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This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.
by Sean (Nova Scotia)
I was born late in 1964. Gen-X leaning late Boomer, I guess.
My father had severe mental illness & self-medicating drug & alcohol abuse. From his mid-20s, he was on a downward bipolar/ psychosis spiral which slowly shredded his marriage, and the life of his wife and three kids. Sadly, because he was still very high-functioning, he refused treatment with the then-new Lithium protocols.
Essentially, from 1974 through to the 1990s, there was almost no part of my life that was untouched by their separation (1977-8) and divorce (1981). Family life & order went to hell, my brothers and I lived in the chaos of his visits & divided holidays, and in a home (Mom got custody) in which regular meals were rare, new clothing had to be begged for, cleaning was non-existent, and neglect and emotional manipulation were the order of the day.
At the time, I remember seeing books and magazines at home, arguing the idea that kids were resilient, divorce was a bump in the road, and everybody would recover nicely.
I suffered from severe childhood depression from probably 1975-6 into adulthood; I carried a fear of commitment (let alone marriage) into my 20's. The emotional chaos, neglect, and abuse of a divided family (which soon included a step-mother figure I was supposed to love, even though she represented the death of my hopes that my parents might somehow reconcile) have made it very hard to be a husband, father, and friend.
Even though both of my parents are now dead, their destructive relationship & our careless upbringing has meant my brother is a high-functioning teenager, though in his mid-40s; my other brother married badly, and is now divorced; and while I am still married, that my relationships are complex, fraught with anxiety, avoidance, and an almost PTSD-like dysfunction.
Divorce breaks people. When kids are growing up (birth-13, especially), divorce unsettles their fundamental relationships and assumptions about good, bad, mommy & daddy, home & safety, their own goodness and relationship to events in their lives, and so much more. Some of this damage is never healed, or heals poorly; most children of divorce are damaged in ways which are only revealed as they grow up, and try to being adult lives, relationships, marriage, parenthood, and useful lives in work & community.
When my parents were separated in the 70s, it was literally the first such in my whole school; yet now, 50% of marriages end in divorce, and some kids are born outside of a stable marriage in the first place-- here is is a recipe for another 30-50 years of terribly damaged, emotionally crippled & rootless people. Such people likely to marry late, if at all; postphone childbearing, extend immature life-choices & self-medication substances & behaviours.
We must have more & better marriage preparation. We must make separation & divorce harder, and get rid of no-fault divorce, punitive anti-male divorce settlements, excessive lawyerly interference, and make sure that children receive counselling and care, post-divorce, over years, and not just at the moment.
Just a few thoughts.