The Dirty D Word

I received some bad news today. It was the kind of news that sends you on an impromptu journey of people and places that should have been a part of your life, but are not. And it got to me.

Because of that, I’m writing what I’ve never written. Things I’ve felt for ages, but never put to words for fear of offense or toes stepped on or really just attention I didn’t want to attract. But now, like my post about my eating disorder (https://shesgotdimples.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/the-problem-with-resolutions/), the time has come. I don’t know what this blog is “supposed to be,” really, but it’s served as a placeholder so far for things that ail and delight and everything in between.

So, I’m going to talk about divorce.

What’s the phrase? We divorce spouses not families? Not children?

But that’s not true, is it? Not always. Sometimes. For lucky people who have mature families.

For so many children…for me…the event happened fast. News delivered abruptly as I opened the passenger door to go to school. But it wasn’t a Band-Aid effect. The sting was not temporary as the news was ripped off at what seemed like lightning speed. Your father and I are getting a divorce. Instead of revealing healed skin beneath that bandage, there appeared a scratch that would fester and become infected and probably never truly heal. And it would take years to acknowledge. And the scar would be gnarly and ugly and a constant reminder of loss. Of emptiness. Of relationships that should have existed but would not.

A woman can divorce her husband. But a mother cannot divorce her child’s father. And vice versa.

This is a piece of advice from a child of divorce that I would so whole-heartedly like to impress into the hearts of anyone headed down the difficult road of separation. You are free to leave your spouse.

Allow me to reiterate:  You are free to leave your spouse. No one is forcing you to stay. There are so many times that it is much better off if you do, indeed, divorce and break off the relationship for good. Better for you. The children. Everyone involved.

What you can’t do, however, no matter how badly you would LOVE to never see that person ever again, is remove them from your child’s life. You can’t. You can’t speak ill of them. You can’t poison your child against them. You can’t put thoughts into your child’s head that they mistreated them. You can’t turn what used to be a good relationship into something ugly.

Why? Why can’t you vent to your child about what’s going on? They’re mature for their age, after all. They’re practically an adult. They can handle it. They can handle so much more than most kids.

Yeah. They can.

Should they have to?

Let me explain. Divorce, no matter how squeaky clean it appears to be, is difficult. Even if it is absolutely the best choice (which I’m sure it is,) it is an ordeal. You are taking a family unit and dividing it. You are taking a child’s home–what they’ve known, where their memories are, where everything they’ve grown into and become has happened–and changing the construct. Now, don’t feel guilty. Your child will adapt.

But let them do it on their own. Don’t help them along. Don’t express the dysfunction of your relationship to your child. Even if they ask, and they will. Most likely, they will be confused. Do not talk to them about child support. Do not talk to them about money or back pay. And for the love of everything, do not ever let them think that their other parent doesn’t love them.

Everything will backfire.

Everything you are hoping to achieve…every revenge-driven vendetta directed at your spouse…it’s hurting your child.

What will happen?

Exactly what you want to happen. They will blame the other spouse. The one who didn’t gain full custody. The one who can’t support his/her children without working three jobs and practically killing themselves to do it. Your child will blame them and victimize you. For a while, you’ll be doted on. Canonized by innocence and the inability to see past the angelic image of childhood.

And then, one day not far from now, that child will realize what you’ve done. They’ll blame you. And they’ll have missed out on all the things they should have had. The things every child should have. They missed out on an entire family. On an entire relationship with a loving parent. On a whole heart that loved them.

And they will put that on you.

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9 thoughts on “The Dirty D Word

  1. Yes. So much this. It even goes for those of us who were adults when they divorced. I wanted to post a picture on Facebook, one of those “share if you’re father was the best ever and worked hard to support you etc etc.
    But I didn’t. Because I knew that my mom would see it and make a sarcastic comment about my father and then go Bitch to my sister about me posting it. And even if I his it from them, we have enough friends in common that it would have gotten back to her anyways. So I didn’t post it. And I know it seems little but it really bothers me, that something that should be as simple as clicking two buttons, has to be debilitated and agonized over like that.

    I really wish we had been closer in high school sweetie. There are SO many ways we’re alike!

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    • Oh seriously, me too. I was going through this bull shit I just wrote about plus like 15 other things so I feel like I missed out on a lot of my high school experience. But hey, we are here now 🙂 and i completely get you.

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  2. I know exactly how you feel Molly. I went thru it twice. With a stepfather that I didn’t get along with much, but we were still a unit and that was ripped apart too several years down the road. You always wonder and feel this empty place in your soul for the other parent. It makes you loose trust and you will have a hard time to learn to trust again in ANYBODY. You will be lonely and think there is something wrong with you for the longest time. You will be awkward in relationships to come and it takes a lot of patience for the other person to gain your trust and there will be always, always something you hold back. That you just keep to yourself. A place in your soul, that you never reveal to anybody. Parents can be so selfish and use their children as weapons. They have no idea or care to know what they do to their children. I have told my kids to be careful and really make sure before they have kids with another person. i hope they took my advice.

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  3. I’m sorry you have so much hurt about this. I did and did not go through this – my parents divorced,a nd as the oldest, my mother did confide in me a bit BUT my father WAS a bad guy and I already knew that. Their divorce was a good thing for me. But she truly did try to shield my younger sisters from all of it.

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    • And that’s the best thing anyone can do. I’m sorry about your father. If it helps, I think we are stronger, better people for it in the end. I hope this helped even one person to handle divorce better with their family. It’s a tough pill to swallow.

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  4. I can relate to this, I grew up with a Single Mom. Their divorce was highly dysfunctional and now my Dad is on his deathbed, and I’m wondering, I’m wondering if you can believe it (who the hell is this person known as my Dad?).

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    • I’m sorry to hear that. I wish divorce wasn’t such a permanent separation. I wish it could be just a growing out of each other rather than a breaking apart from. Why does there need be such a severance? Why can’t there be functionality still?

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      • I think our troubles can teach us everything we need to know if we are willing to learn. Some people simply don’t want to. Some people can’t. And some of us have learned how to cope with all of it. Hang in there, I hope you can find what you need with your father.

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