Your father and I are getting a divorce…
I guess it is time we have this conversation…as much as you and I would like to avoid it.
We are talking about divorce. It is a reality. Like heart disease or cancer, everyone of us has been affected by it one way or another. But no one talks.
Personally, I am the child of 5 divorces and 7 marriages between my parents. And sadly, I know I do not hold the world record. Some of you who are reading can top that number by a mile, can’t you.
How many of us have been the recipient or the deliverer of these words: Your mother and I are getting a divorce. Or your father and I are getting a divorce.
We don’t love each other anymore.
We never loved each other.
I married your mother because she was pregnant.
I married your father because you needed a father.
We are tired of fighting all the time.
The word divorce defined makes it all seem so simple. There is no-fault between two people who have decided to dissolve a marriage by judicial means.
The people who write the dictionary definition make it sound so simple. You are only breaking a contract. But can you Can you rip the marriage license in half, burn it or throw it away and be free and liberated from each other for ever?
The answer is as simple and undefined as the dictionary definition. No.
The words, dissociate, divide, disconnect, split, disjoin also describe divorce. I believe these describe divorce more accurately.
Whether a marriage is dissolved for a lack of love and fulfillment (2/3 are reported to dissolve due to a lack of love and fulfillment) or abuse (1/3 are reported to dissolve due to abuse or infidelity) families are left feeling divided, disconnected, split and disjointed. Not only in their physical placement – where they live or who they spend Christmas with this year, but in their personal identity.
Therein, this is not a conversation about whether divorce is right or wrong in your circumstances. This blog is about the legacy that we are leaving behind by the choices we make or do not make in regards to our relationships.
Theologian Karl Barth, philosopher Martin Heidegger, and social theorists like Anthony Gibbens all believe that who we are begins and ends in relationship with others. This relationship is exemplified in the example of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all in community together. Our human relationships begin when two people come together to create a child. Our first community is family.
What happens when that family unit is broken?
In the book, “The Children of Divorce: The loss of family as the loss of being” author Andrew Root wrote: “Divorce may feel like a desperately needed liberation…but it was a silent nightmare to a child…leaving major marks on children” (p. xvi).
Why would Root list divorce as a silent nightmare for children?
A child’s identity is striped from them when the security of family is taken. Their confidence is shaken and they doubt their ability to contribute to society as they navigate the new territory of adult emotion and logistic that come with divorce and separation. In many cases children or adult children become care-givers of other siblings or the parents themselves out of necessity of the situation. Because children (and adults) are told divorce can be an easy process, they become experts at emotional stuffing, denial of pain, and perfectionism.
Children and grown adults of divorce ask the questions: Who am I as a child of divorce? Did they divorce because of me? If it wasn’t my fault, who’s fault was it? Who’s side do I take? How come I have to be a friend to my parents when I just wanted to be a child? Should I ever have children of my own? Do all relationships fail? If I can’t trust my parents who can I trust?
In all the mess of emotional surprises of divorce, life can seem hopeless for the parents and for the children. But I believe in a different end to this story for you and for me. Regardless, of the family we are currently in, we can find wholeness and health through a relationship with Christ. As individuals, if we seek awareness and healing first, then we can have healthy relationships with others and change the legacy that divorce is trying to leave this world.
1 Peter 2:9 it says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness in to his wonderful light”. This is who you are. Nothing else defines you.
If you are a child or parent of divorce, what questions has divorced left you with?
What topics of conversation would be valuable to discuss for your healing? (For example: forgiveness, re-marriage, parenting from a child of divorce perspective, being a step parent…)
as I read what you’ve written, two things, partial sentences jumped out at me and have made me think.
“Our first community is family”. What happens to a child when their “community” is lived out in fighting, two parents who don’t trust each other and very much a sense of not sure what the day will hold because it’s not clear what the mood will be that day. Not having an understanding of what a healthy male/female relationship really is and relying on television to set the example and bar of what I wanted when I grew up. Words being used as weapons and now that I’m older, I see that words were also used to manipulate situations and people. As a little girl, it was so hard to navigate growing up in this kind of home. I didn’t see it then, it all seemed normal. in my photos as a little girl, it’s like you can see the change in my eyes around the age of 4. That must have been when I became more aware of what was going on in our home. There is this sadness and it’s really hard to look at them now. I don’t remember or have examples of what had gone on, but I can feel it when I look at them. Before that age, I had this happy, slightly naughty look and I love those pictures because, that’s the look my two children have in all their young photos. I’m so thankful for that.
The other word that sticks out is legacy. I should be a statistic, following in my parents footsteps. I should be bitter and angry, alone and have a history that I am disappointed in. But, by the grace of God, and I truly mean that, He protected me and saved me from myself. God took care of me when I didn’t even know Him – that’s such a definition of grace. Grateful to this day for grace I didn’t ask for and certainly didn’t deserve.
Legacy, when applied to all areas of my life takes on different shades and meanings. I’m thankful for that because it would be easy to lump who I am and what my legacy is into one basket and define it by my parent’s relationship. By doing that, I would throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak. There are many positive traits and things from my childhood that have helped shape who I am. My parents divorce and my dysfunctional childhood have left it’s mark, but I have tried my best to use what I lived to make a difference in the lives of my children. I kept the good and am doing my best to leave the bad things i was “schooled” in and conditioned to be, far behind. As a wife, I am everything my Mother was not. I paid pretty close attention & I wanted to be different.
God answered the desires of my heart: to be the kind of Momma I longed to have for Brady and Natilee and to be a wife that loves and supports her husband. It has taken a conscience effort on my part and I haven’t always been successful, but God is good and has been faithful to fill in the areas that I miss and often, don’t even realize I’ve missed.
Thanks for writing and for causing me to think.
Thank you, Angela, for writing on this important topic! I only experienced one divorce after I had grown up and left home, and my parents ended up getting back together. But, I was completely blown away by how traumatizing even that situation was for me for all the reasons you described. I remember grieving like my parents had died because I felt like they were not the people I thought they were. It even tainted the happy memories I had from being a child, wondering if it was even real.
Thankfully I had a relationship with God and a strong support base of friends, and eventually the healing did happen. But it is interesting to see the long term affects on my siblings and I. My youngest brother has worked very hard to set up the “perfect” life. He is 25 and is married with a baby and owns his own business and a house. My other brother is in a very long term relationship, but is afraid of marriage. He has said, “If our parents can’t make it, who can?” I think I have been cautious of marriage. It’s just not something I would ever jump into quickly.
Before the divorce happened, I knew it was a sad thing, but I had no idea just how devastating it really is, and I had one of the better experiences of it. It is an important topic to talk about in the church, and I’m so glad you are!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I had no idea this was part of your story. I am confident that God is going to use your words and your life to speak hope into the the lives of others. I am so glad you wrote! Love, Angela