I will never forget the moment that my mom pulled the four of us kids out on the front porch and told us, with little pomp or circumstance, that she and our father were divorcing. I’ll never forget it because each of us exhaled a long, slow breath of relief, and rapidly assured her that we were fine, happy even, and that we wished they had done it a lot sooner. Our home was not the most harmonious (or even the safest) for most of my childhood, and it was clear to each of us kids that it was just… time. Divorce, in our family’s experience, was not a bad thing.
In retrospect, it’s dawned on me that even though my mother’s marriage seemed rife with conflict, fear, and worry from the outside, that there’s still a lot that I, as her daughter, didn’t know about what was going on between the two of them. It’s possible that I’ll never actually know, because she doesn’t like to talk about any of it—the good, the bad, or the scary. But on my better days, I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume that the two of them must have had nice times in between all of the terrible ones… right? Because what makes you marry a person in the first place, assuming you’re entering into marriage with both eyes open and of your own accord?
I do sometimes wonder if the lack of stability in my childhood is why I was so incredibly picky when dating, why I often ended relationships two to four weeks in, at the first sight of anything that I might find potentially unsavory—either at the moment or down the road. I wonder if it’s part of the reason why I married my husband so quickly (after three months of knowing one another) and at such a young age (twenty-two). When I met him, it was immediately clear that he would be a kind, loving, gentle influence in my life, because those characteristics are so inherently part of who he is. He blatantly fills many perceived gaps that I’ve had in my life: he’s not quick to judge or anger, he’s incredibly giving, he’s stable, and he’s such a thoughtful, sweet, strong father to our kid. He’s many of the things that I didn’t realize I lived without, and he’s taught me so much about what actual equal partnership is, and he’s supported me while I’ve learned more about myself.
My parents’ divorce changed a lot of things in my life. Far from being a negative thing, I think the divorce was the best thing that happened to our family. And funnily, growing up in a home without a pair of positive marriage role models means that I spend a lot of time making up what a positive marriage is like with my husband—and I’m okay with that.
That said, I know that my experience with a parental divorce isn’t the same as everyone else’s. And I know that for many people, watching their parents go through a difficult divorce can haunt them as they ponder getting hitched themselves. So I wanted to allow some space to talk about how our parents’ divorces can affect our weddings and marriage—for good and for ill.
did your parents split up? How has your parents’ divorce changed your life—and what has it made you feel about marriage and relationships in general?