You were seven years old when you watched your father stuff his belongings into a suitcase and pull out of the only home you’d ever known.
He drove straight to a new family’s home and heart. He raised another woman’s children for the next fifteen years while largely ignoring you and your two brothers.
I have a seven year old. The image of my little Nims watching Clayford pull out of our driveway as she cries and begs for him to love her makes me want to curl up in a ball and pull the covers over my head. It is too painful to bear.
As a result of your father’s actions, you’ve never been able to trust your husband. You are always waiting for the rug to be ripped out from under you, and often, you’ll find ways to test him, wondering if he’ll be the one to pull it.
But you, my other friend, didn’t experience the absence of a father. It was your mother who bailed.
The role hadn’t fulfilled her and she wanted a new life. Being a daughter who lost a mother—by the mother’s own choice—has affected every female relationship you have to this day, including the way you parent your own beautiful daughter.
It happens more and more these days it seems, this careless tossing away of our children’s feelings and security. This burgeoning practice of putting our own wants and needs ahead of theirs in the name of being ‘happy.’
I hate divorce, God said. But because of our hard hearts He has allowed it.
And before you think I’m about to go all preachy and self-righteousness on you, let me say that while I wish two people could love each other perfectly for eternity the way I believe God intended it to be, I’ve been married long enough to know that sometimes we make mistakes. We do marry the wrong people. We do realize we just aren’t cut out for marriage.
Too often, however, couples don’t just divorce each other. They divorce their family.
They cause their children to experience the same death that only the marital vow was supposed to endure.
And that is wrong, plain and simple.
Divorce can be messy, no doubt. Hurt and resentment can rule the day.
But never should a child shoulder that resentment. Never should a child be put in the middle of harbored hurt.
Never should a child handle the details of what occurred within a broken marriage. Allowing your children inside an adult decision is asking them to carry issues they shouldn’t be burdened with carrying.
And never should a child be left behind, even temporarily, even if only perceived in their tiny mind. There isn’t another woman, man, job or city worth shattering a child’s heart. Trust me on that.
I get it, though. The perceived in their tiny mind part, that’s what we struggle with. That’s what it comes down to so much of the time in all kinds of relationships.
The selfish side of us wants what we want when we want it. And we expect other people to see situations the way we do.
We justify the choices we make before, during, and after a divorce by believing our kids will understand them the way adults do.
Kids seek self-preservation. Even adult kids. It is a biological, evolutionary and I believe truly spiritual instinct.
Until they’re old enough to understand what it means to be a flawed human, children will seek to believe their parents are perfect and here to keep them safe. They will believe only the best, even if one parent has shown them nothing but bad.
So it is in their best interest for you to put away any kind of malice towards one another, seeking peace.
It is in their best interest for you to take TIME to move on, even if you only give the appearance of doing so. (Because hey, hey, hey, some of y’all won’t even be outta holy matrimony before you jump into the next relationship. 😉 )
I can’t tell you that’s easy to do. I haven’t been divorced, so I have zero clues about how I would handle it.
After fifteen years of marriage, however, I do understand that it’s possible you’d grow to hate and wish to run from a person you once vowed to spend a lifetime chasing and cherishing.
(And maybe we’d all be better off if we actually sat alone with the word ‘lifetime’ for a day or two before our wedding…it’s a LONG time, and that freaking annoying habit they have of falling asleep at night with the TV full-blast might want to make you shove a pillow over their face around year ten.)
So I can’t tell you what it’s like to go through divorce as half of a splitting couple. But I can tell you what it feels like to be a child caught in the middle of her parents’ contentious one.
It’s painful, it’s confusing, and the death of your family lasts the rest of your life. Your parents are able to move on because they’re allowed to, and you’re happy for them much of the time. But you have permanently lost the family you entered life with. Though there are ex-wives, and ex-husbands, there are no ex-moms and ex-dads.
Parents, if you get nothing out of this post but a need to defend your actions, you’ve already lost.
What I hope you get out of this are two crucial, life-changing and life-giving actions:
Remain in your child’s life.
And make as much peace as possible with the other parent.
On that note, I had more than a few Facebook friends tell me their parents’ divorce was the best thing that ever happened to them.
A couple of them told me their parents are the best of friends. That while they couldn’t work it out as husband and wife, they now enjoy time sharing meals, grandchildren’s birthdays, family holidays—even vacations—with each other and their new spouses.
It can be done.
Divorce can either leave a legacy of separation and hurt or a legacy of forgiveness and love.
The choice is totally up to you.
*Come back tomorrow, when I’ll discuss in Part II the number one reason I believe marriages are struggling to last.