A college girl named Carly recently posted an article about living with her parent’s divorce. Her blog highlighted her challenges with trust, holidays, and the relationship mistakes she witnessed that she doesn’t want to repeat. She ended the story with this perspective:
“Divorce isn’t glamorous or fun. Its heartbreak and sadness. It doesn’t just impact the two people directly involved, but all the parties surrounding those people. So don’t write us off. Know we’ve experienced things that will stick with us forever.”
As the divorced mother of now-16 year old son and a parental figure to three boys whose parents are divorced, I read this blog with intrigue. I read it over and over and each time I finished the story with a different reaction. The first time I read it, I cried. I cried for the hurt and harm that the boys in my life must inevitably be experiencing. The next time I read it, I thought about my son and his current relationship. Is he able to trust? Is he healthy? Is he kind? The final time I read it, my internal whisper encouraged this post.
My son was 5 when we went through our divorce. When we talk about that timeframe he shares that he barely remembers what it was like before the split. He may not recall, but I do.
I remember the worry and sleepless nights. I could point out countless moments when my emotions or opinions were discounted or judged as “crazy.” I could write volumes about what disrespect feels like. I may be able to conjure up a positive memory or two, but mostly I remember feeling powerless and hopeless and wondered if this was the kind of woman – now mother – I wanted to be. I remember questioning whether I had the courage to make it on my own; whether I wanted my son to grow up in a “broken home.”
Somewhere inside of the angst and confusion, I found the strength to speak my truth. I wasn’t living from a place of strength; I was operating from a place of fear. My life wasn’t being honored. Speaking may not have been much, but it was enough to awaken my senses and move me into taking action to restore sense of worthiness. It was enough to help me realize that my life had become so imbalanced that my greatest potential was no longer possible.
And so it was. The decision to find my truth was made. It was at the expense of the marriage and the “family unit” but what I’d like to share with the boys in my world and the young lady who wrote that blog is this:
DIVORCE IS A DECISION – NOT A LABEL!
Carly, thank you for sharing your truth and for doing so in a vulnerable way, but please know that everybody’s childhood and the lessons of youth stays with them. You are not broken and your parents did not damage you. In fact, what I see from your story is a well-adjusted, self-aware individual with a bright future on the horizon. Truth is, I can’t say that is always true for children who don’t come from two homes.
Being a single parent has its challenges, but I’d like to suggest that the day my divorce was final was the day I became a better parent.
It’s not lost on me that my son’s existence changed dramatically and perhaps he had adjustments to make, but that can be said of most childhoods. Having two bedrooms and two birthday parties may have been daunting, but it only becomes so when he compares it to others.
So stop comparing! There is nothing good that could come of it. Instead, I’m challenging readers to see the powerful perspectives. I’d like to point out the upside of divorce.
This is what divorce taught me.
1. To Be Present! Our time away from our children helps us value every moment with our children. Because I wasn’t able to put him to bed every night, I treasured the time when I had the opportunity. We made each moment count.
2. Self Sufficiency. There is value in shared responsibility for a family budget, but there is something to be said for learning to be self-reliant. There is a secret sense of power (and sometimes fear) that comes with knowing there is no safety net. It is sink or swim and more often than not, single parents swim.
3. There are more people in your life to love your children. I never imagined I could love somebody else’s children like they are my own, but it has happened. I’ll never be their mom and my significant will never be my son’s father, but that doesn’t mean they are loved less – they are loved more! And while having more than one Christmas may sound overwhelming, I can assure every child with multiple families that it’s not about being paraded through family functions. It’s about being loved by so many.
4. You can demonstrate what it means to have a healthy relationship – or two. I believe in the power of commitment. I believe forever love is beautiful —and rare! A piece of paper and vows spoken do not guarantee forever – they never have. More than 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. In the 1960s, you were expected to stay married, even if abuse, alcoholism and other destructive behaviors limited your greatest potential. Today, choices exist. I’m not suggesting that you throw in the towel just because it gets hard, but I do believe that people, relationships and dynamics can become unproductive and unhealthy. After sincere effort and honesty, if something no longer works, we have the power to choose differently.
5. Discernment. What some call distrust or jagged, I call discernment. I believe people have the same potential for good as they do for evil. I also believe that people will rise to the occasion and, more often than not, surpass our expectations in amazing ways. That being said, blind trust or faith is never a good idea. Being burned by a relationship heightens our sense of awareness. We learn that trust is fragile and should be earned and nurtured. Trust is at the heart of every good and functional relationship and heightened senses equip us to be better judges of character. It teaches us discernment about who is worthy of our trust. This skill may have been lacking prior-to divorce (and throughout the divorce process, but that is a different post).
So to the Carly’s of the world who think divorce causes unnecessary pain and labels, please know that divorce isn’t easy for anybody. It is tough. It does impact more than your parents. It is a lesson and a perspective that stays with you. I might suggest that it impacted you enough to take a risk, share you story, and impact your world in a positive way. Yeah you.