Tell Ruth the Truth

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


My Family Photo Makes Me Feel Guilty

I have two photographs of my parents and me. One is a candid shot, in color, taken by my great grandfather right after I was born. My dad is holding me and smiling at the camera. My mom is looking down at me and smiling, with her beautiful blonde hair bundled in the "beehive" style that was popular then. The other is black and white photo, professionally taken in a studio. My dad is wearing a dark suit and tie. My mom is wearing her long blonde hair down the side, over her shoulder, in full view of the camera. We're all smiling and looking just beyond the camera, at the photographer I suppose. I don't remember the occasion. I was probably about two when it was taken. They are the only two photos I have of me with my parents.

After their divorce, they both remarried later and started new families. Their lives spread further and further apart. Each new family consumed their time and energy. Each ignored the other, and therefore ignored 1/2 of my family. As the odd man out in their new families, we never had family discussions about my relatives or cousins on the other side, although discussions about the new children's relatives and cousins were standard fare. So it seemed perfectly natural to remain silent about my family on the other side. Perfectly natural, yet somehow unjust. The other family was good enough for me, but not good enough for them. There is a certain immorality about such a message.

I feel guilty when I look at the photos. I'm not supposed to want that. Yet I do.


What should I call this man?

by JVW (NC)

I distinctly remember when I was 5, trying to figure out what to call the man my mom had married. I knew my dad was supposed to be called dad, but this man was around me every day, always here, and my dad was only around from 12:30-5 every Sunday with a weekend visit once a month. It was very confusing. So, awkwardly I determined to call him "Daddy G*****", using his first name and differentiating between the two by always calling them daddy (first name inserted).

Holidays were [[[Horrible]]]]. Imagine getting to be at a party during the set up phase, and always leaving before it began, and having to open Christmas presents at 3:00 pm Christmas Eve because visitation ended at 5:30...only to be dropped off in the insanity of getting ready to go to the step-relatives house, who all think you don't really need any presents because they assume your "real" family has taken care of that, and hearing the hushed whispers from the older step relatives of how you're "so & so's girl, from the previous marriage". Step families rarely succeed at taking in the children and making them feel as if they are loved.

I never spent a Thanksgiving at my moms house. Thanksgiving was always at my dads' familys house. I only vacationed with my mom one time that I could remember; both of my "dad's" worked at plants, where they got July 4th week off. That was my assigned visitation week with my real father. So the family I lived with-my mother, her husband, my half sister and half brother, always went somewhere and I would go with my dad. It's just plain confusing.

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate that I don't have a dead beat dad. He did right by me, in that he always came on Sundays at 12:30.

He also took me to different women's houses that we would spend the night at. I would sleep in other little girls' beds, that I had just met.

And when my mom divorced my step dad--the man that I had grown to love as dearly as my father....and she married another man years later.... Well, lets just say I called him by his first name, and barely got to know him.

I have a hard time trusting people. Or believing people. I'm not really close to any of my relatives, and don't feel a strong compelling urge anymore to "be there" during supposed family crises. I used to try, but it was emotionally suicidal. It was killing me.

It has taken years for me to fully understand the impact. The complete disillusionment during childhood. The lack of belief that I was worth anything. I felt discarded. Abandoned. Lost. Orphaned. Alone. Scared. Hopeless. I had no direction. This is just a quick summary of thoughts.

The road has been hard. My husband and I have fought and struggled for our own marriage for almost 20 years, but I know we're going to make it. My own kids know it too now. It's taken the incredible grace of God to bring us to this, but it is working. God takes broken things and still uses them. Isaiah 42:3


How about great-grandchildren of divorce?

by K (Colorado)

Nobody in my family has divorced for three generations. But my great-grandfather divorced his first wife and married my great-grandmother. His own son, born of this second marriage - my great-uncle - criticized him for what he did. Now both of those generations are gone, but there are still effects.

I live in the same town as one of the descendants of my great-grandfather's first family, and I like genealogy, so I have often wanted to go meet this person. But I still haven't made it happen - I keep thinking, what do I say: hello, I'm the great-grandchild of the woman your great-grandfather left your great-grandmother for?

I am ashamed of the divorce, even though I would not exist without it - three generations later!