Personally I have rarely seen a “good” one where the two partners end their official relationship respectfully and no side effects.
First, I would like to share my own experience when my parents divorced. Second, I will talk about what I have come to believe as an adult.
For those of you who still believe that it is better to divorce than to have your kids witness your continuing arguments, let me tell you that all kids of divorcees have an inside view of both extensively. And it is like being in between Charybdis and Scylla: children suffer no matter what.
I was fifteen when my parents actually divorced, or I should say, started the dreadful process of divorce.
The years before, I remember praying that my parents would not divorce when I heard their noisy arguments over and over. I would feel horrible when my mother cried and I would always wish I could do something. The only thing I felt I could do, was to do well at school and ask as little as I could. As long as they lived together somehow they would manage to make concerted and agreed decisions regarding me. They would speak with one voice as long as I was concerned. I felt lonely: my sister had been in boarding schools for years and she was an adult when divorce started.
Their unique voice around things that concerned me ceased when they separated. As a teen, who was not totally stupid, I learnt very quickly how to arbitrate that to my advantage, or to what I thought was my advantage. I suddenly had a freedom that many kids would dream off; but I was deeply unhappy. I felt I had to be responsible for myself, and yet I was still a kid.
Reflecting back on that time, I thank some kind of divine protection during these three years before I lived by myself. I made many mistakes but nothing too serious, and it could have been much worse. For an unknown reason, I still felt the need to study well and that gave me some kind of structure.
In the mean time, my life had changed radically: my dad had left my home, my mom had left my home, the only one left besides me was my dog. I was sent to a friend’s house for a year. And I would come to visit my dog who was fed by a neighbor every day until my house was sold and my dog was sent to a foster home. The beloved friend I was staying with saw how devastating each visit to my empty house to see my dog for a few hours was for me. She tried to support me as much as she could. This friend and her husband were a blessing in my life: they were my parents’ best friends who succeeded the difficult task of staying neutral unlike others. And the year I spent with them was the most stable in all the turmoil that preceded and followed.
For years, the image of my dog the last time I saw her haunted me and brought endless tears to my eyes.
More than my house, my bedroom, my belongings, my pool, my garden, and a sense of family that I truly never got, I missed my dog and the unconditional love she gave me.
It took me a long time before I forgave my parents for that pain in particular.
As my parents were focusing on money and harming each other, gathering abject testimonies to undermine the other, my concern was on my dog. In my teenage mind my dog was more important than anything else because she was a victim of all this much more than I thought I was.
The sad accepting look in her eyes last time I saw her fueled an anger and sadness that took me years to resolve.
I felt my parents were selfish, irresponsible creatures who deserved no respect from me. And my obsession was to grow as fast as possible so I could put as much space as I could between them and me.
There is always a reason behind expatriation besides jobs opportunity.
I witnessed the most disgraceful behaviors, pettiness, and this grasping hate feeling at play. I felt the devastating incomprehensible feeling of seeing two people I love hurting each other.
I will not go into further details of the degrading situations my parents unconsciously placed me in over those years.
What I can say is that it shaped my life deeply. And I am so glad I was fifteen and not younger because at least I had some kind of understanding of what was going on. And, most importantly, I was spared the battle over guardianship. Guardianship is the worse of the worse: I remember in law school, in family law, the debate over whether kids at a certain age should choose whom they want to live with. I hated family law that dealt with the subtle worse of humanity in a civilized country.
Asking a child to choose a parent with whom he would live most of the time, is asking a child whom he prefers. Kids grow with intense feelings, hating and loving their parents at turns. It is important for their growth that they feel safe enough to express their anger and sometimes resentment while knowing deep inside that their parents don’t take that at face value and still love them.
The parent who is not selected is deeply hurt, even if sometimes that parent is relieved too. The child knows that, and useless guilt will be on that child’s shoulders for a long time. Love will be associated with daunting choices never truly satisfying.
Being now an adult, I can reflect on that time of my life, even if all divorces are unique in their own way. There are some common truths however that all parents considering divorce should know:
- All parents consciously or not use their children as the ultimate tool against each other.
- All kids learn very quickly how to arbitrate the situation by leveraging competition and guilt between both parents.
- All parents at some point are so overwhelmed with fighting with each other that they forget about their children’s best interest.
- It is a miracle when children don’t take slipping roads and excessive risks to feel alive and loved.
- All parents going through divorce forget two facts: once they were in love, and the simple fact that they share parenthood deserves mutual respect.
- All parents overlook the fact that their behavior will shape forever their relationship with their kids.
- All parents ignore the fact that they will expose themselves to their kids’ anger one day or the other, even if it is unfair, even if it is based on lies. When they are old enough to really see the reality as it was, it will be too late to catch up.
- In terms of role model, this is not the best either. Kids will carry on a belief system around relationships that will take a lot of personal work to overcome. Trust and respect will not be spontaneous.
- Never think you are doing them a favor to divorce. In the best case scenario, you are repairing your own huge mistake. And if your kids are safer with your partner closely monitored in their life, what a poor decision maker you have been.
- As a result, it makes parenting incredibly difficult with usually one parent, the one who lives the most with the children, left with the unrewarding role of true guidance.
Many couples marry for the wrong reasons. We could think that considering the freedom we all have today to marry whom we choose, couples should last longer. Reality proves to be different.
Please take a moment to think, and don’t divorce for the wrong reasons. Always keep in mind that the one you once chose to father or mother your child reflects really poorly on you, if that one ends up being the monster you think he or she is today.
We all change with circumstances and life events. We all change constantly; yet, we all have pondered a bit before we committed into marriage. True love is also accepting the change in the other, as long as he or she remains respectful. No relationship is linear: there are times more difficult than others. It takes a great deal of will and action to make it work through time. But it is rewarding.
It gets to be two to fight: check your own participation before blaming the other. A divorce is a sad event. Don’t make it pathetic as well.
Divorce is to life what chemotherapy is to your body, it kills much more than cancer cells, it leaves you bold and sick, and you have no guaranty that you are cancer free.
And just like cancer treatment, the protocol is long and costly…. for everyone.
Life is not a fairytale but you can choose or not to make it a nightmare.