overseas to visit relatives. They behave like any retired couple.

All of this has taken place with no explanation, no announcement, no acknowledgement that this might be a little strange or even painful for their adult children. Every time I see them together, I think to myself, as I watch them fixing each other tea and sandwiches or whatever, "How come you didn't realize 40 years ago that you could actually get along? Don't you realize that your reconciliation is 40 years too late? At least two generations -- your offspring and their offspring -- are negatively impacted by your selfish choice of 40 years ago and now you waltz around acting like nothing happened, and we're all supposed to be so happy for you."

I am old enough and jaded enough to know not to bother saying any of the above to either of them (especially my mother -- she's the one who denies that the divorce had any serious impact on my brothers and I, since "we turned out all right") but I cannot help feeling bitter about this latest development.


Missing Father, Missing Time

by Shannon (Texas)

I was fairly young when my parents divorced, six. It was rough on my brother and I. My dad kidnapped me and brought me to court. He asked me to lie about my mother in hope that he would attain custody, that did not happen.

My parents fought a lot and I even witnessed arguments between my mother and his girlfriends. At one point a shoe was thrown between the two.


My dad did come to my elementary school graduation, but not much else. He was not there when I graduated high schools and He did not give me away when I got married, my brother did. The tension became worse when he showed up to my brothers wedding and wanted to act like we were one big happy family. There has always been tension in my life and when I started to date, I had a huge mistrust for men.


Several years ago, my mother passed away and I had to contact him and let him know. This is the first time I had spoken to him in many years. Soon after he sent a friend request to me on Facebook and I accepted only after several private messages were sent between the two of us. I needed to let him know how much he hurt me, by missing out on the formative years of my life.

We speak now, but I still keep him at arm length and know that he may have contributed to my DNA, but he has never truly been a Father to me.

 


Just terrible

by Mia

So when I was four months old, my mom go diagnosed with CML. My dad kept on going to New York for work. When he was working on a movie he had sex with the girl who is 18 years younger than him. My mom found out when the baby was born.

My moms CML disappeared and the they went to court and I was 2 1/2 when I started going back and fourth. When I would go there, it was torture. I had to sleep in a very small bed. I had to share my bed with the baby.

After they were in court for two years, my moms CML came back. My mom could have died. Then my mom had to sell the house that we were living in. And we had to live in my grandmas house for six months. It was terrible. But I had to still go back and fourth. And the baby's name is Jack and Jack would have major tantrums he would bang his head against the ground and I would be in the kitchen corner crying. And they would yell, I hate it when people yell like that. Then me and my mom moved into a different house, it is huge and amazing.

My mom takes drugs for CML to stay away. My mom is healthy. But since we moved, I now live 2 hours away from my dads house. And then a year later, he got another child, named Ava. Everything changed after that. I knew something was up. At one point I slept on the couch and I also slept in a little teepee in the living room in a tiny house. Are you kidding me? And then I got and real normal bed when I was 8. And my mom is the best ever. And now I am almost 13, Jack is 10, Ava is almost 6. My relationship with my dad is not so good. I still see my dad every other weekend.

I got my helix piercing because he was in Morocco for work. I have been stealing stuff from him. And he just recently lost his watch, and I never stole it. Me and my mom are religious and I would text him and pray for him to find his watch, I would text him that I was doing that. And then he asks me privately if I stole it, I said, "No, l did not steal it. You can put a lie detector test on me."

I have been going to a therapist with my dad. I have only seen her a few times. Now, I don't see her anymore. Rachel, my step mom, is a hoar. She was also married to someone else while my dad was having sex with my dad. That is gross. And the last I went there I brought a notebook with me to write what happened when I was over there.

All of us watched Family Guy. They are insane for making us watch that. And my dad kept on staring at me. I would roll my eyes and try to show him that this is not fun, I am angry, I am pissed off right now. So then he would get mad. And then we decided to play Charades. After a few rounds, Jack and Ava were sort of fighting with each other. And Jack got sent into his room and Ava had to be carried into her bedroom and Rachel had to keep the door closed physically. I decided to go into my bedroom and I cried. I could hear yelling. Again, I hate it when people yell. It is so annoying.

The next day, Ava wakes me up and I am very angry, mad, and I had mixed emotions. Then Rachel took the kids away. I am happy about that. Then me and my dad saw Catching Fire. It was a great movie. Then we went home and an hour later I think, they come back. And I have to play with Ava. And I hate it when I have to and then my dad says this to me, "Be a better actor about it." At that moment, I wanted to kill him. Glad I had nothing in my hand because I would of used it. The the night was normal and then the next day he asked me if I stole his watch. I was so angry and I so wanted to murder him at that point. He has Peter Pan syndrome. And if you don't know what that is, look it up. And my bedroom looks like a cube. It is so tiny. Compared to my bedroom, it is huge. Pans I have my own bedroom. So that is my story.


Divorce Never Ends for Children

by Ryan (Midwest, USA)

Based on my personal experience, and what I've observed knowing dozens of people with divorced parents, it is my belief that there is no divorce that does not severely damage a child and set them back for their entire life.

Some divorces are necessary, as in cases of abuse or addiction problems. Some children of divorced parents will appear to survive or thrive. But children of divorce are much less likely to reach their full potential because they spend so many years and so much energy trying to climb out of the hole they start in. I will enumerate some of the problems it creates.

  1. Divorce places the parent’s wants over the child’s needs. When parents divorce, and one parent is no longer in the home, this sends an loud clear message to the child, "The person who has more reason than anyone on earth to recognize your value, does not value you. You must be worthless." The absent parent can try to counter this by telling the child frequently and emphatically that he or she does love and value the child. However, actions speak louder than words. No statement can ever compensate for the parent not sleeping under the same roof. The child is going to spend a big chunk of his or her life trying to find some other way to feel valued. This can manifest in obsession with work or money, drug addictions, promiscuity, etc. Obviously, children from intact families also sometimes have these problems. Divorce pretty much guarantees them.
  2. Divorce is a choice. Some children lose a parent to illness, war, or accidental death, and this is very traumatic. The difference with divorce is that a child's parent makes a deliberate decision to destroy the most important thing they provide to the child - a family. There is no disease or enemy or bad luck to blame. You are choosing to scar your own child.
  3. Divorce ends one parent-child relationship and replaces it with a host-guest relationship. Every child needs a balance of love and discipline from both parents. When one parent becomes non-custodial, it reduces their discipline role to near zero. Contact with the non-custodial parent becomes a "visit," usually involving an activity, a meal, and perhaps sleeping over. In this "quality" time, the non-custodial parent is far less likely to discipline the child. The parent wants to avoid conflict (who wouldn’t), and the visits allow it. Visits happen when both parents and children are on their free time. Most situations requiring discipline don’t arise. The non-custodial parent never has to tell the kid to turn off the TV and do homework, because the child's not there on school nights. The non-custodial parent never has to get the teenager up in the morning, or make him clean his room. Is the non-custodial parent going to say to the child, "next time you come over, you're going to scrub my bathroom"? All of the discipline ends up coming from the parent with custody. This sets up the possibility of that parent either becoming the whip wielding slave driver, or the child just not being disciplined by anyone (which is its own kind of disaster).
  4. Half of life’s lessons lost. A huge portion of living life as an adult involves skills we learn from watching our parents. We do not have time to take community college courses on household finances, maintaining a house, maintaining a car, cooking, cleaning, managing our medical care, etc. etc. In an intact family, one or the other parent will probably be competent in most of these things. In a divorced family, you’re cutting your odds in half, and you're much more likely to end up with big holes in basic knowledge. In my personal experience, my parents had a traditional split of duties. After the divorce, I lived with my mother, so I learned a lot about cooking, cleaning and caring for clothing. My father was a skilled amateur carpenter who continuously did home improvement projects. He was knowledgeable about cars. I never gained anything from that because when he came to visit, I wasn't watching him work on the house. When I visited him, he didn't take me car shopping. He took care of those chores some other time. This imbalance haunts me because now that I'm married, I have to constantly bite my tongue and not offer my opinions about cooking, cleaning, and other things my wife wants to be the expert in. On the other hand, I continually face my incompetence in maintaining the house, cars, etc. I'm always scrambling to look stuff up on the internet or find a guidebook. If I had been able to observe both parents, I could direct this time and energy to something else useful for our family.
  5. Divorce prevents young adults from relating to their parents. One of the problems divorce creates is that whole decades of the parents' life become tainted as "the mistake." When the child enters the phases of their own life that parallel's their parent's marriage, the parents and child either can't have a conversation or they can't identify with one another. Consider a child of divorce is out of school and in serious relationship. He or she wants to talk about making the big decision and proposing/accepting, but that topic's off limits for discussion with the parents. The only advice they can give is negative - don't make a mistake like I did. Adjusting to being married, with its ups and downs - your parents won't recall that time of their own life. If they do, its filled with negativity toward your mother or father. It comes up again with the grandchildren, and on and on.
  6. Children of divorce juggle hostile families for the rest of their life. After a divorce, all major life events that involve gathering family and friends become awkward if not hostile, and logistically difficult. The school gave us four adjacent tickets for graduation. Who is going to get snubbed? The wedding - who sits in the family pew and front table? A new baby arrives - who gets to stay in the guest room and who has to get a hotel? These may seem minor, but they combine to form a cloud over what should be joyous occasions throughout the child's whole life. Nothing is ever normal or simple. There is always tension.
  7. Divorce makes maintaining adult relationships harder. There is a good chance the child of a divorce will marry someone from a different region. There is also a good chance the couple will end up in a third region that neither of them are from. Most people get about three weeks of vacation a year. A third-region couple has to split this between visits to two areas. If one set of parents is divorced, half the vacation time has to be split again. Now were talking about a parent seeing their child and grandchildren for maybe 3-4 days a year. Add in travel time (and expense) if the divorce parents aren't near each other. If family gatherings are focused on specific days - Christmas, Thanksgiving - it becomes impossible to coordinate visits. Someone is always cut short. One or both parents always feels slighted, whether they admit it or not. And what kind of relationship can be maintained based on such brief and rare visits?
  8. Divorce is a huge financial setback. All the economies of scale that a marriage provides are lost. Now there are two mortgages or rents, two of every utility bill and insurance premium. Tuition and activities have to be cut back. Step-parents start to exert influence on investments and assistance for the children. If a couple is together, they might help their child pay off a student loan or contribute to a down payment. After a divorce, the new spouse is likely to veto these things, even if they are financially possible. The divorce sets back the parents on their retirement savings, which means the child may have to financially assist one or both in their retirement. In an intact family, when the father dies, his assets support the mother until her passing. In re-married families, dad's assets support the stepmother and bequests have to be split with step-siblings. Families rise out of poverty by accumulating wealth and investing in the next generation. Divorce stops or reverses this progress.
  9. Divorce doubles the burden of caring for elders. The splitting of time on vacations is paralleled in the care for aging parents. In the past, larger families could share the burden of caring for the elderly. Today, a couple has to plan to assist two sets of parents with little or no help. After a divorce, all the arrangements, check-ups, phone calls, visits, etc. are doubled. You go to Dad's house to install a rail in the bathroom, and then you'll have to do it again at mom's house. You do the financial paperwork for Dad's assisted living, and then you do it again for mom. You buy shirts for Dad when he stops doing it himself (which mom would have done), and you make arrangements for lawn mowing at mom's (which dad would have done).

 

Again, this can all be dismissed as just part of life. We don't choose aging or death. Divorce is the parents' choice. Instead of sending their child off on their first bicycle ride with a running push, the divorced parents let the air out of their tires. Can the child roll anyway? Sort of Can they fix it? Maybe. But divorcing parents should be fully aware of what they're doing. If you're considering divorce, you obviously think you're going to get something out of it A second chance. A more romantic marriage with your cheating partner. Understand that your children will probably gain nothing and they are going to pay dearly. Is your pleasure worth the cost of their diminished lives?


I fear having a family so much that I probably won't

by Noah (Baltimore)

My parents were allegedly a common law marriage, but the state they lived in didn't recognize common law marriage at the time, so far as I can tell. They were hippies, my father was a drunk and a junkie, my mother left him when I was 2 and my brother 4.

My mother followed with a string of male and female relationships, though most of my youth she was a lesbian. She remarried in our adulthood, but divorced again after 12 years. All her siblings are divorced. My father remarried 4ish times and recently in his 60s decided he is meant to be a woman. He also feels the need to reconnect with us but that's all too messed up. He's never had a role in our lives, and managed to pay child support for one month out of our whole childhood. I have always wrestled with a lack of male figures who were sound and enviable. My brother and I both experienced mild neglect but also physical and sexual abuse from unsafe environments.

My brother married but wrestles with his role as father. We both started dating late, totally winging it and being taken advantage of by women, along with our own capacity for meting it out in response. I haven't dated seriously for almost 20 years, I'm mostly desperate and sad at age 42 and very single and ever more isolated from others, despite my recent embrace of Catholicism. I've always wrestled with unanswered prayer and seemingly absent divine father. My mother actually hints at and encourages me not getting married and the pleasures of not having a committed family life (this...she says to her own child whose life she messed with...).

I feel and think and am beginning to believe He in His Infinite wisdom is isolating me to keep me from continuing in a failed family legacy spanning generations on both sides of abuse and neglect. I and others may think I'd be a wonderful father, but what do I know about being a son, to God or man (especially given my F'ed upbiological father, who thinks he's a woman...)?


No easy solution

My mom needed to divorce my dad. He had been physically abusive for years. Eventually he committed adultery. While my mother felt totally betrayed, there was a part of her that was glad she finally felt no one could expect her to stay married to him. That was when I was 13.

Now I'm an adult, married with children of my own. My husband is a good man, but the idea of divorce is never far from my thoughts. I'm afraid he will leave me later for a younger woman, solution: divorce. There are times I feel so depressed about myself, and I don't want to have to drag him down, solution: divorce. There are times I'm so upset with him for not being perfect, solution: divorce. There are times I'm just tired of dealing with all the needs of taking care of a whole other person, along with my children, solution: divorce. My mom has managed to live pretty happily as a single mom.

I know divorce is nowhere near justifiable for me, but I fear that I just don't have the skills or personality to have a thriving marriage. I look at other aging couples, and see a lot of frustrations and incompatibilities. Can I endure that long? Am I that good of a person?

My only hope is through Christ, that He can change me, heal me. I'm impatient for the day that divorce won't linger in my thoughts so much. I wonder if this really is because I'm a child of divorce, or if I'm just weak.

I love my husband and my children, and the emotional violence of divorce is repugnant to me. And maybe that is the silver lining, that because I hate what divorce did to me, I don't want to do that to my children.


The Parents Move On, But the Children Suffer Forever....

by Cindy (Pennsylvania)

I was born in 1967. My parents were on the cutting edge of society then. My mother had become a career woman in 1961, when my brother was an infant. There were no daycares, only grandmas. Even after I was born, my mother wanted little to do with marriage and family. My father didn't seem to mind much until his career took him to another state and my mother never adjusted. She returned home and they separated. I was 3. After a short period, I suffered an illness and my father returned home. They remained amicable for my sake. But by the time I was 6, they barely spoke. Each had their own life and their own indiscretions. By the time I was 9, my parents were divorced. I was the only kid in class with divorced parents. I was very sad and very confused. They kept a lot of secrets from me, hoping, I think, to make it easier for me to adjust.

Initially the custody situation involved my brother living with my father full time and me with my mother. Our family was split right in two pieces. But after a series of my mother's instability, my mother agreed to give me to my father. Along with that, my mother also agreed in the divorce settlement to sell a large amount of family property for some jewelry. It was an inheritance from her father, but she sold it to my father thinking that my brother and I would still benefit. How ever wrong she was.

My father immediately remarried after the required 6 months. His new wife had come from an abusive relationship and also had a disabled child. I grew to love my step-sister, and honestly I am grateful for that experience. It gave me a tenderness for children with special needs that I still carry today. After my step-sister's death, my father and step-mother had a daughter together. I was 13. My world changed after that. Naturally, my father needed to focus on his new family. I can't fault him for that, after all he had a wife and child. Only my step-mother never sustained a meaningful relationship with me. After my father's death, we spoke only a few times. I tried to rekindle our relationship about 10 years ago, but she had a new husband and new "children" and "grandchildren." Ultimately, neither I nor my own children meant very much and it died before it started.

After being abandoned by my mother, I spent my youth basically without a mother. I had no contact with her from age 11 until I was 21. I knew nothing about her, other than rumors or messages from her sister. I was left without a mother and with a huge void.

Basically, I grew up in a home where I was not really a part of a family and ripped apart from the family I had been given. In high school I told people I was adopted rather than explain that my parents were divorced. I did the best I could, but made no real connections with family or friends. I was angry all the time and felt cheated. My parents had moved on with their lives and my brother and I had to do the best we could.

My brother and I are statistics. We graduated highschool, but couldn't make it through college. Drugs and alcohol got the best of us. He spent a few years in prison. We have a grown half-sister who my brother is interested in and with whom I try desperately to have a relationship. It isn't easy, but we try.

Today, my father is gone. I am left to take care of an aging, disabled mother who abandoned me and about whom I care nothing. For 10 years, I have been caring for her. That's longer than she cared for me.

The pain and anger still lie under the surface. I often wonder how different my life would have been if my parents had toughed it out and stayed together. My mother's property that was left to her by her father was left to my step-mother in my father's will. She shares it with her new husband. My brother and I hardly speak. I can't even look at my mother with love and admiration.

Luckily, this is not a fate I wanted to pass on to my own children. Even though we have had some rough times, my husband and I have been married 22 years. We have 7 children who have both their mother and father together at home.

If I could tell people who are thinking of divorcing anything, I would say please, for your children, work it out. Whatever problems you have, you can solve them. Really, you can! Put your children first. When you got married, you committed to raising a family together. So do it!

Trust me, the parents might be able to put the life with their spouse behind them, but the children suffer forever, even after the parents are long gone.