Let me preface this first by saying I do not condone divorce. Of course, I would have much rather my parents stuck together and worked it out, but I also feel I was fortunate enough to have it happen at a time where I could look past the “my parents are leaving me” phase and focus on the “introspective, learning from others” phase.
My parents were awesome parents. They taught my sister and I well and when I look back I can see that they would have done anything to make us happy and keep us goal-oriented.
They never showed emotion much though. When I was a kid – that was normal. It was weird and awkward when I would see them kiss or hold hands. It just wasn’t the norm. What was the norm was a lot of little fights. Some bigger than others.
Nothing like you’re thinking. No theatrical dramas where the husband throws shit, the wife storms out of the house crying. Just disagreements with passion behind the words.
Like I said, that was normal.
My parents were married for 26 years and separated (ultimately divorced) my senior year in college. I was 21.
When my dad told me what was happening and why, I was…blah.
I can’t even think of a word now to describe my thoughts at the time. I wasn’t surprised or shocked. I wasn’t sad or relieved.
I guess when something big like that hits you, a sort of shock goes over you and you go numb.
I drove back up to school with a sense of, “what does this mean?”
I felt bad for my sister because she still had to live with them. In her last years of high school she had to go through this shit. The bickering, the begging, the bullshit.
For me, I had the privilege to go back to my one bedroom apartment and try to comprehend, not what this meant for the family, but how was I going to use what just happened to benefit my own life.
What I’ve Learned From My Parents Divorce
Question everyone, even authority – My parents were the type to tell you how to do something and then you did it. Just like they said. If it wasn’t done that way, it was wrong. I’m not bitter about it. In fact, I’m glad I was given that much attention. But after their divorce I questioned everything. (i.e. you tell me to be responsible for my actions, but you do this?) In the beginning of this realization I was naïve. I just started questioning everyone for the hell of it. You can say I was your typical Gen Y. But this is one of the lessons that inspired me to start Coffee & Warm Showers. I now try to live my life for my own happiness and no one else. The status quo is what I was raised to follow. Now I challenge it.
Do what makes you happy – Just like my upbringing, my parents were raised similarly. Go to school, get a good paying career, provide for your family, don’t ask questions. My dad’s a banker. Has been for his entire professional career. Even when I was a child I got the feeling he didn’t enjoy his job. It didn’t seem like he was doing it for his sake, more for the sake of others. I’m convinced that this was a major factor in my parent’s divorce. If you’re not satisfied with what you can control how will you be happy with what you can’t? I’ve had this experience myself. If the job you do is not inspiring and fulfilling, how do you expect to come home afterwards and put in the necessary work for a healthy relationship? It’s tough.
Communication is key – After my parents decided to split my mom told me she was surprised when she heard the news. She thought they were happy. In her mind, the relationship was ruined because he did not communicate in the end that he was unhappy and needed something more – something else. I think that’s part of it. But the communication piece goes way further back. In a relationship, marriage or otherwise, you need to be able to be truthful and open with your partner(s) every step of the way. If something makes you unhappy or you disagree and you don’t talk about it, that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It’s just there, festering and waiting to come back up at a later time. Keep doing this for 26 years and, well, you get the picture. In the end what looks like a minor missed opportunity to talk about something is in fact just the final straw of a long-term miscommunication.
Complacency will kill you – I’m not talking literally but I guess it is possible. My parents were great at routine. My mom would come home from work around 3, park her car in the garage, shut the garage door (that always bothered me for some reason), and start making dinner. Dinner was always ready around 5 or 6. My dad would eat his dinner in his recliner while watching the news or sports. I swear to God, this was the routine with very little disturbance for my entire late childhood. Routine and being content is comfortable and attractive. I know because I still love it. But no matter who you are, you enjoy some level of change every now and then. This is why we’re so in love with vacations as a society. A chance to get on the road, stay in a difference place, eat different foods, and enjoy a different life. But when my mom decided she was going to break the routine and start walking with friends for exercise, she left my dad behind with his routine – their routine. Now obviously this is a bigger issue than just going and walking with her friends, but this was literally a relationship-changing act to my dad. When you get so caught up in your life and refuse to try new things, anything new is literally life-altering. This can be good or bad, but if you like your complacency, it can be the death of a relationship.
Again, I want to emphasize that I do not wish for anyone to get a divorce no matter the age of their children nor am I glad my parents decided to split. But life throws you curveballs and it’s up to you how to react.
You can burrow down in your hole and hope it goes away or you can learn from yours and others’ experiences.
But the important part is not just identifying and learning these lessons. The important part is putting them to action and changing lives (yours included.)
How will you handle your next curveball?