Thursday, April 22, 2010
This topic from this week's Writer's Workshop list caught my eye right away, because as a child of divorce, I understand first-hand what it's like to go through that experience. And my parent's divorce was a profound event in my life that changed me and, I feel, molded me into the person I am today.
I realize this question is kinda directed more so at people who are married, and I'm not, but I felt compelled to share my unique perspective on this issue.
To say that my parents' divorce was a surprise would not be an understatement. My parent's weren't exactly "lovey-dovey" and, in fact, I would wake up nights and here them fighting in the basement. However, being only 11 or 12 when they split, I wasn't old enough to comprehend the complexities of adult relationships and so divorce never really entered my mind. I remember them (well, my mom) sitting us down to tell us like it was yesterday (and I don't have a very good memory normally). I remember feeling angry and not understanding (and storming off to my room).
Not only was it hard to comprehend, but it was embarassing. None of my friends' parents were divorced so in my tight, suburban neighbourhood I felt like a freakshow. Refreshingly, my parent's were actually very mature about it at first, really trying to make the transition for my sister and I easier; I remember my dad coming by regularly and actually coming over at Christmas with a gift for my mom (wtf?!). And the first few years I saw my dad once or twice a month and would have sleepovers with friends at his new home (with his former mistress, now live-in girlfriend. Mm hm. Yeah. Again, 11...didn't clue in then).
But that didn't last long. I really haven't had a relationship with my dad since I was 15 years old (looooong story which I won't get into here) and haven't seen or talked to him in several years now (even though he lives in the same city as me), so basically I grew up without a dad. He wasn't there during the critical time in my adolescence when I needed a male influence, and that still affects me to this day.
I don't mean this to turn into a big "poor me" story, but I'm not going to sugar-coat it - the divorce was a traumatic experience. However, growing up with a single mom and an older sister with a disability taught me maturity and independence and responsibility early on. It was hard and sometimes I resented it so bad I wanted to scream, but it made me into the person I am - a self-sufficient, rational, mature, independent and giving person. I have my mom to thank for that - not having my dad in the picture made her my sole role model, and I couldn't have asked for a better one. I was never want for anything and had a great life - I was never abused or neglected or told I couldn't do things. Many children are not so lucky.
Now, this doesn't really speak to the topic of the post, which is "divorce dreams", but I'm getting to that! My feelings about divorce are obviously very complex and I'm not someone who believes in telling others what to do. Plus, I do feel that divorce is often necessary; sometimes marriages can literally be emotional and mental "traps" for the people in them and sometimes two people can be far more dysfunctional together than apart. Trust me, even though it was hard for me to understand at the time, I realize now that my parent's were RIGHT to get divorced; in fact, I would even venture to say they should have gotten divorced earlier (they were together 18 years before they split). Even though deep down my dad was a good person, he was a philandering alcoholic and I know now that my mom was drowning and despairing being his wife.
This being said, I also do not believe in running for the hills as soon as any problems appear in a relationship. All relationship have problems and that can't be avoided. But all too often nowadays I think people expect this perfect Hollywood rom-com marriage and when they don't get it, they want to quit. Obviously, some problems, behaviour and treatment should never be tolerated from your spouse, but it seems to me that many problems couples experience either are very small and blown out of proportion, or start very small then grow and grow due to avoidance and lack of communication. Everyone has annoying habits and personality traits that can get more and more irritating over time, but most problems if dealt with properly early on can be solved if both people are willing to do so.
Obviously, I realize this is not always realistic and that, not being married or being a parent, I have no concept of what it's like to deal with those kinds of problems. In the interest of not getting a huge amount of backlash from the previous paragraph, let me clarify that my arguments against divorce are more directed at couples with children. However, I'm not saying that divorce should or shouldn't be considered in ANY cases; you have to do what you feel is best for you. All I'm saying is, it's not a decision I would be too hasty to make, especially if you have children. Because I may not be married or be a parent, but I do know what it's like to be a child watching your parent's - the foundation of your very existence in some ways - break apart and grow to hate each other. It's not pretty. Kids survive, but they also pick up on more than you think and they carry it with them; they remember. So, just keep that in mind next time you and your spouse are arguing about taking out the garbage.