Tell Ruth the Truth

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


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.


2nd class citizen in my own family

by Second class citizen (USSA)

Second Class Citizen

Second Class Citizen

I was the eldest child in step family situations on both sides. It was like being a second class citizen in my own family. On my mother's side, a new child was born, and the entire family revolved around this new child. On my dad's side, he remarried women who had kids from prior relationships. In both instances, I felt like an "add on" and I felt like I was standing outside, looking in. I felt like my birthright was stolen from me. Not only did nobody care, I was expected to love these people and these situations, while they were not required to love my family on the opposite side. Emotionally it was a one way street--I gave love to their whole families, they gave love to 1/2 of mine.

Just today I had a conversation with a friend whom I had not talked to in a long time. She remarried a couple years ago, and new husband has younger kids. She remarked that even though she loves her husband very much, it is so hard with the kids, and she sounded a little bitter about it. The elder girl just turned 13 and is beginning to act up. I didn't say anything, but I wanted to say, "As hard as it is for you, it's about 100 times harder for the kids." I felt a little offended at her words. The kids intuit that their family has been destroyed, but they cannot articulate it yet. And even if they could, would they? Not likely. So they will act out. I'm sure that for now, they buy the crappy line that it's just an alternate family form. I call foul. It's only an alternative family form from the adult's perspective. From the child's perspective, their family has been destroyed. There is no way to sugar coat this--this is the reality.

I think it should be illegal for a parent to remarry if the kids are under 18, maybe even under 21. The new spouse, that spouse's family, and new children creates a new family structure, on that the older children are not part of, one that they may not even want to be part of. They don't want to be forced to love people and those people's family, who do not in turn love their whole family. It creates emotional obstacles for the older children that may take them their entire lives to unravel and heal. I'm 47 and to this day it still hurts.

ADULTS: WAKE THE F*** UP AND QUIT SACRIFICING YOUR CHILDREN SO THAT YOUR GENITALS CAN FEEL GOOD! It's really disgusting, so don't be shocked or surprised when your kids don't respect you, and don't you dare chastise them for objecting to your selfishness. They intuit more about how you're supposed to act than you know.


Light in the Storm

I remember watching from an upstairs bedroom window my father walking because my mother had tossed him out of the house. He had no where to go. I put my hand on the glass as a way of feeling that pain of him leaving. My father was sick due to Agent Orange. I was screaming with my heart and running toward him with my brother and sister in tow. But, I had to see him leave.

My mother was an alcoholic. Both of her parents deceased, died of cancer. She was the primary breadwinner; a registered staff nurse at our local hospital. She was raising three small children, claiming to her for every want and need. Her siblings, all halves, didn't do much for her except condemn and ostracize. My mother did things the "right way". She graduated college, married, and had her children to a God-fearing man. Something happened. I don't know what. My father was getting sick. No one knew why. We just had speculation to ease us with why.

My mother divorced my father.

My father lived in a hotel room and when the money became a strain, he lived in a homeless shelter with "druggies", "alcoholics", and frequent "jailbirds". My father witnessed to them and many were saved despite his health and socioeconomic status. My father was educated. A degree in Theology. He spent much of his life in/out of VA hospitals. His faith never wavered. He believed in us. My mother seemed to vanish in her mysteries on TV, her work, and the bottle. We had men come in/out of the house. We saw her get drunk and beat us because we were in the way. We got taken away, too. I was awarded to the court once and stayed from my family for six years. I came home finally when I was fifteen. My father's health staggered but he took care of 3 children all on his own. I was lucky. Very lucky. I had a father that cared. He couldn't shelter us from the world. We were better that he was that light to us; a hope we couldn't find until we all met Jesus.

My mother passed in 2000. My father eventually passed in 2013. I have three children and I am on my second marriage. It isn't the path that I dreamed having at 17 or any other age prior to now. I can say that I am grateful for it all. God has given me strength. He has given me wisdom. God uses ordinary people to His greater purpose. I am lucky. No, I am BLESSED.


Turned Out All Right?

by CTW (Illinois)

My mom denies how painful the divorce was for my brothers and I. Once we grew up, she openly mocked the statistics demonstrating poorer outcomes for children whose parents divorced, because we didn’t suffer any of the social pathologies to which we were statistically more susceptible:

  • none of us ended up in jail
    • all of us graduated from high school
    • all of us went to college (two of us finished and even went to grad school: one became a lawyer, one became a veterinarian; the third stopped college but joined the Navy and became a nuclear technician on a fast-attack submarine)
    • none of us developed a problem with drugs or alcohol
  • Now that we’ve all “turned out all right,” my mom continues to mock the above statistics, but what she cannot detect because it cannot be measured is the emotional pain, the psychological upheaval, and the gap in our upbringing and personal development due to the absence of our father.

    There is one other “social pathology” to which children of divorce are more susceptible—one that my mom conveniently ignores: it is much more likely that our own marriages will end in divorce.

    Mine already has. I’m in an interesting cohort: the first generation of kids affected by the new “no-fault” divorce laws. (My parents divorced in 1975, when I was 9). My children are in another interesting cohort: the kids of the kids of the first no-fault divorces.

    I have looked at divorce “from both sides now,” and no matter how you look at it, it stinks. As I was descending the steps of the courthouse after my divorce (I was the respondent, my husband was the petitioner), my attorney, wet-behind-the-ears and unwise, said, “Congratulations. He’s out of your life forever.” I just shook my head and said to him, “If only that were true.” Earlier in the divorce proceedings, an older attorney at the firm had spoken more wisely: “In a way, divorce is almost worse than death, because the relationship ends badly and then you still have to deal with the person as an adversary, at least until all the children grow up. And even then, sometimes the conflict doesn’t end.”

    That is my experience exactly. People get divorced because they think it will solve all their problems. In reality, all it does is exchange one terrible set of problems for a completely different but equally terrible set of problems. What a sad inheritance to pass on to one’s children. I'm 46 years old, my kids are 21, 20, and 16, and we're all still feeling it.