Before I continue, please know that the only goal of today’s post is to share a different perspective on divorce. Anna and I are adults now and realize that life is not always black and white. Like everyone, our parents walk their own paths and have their own reasons behind their decisions. We love and respect our parents immensely and will not be discussing why they split. That is their story.
This is ours.
I have wanted to tackle this subject for years, but now that the time has come, I am not sure where to start. How about the beginning?
My parents separated the December before my 10th birthday, and it broke me. As a kid, you are completely clueless about your surroundings. I had no idea what was brewing behind the scenes while I made mud pies and played with my doll house. Ignorance was my bliss.
Watching your entire home and future crumble before your eyes is a huge burden as a child. Everything I knew and loved was flipped upside down, and I was powerless. My new reality became court dates, lawyers and every other weekend with a different parent. After many disagreements, my parents finally reached a happy medium, and I found myself in a new routine. An awkward, unfamiliar routine, but a routine nonetheless. This same routine followed me throughout jr high and most of high school. For years, my school books were shuffled between homes, holidays were split, and I missed what my childhood should have been. I hated how little control I possessed in my schedule. I just wanted to be a normal kid.
One of the hardest battles I fought during this time was the stigma of being a child with divorced parents. Who wants to be friends with a girl from a broken home? Who wants to date someone statistically destined to divorce? Not many. If I wasn’t greeted with pity or sad eyes, I was welcomed with a judgemental glare. Like I had a Scarlet A burned into my chest. My very presence put a sour taste in people’s mouths as if my parents’ decisions were my own. I spent many years trying to prove that I was my own person, and all it created was an incessant need to please others.
During this time, one of my parents remarried, and I settled into a new normal. They were happy. It felt right. Towards the beginning of my teenage years, that happiness evolved into cold, suffocating silence, and they soon divorced. I was pulled right back into the middle of a narrative I wanted so desperately to escape. I shed many tears packing my split life into bags and boxes. Would I ever walk into a room and not be considered the “broken” girl?
Over ten years have gone by, and I no longer find my identity in my parents’ decisions. I found peace when I accepted the past, and let go of the childhood that I will never get back. Everything came full circle in the end, and I am so grateful for the strength, resilience and patience it taught me. There was once a time that I considered marriage a scam, but I have been happily married for almost seven years. Believe me when I say that healing is absolutely possible.
One of the greatest blessing to arise from my parents’ split was an unexpected friendship with a fellow child of divorce, Anna Pebley. Our parents separated around the same time, and we spent much of our childhood together. She happily agreed to answer a few questions regarding her personal experience. Please scroll to read more about her and her story!
Hey, I’m Anna!
But I am known as Pebbles, Pebs, or Anna Banana, as my friends affectionately call me. I am a proud Jayhawk (go KU!); a person who loves literature, film, art, and music; and an avid runner. I’m also blessed to have known Meghan for so many years, and am thankful I haven’t scared her off (yet)!
How old were you when your parents divorced?
I was eight-years-old when my parents divorced, and my younger sisters were about six- and four-years-old. Each of us reacted and responded very differently, as most might expect.
What were your first thoughts when you learned about your parents’ split?
I was shocked, angry, confused. Some marriages foster a toxic home environment; parents argue, shout, and maintain a constant state of tension within the family. My experience was quite the opposite. I never suspected anything was wrong, and I never saw anything that would have hinted at issues within my parents’ marriage. From my point of view, they looked happy and loved.
My mom came in one night, called my two sisters and me into my room, and told us that she was leaving my father. My sisters were sad and not quite able to comprehend what was going on; however, I did. I shouted variants of “why?” and “how could you?” I ran from my room and into theirs, and I collapsed on the floor in a heap of tears and all the rage an eight-year-old could muster. In one evening, it felt like my world collapsed all around me.
Did you ever feel like you were responsible for their divorce?
Thankfully, my parents emphasized that we had nothing to do with their divorce and that we could not have prevented its occurrence.
As a side note: please know that it is never the children’s fault. It does not matter whether or not the children struggle with anger, depression, learning, and so on, or whether or not they feel like a burden, be it financially, emotionally, socially, etc. – the parents are the adults in the situation. They are responsible for their reactions and subsequent actions.
Were you bullied, teased or treated differently by your peers because of their separation? If yes, in what ways?
Although I was bullied, it was not because of their divorce.
A little over a year prior, my family moved from a suburb near Kansas City, Kansas to a suburb near Los Angeles. Still unsure why, my peers belittled me for being the “Kansas Girl.” I was depressed, alone, and disliked, but after a while, I finally made a friend who grew to be my childhood best friend. Although many students attempted to break up our friendship, she stuck by my side and defended me from the bullying and teasing.
To my dismay, a little over a year after my parents divorce, her family moved to Oregon. The bullying and teasing resumed, and even the friends we made together left after telling me, point blank, that they never really liked me. I ended up in a somewhat toxic relationship where my “friend” constantly degraded me to uplift herself. On a daily basis, she would either critique my outfit, my hair, or something of the sort. If I had another option, I would have left, but being with her seemed better than being alone. Thankfully, the situation changed in seventh grade.
How did your parents’ divorce alter your views on love and relationships?
As previously mentioned, I saw no warning signs of an unhappy or disgruntled marriage; so from that perspective, how could I trust any relationship to be secure? I didn’t want to risk another heartbreak – this time more personally – for fear that I could not recover and never trust again. That belief haunted me for years.
Now, I can say that I have been in a solid relationship for over four years. We’ve had our struggles, and the fear of heartbreak still lingers, but it fades each passing year and with each obstacle we overcome together. I have been open with him about my worries, and we work through them side-by-side.
How long did it take for you to be at peace with their separation? What aided your recovery?
Once my mom remarried, I forcibly accepted that there was no returning to the way our family once was, and adding a stepmom to the mix marked another shift which led to a tenser family environment.
Each household had antithetical parenting styles – one too lenient and relaxed, the other too controlling and strict.
With going back-and-forth between houses every day and constantly arguing with sisters and parents, I found comfort in school and, starting freshman year of high school, cross-country. I put all my time and effort into academics and sport, and through them, I found lifelong friends. Focusing on what I could not control frustrated me and led to a toxically negative mindset; when I focused on what I could control, I felt peace, happiness, and in charge of my own future.
If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself that I was validated in my feelings, but that I should have responded or reacted better. When I was angry, I would lash out, but what good did that do me long-term? People just assumed I was always angry; therefore, my displayed anger’s effect slowly diminished. I would tell myself rather that reacting negatively, which ultimately only hurt me, I should have channeled that energy into something positive in my life.
Back to Meghan…
I hope you find encouragement in our words, and remember that life continues beyond divorce. The memories follow you for the rest of your life, but I promise that the pieces will fall together in their own, unique way.
Your parents’ story is not your burden to carry. Learn from them, but never be afraid to become your own person.
Thank you again, Anna, for sharing a piece of your heart! I can’t imagine what my life would be without you.
Are your parents divorced? What’s something that helped you through that time?
All my love,