What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by an anonymous reader.
I grew up going to church every Sunday. My parents were hardcore Focus on the Family lovers, and they (my mom in particular) took many an opportunity to remind me that marriage is sacred, and marriage is the only context to raise a family, and marriage is forever, etc. etc. Now is probably also a good time to add that while I saw other marriages (even some of people within the church *gasp!*) fall apart over the years, and listened to a few friends who worried all.the.time. that their parents would divorce, and spent time at other friends’ houses who parents were already divorced, I never once even imagined that divorce would one day scar my own heart.
My first year post high school I went to bible school and I lived in Europe for six months, then back in North America, but far from home for another two months. A week before my college year over, my dad emailed me and told me that my parents’ marriage was done. Without getting into the obvious fact that email is not the method of communication for such things (or the fact that maybe a week before your daughter’s year is over is not the right timing for this choice?!), let me just say I was floored. Devastated. Shocked. Confused. Sad. Even just sitting here now and sharing my story is impossible for me to do without re-experiencing panic welling inside of me.
Initially, I just cried and cried and cried, for about two hours in the arms of a friend (who is now one of my best friends…let me just say, if you’re in the market for a best friend, sobbing for hours is a rather bonding event. Just make sure to cry with the right person! ;) Then I was mad. And then I was angry. And then I just flat out lost my will to live. Part of me was in denial; I couldn’t quite believe it. My parents? No way. This is crazy. My parents would never…
Eventually, I talked with my mom. Eventually, I learned that she was just as blindsided by this as I was. Eventually, I learned that she had no desire for her marriage to be over, that she had begged my dad to try counseling, but that he had walked away with no desire for reconciliation.
In a way, it was comforting to learn that. From the moment I read my father’s email, he was a completely different person to me. It’s like one man raised me, but then turned into a person who choices and morals I no longer recognized. It was comforting to know that my mom was still the same as she had always been. But in another way, it hurt even more to learn this wasn’t mutual. It was hard to see the great pain that my dad was single handedly inflicting upon my mom and our family.
I know that all situations are different. I do know that there are cases where divorce is the safest option for some people. But I want you to know that divorce was not needed for my parents, but my dad just made selfish choices.
I want you know that I am grateful that had eighteen years living in a two parent home. But what I also want you to know is that the day I legally became an adult, I didn’t change from being my parents daughter. I am still their child, and the fact that they are no longer married still hurts me, very, very much.
Some people think I should be grateful that I didn’t have to spend my childhood in two different homes. I am grateful. I am grateful both parents were there and married to each other for birthdays and to tuck me into bed at night and to help me with my homework and in family pictures every year and for my high school graduation.
But what I want you to know is that holidays have lost their magic. Some days it hurts so much to think about the day I will get married, and how my parents will not be sitting at the same table. It makes me mad that my future babies will never see my parents in one visit. I want you to know that I’m terrified my own marriage will turn out the same. I want you to know that there is so much pain when your parents get divorced, and it sucks, and that will be true no matter how old you are when it happens.
If this isn’t your story, but you love someone who is living through this as part of their story, and you want to know what to do?
-Be there and let them talk and/or cry with you.
-Realize that some days the best way to be there is to not talk about it. Some days, the only way for them to get through will be to forget that this is a reality of their life.
-Important: do not ever tell them that this is okay and there’s a silver lining if you look hard enough and this could be worse and life will get better. (I’m not stupid, I already know that it could be worse, and if you say that it just makes me want to punch you in the face, and the fact that punching people in the face is not an acceptable release of emotion just gives me one more emotion to deal with. The only exception to the above is if you have lived through the crap that is called “parents divorcing”, then you are welcome to tell me any or all of the above.)
-Related: don’t bother asking them if [insert parent’s name here] is dating yet, especially if they never even told you about their parents. (There is no exception to this!)
-Just be awesome. One example of awesomeness that helped me survive is when a couple (who are a good ten years older than me, married, with little kids, and living a busy life) gave me a key to their house and told me to come over whenever I needed, that I didn’t need to call first, and that I didn’t even need to ever say why I was there. Do you know how many times I’ve used that key in the years since then? Zero. But I still have it on my key chain, and I still feel safe and loved knowing that I can “run away” if I need to.
-If they love Jesus, and you love Jesus, pray with them, and pray for them on your own. But unless you are best friends for life with them, hold off quoting Romans 8:28 and all other sappy verses that they probably don’t want to hear.
If this is your story too, I want you know that this does get better. There will be days when you hate your life, and you will be angry, and you will cry for the littlest things. But in time, there will be more and more days where you will actually be happy, and love everything about your life, except for this one part. There will come a day when you will no longer place your identity in “being from a broken home”. You will just be you, and that will be a small part of you. I want you to know that this is true: "the very act of living is like a tide: at first it seems to make no difference at all, and then one day you look down and see how much pain has eroded".