Wednesday, October 12, 2011

If your marriage is falling apart, please don't... (history vol. 3)

(this is part 3 of an ongoing memoir series. 
 It'll make more sense if you start with part 1 and part 2...)

I don't have this all mapped out.  What I'm gonna say and how I'm gonna say it.  The problem is that I really actually don't KNOW what happened back then, in the days before I really remember.

Something went wrong when we were in Europe.  Mom came back to the States.

And right now all I can think is "If your marriage is falling apart, please don't...."

Because we're back in America and somehow now we live in Dallas.  I start kindergarten.  They start fighting.

How did couples live and mothers mother before the internet?  What did they do before they could google "what to say when you're really mad and things aren't going the way you imagined they would"?

Maybe they had already started fighting but I just don't remember.

I just don't remember.

What I do remember is yelling and throwing stuff.  Not at me.  Never at me.

Because I was the prize.

The prize.
A child is not a prize.  A child is a real person who does not WANT to be the object of all your affections.

If your marriage is falling apart, please don't try and fill the hole in your heart with a little girl's approval.

Making your child the object of all your affections puts pressure on your child.  The pressure to be everything you claim or imagine them to be.  The pressure to fulfill your unrealized dreams.  The pressure to live up to and stand up for and justify and explain and support.

The thing is that parents often think their kids WANT to know what went wrong and who said what and the truth is they don't.

If your marriage is falling apart, please don't explain to your kids how the separation is the other person's fault, even if it's true.  In fact, don't tell them the details at all.

Kids want to and should love their parents in a child like way.  The way only a child can love.  If you take the good away from the other parent, you take away a piece of your child.

If your marriage is falling apart, please don't try and win your child's unconditional love by negating any and all good in the other parent. Because she is half her.  Half him.  Now half evil.  Half terrible.  Half useless.  Whatever you say of your spouse, you say of your child.

If there is a lot of anger, it means there is a lot of love.  Hate is not the opposite of love.  Indifference is the opposite of love.  That is how I know my parents loved each other.  Because there was never indifference.  No, not ever.

There were shadows of threats and confusion and life in a society that upheld one as an upstanding senior member making the other the bad guy.  Or girl, as it were.  Because that's how relationships work, right?   When they fall apart?  One person is all right and the other is all wrong?

If your marriage is falling apart, please don't move to a new state and refuse to let your child have any contact with her mother whatsoever.  Even if her mother did and said and was all those things you claim she did and said and was, which she probably didn't and wasn't.  I still don't know and don't want to know.  Because remember, I'm still the child.

What people forget is that kids' lives are not ABOUT their parents.  I know it kinda sucks to hear that.  I mean we carry them and we feed them and raise them and pour our souls and dreams into their pristine minds and hearts, and then we find out that it's not about us.  Giving up ourselves.  Being selfless.  Sucking it up when all what we want is to have them say awesome things about how great of a job WE'RE doing.  That part is about us for sure.  About the struggle that we need.  The challenges that we personally NEED in order to become the best version of ourselves possible.

But their dreams and desires?  Their wants and needs?  Their real life that they will all-too-soon be living on their own?  That is not about us at all.  We strip away their independence, responsibility, and courage if we try and make it so.  So please don't.

If your marriage is falling apart, please don't hope or fear that they will see EITHER of you differently.

Because your kids don't care about YOUR divorce.  They care about THEIR parents.

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  1. There are no words, just hugs. And... That must've been extremely painful to re-live. Thank you.

  2. :(

    So true. I've seen this happen and my heart breaks for those children. It breaks for you. But I suppose it's part of what made you who you are, and that says something about your strength and character.

  3. People endure all sorts of things. All sorts of much more terrible things than I did. And taught me a lot about how (not) to be married :)

  4. Such a sweet girl in that photo. Even though there is a lot you don't remember, it sounds like you remember quite a bit.

  5. My heart breaks for you here. I've seen this, in a situation far too close to home here, and it's heartbreaking. It's not about a broken relationship, it's about a child loving their parents and vice versa.

  6. Well said-and so true. Tom's parents split when he was ten- and just like you said, he was the prize. Although I think the word pawn is more accurate in his situation. His Dad fought for full custody and his mom just didn't have the means to contest.

    And now?

    Tom talks to his Mom every day and hasn't seen or spoke to his Dad in years.

    Divorce can be a nasty, nasty thing.

    I always looks at bad situations as you do - you learn what NOT to do. But I think plenty of people don't or can't break the pattern and only repeat what they saw growing up.(not Tom, he's a good hubs, but my ex was another story - which I won't share in this comment, this comment that is threatening to be longer than your post.)

    Ok. Back to your writing. Love your story, as usual. I couldn't even wait to make coffee this morning. I ran to the computer as soon as I got up to read your Pour Your Heart Out Wednesday!

  7. Ohhh, girl. You couldn't possibly be more right about this. You are SO right.

  8. As I child of divorce, I know much of this resonated with me. I was in college at the time and heard much of the anger through "explanations" by each parent. And had to be the go-between for years when they wouldn't talk to each other and my siblings were young. Ouch. It has taken me over 10 years to come to some kind of terms with it. There are still days I struggle with the demise of our family and also my "image" of my parents. Hard choices, hard topic, wish you healing:)

  9. Thank you so much for sharing. All I have right now are ridiculous cliches that I will spare you from hearing. So, I will just say thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes and heart to a world I have never really seen or understood.

  10. My parents are still married and my Mother does this all the time. She has no clue how her venting and sharing hurt me, not my Father.

    I never understand how parents do this.

    I'm sorry you had to go through this from such a young age, particularly when you were clearly so good at looking angelic with your hands pressed together in prayer. That is an awesome photo.

    I am right there with you in learning so much about how not to do this marriage thing from my parents, it's a hard gift, but a gift all the same.

  11. They always made little Hare Krishna kids pose like that when we were little. So silly to look at in retrospect, isn't it?

    But yes, it really is a gift, isn't it? Knowing what not to say? Some people never learn this lesson...but us, well *our kids should consider themselves lucky*! ;)

  12. This is such a wise post. I wish every couple going through a divorce or every therapist I know had a copy! :) Even though I haven't experienced it personally I've seen enough sadness and heartbreak around me to know each and every thing you said is so true.
    Really struck a chord with me when you talked about being "the prize. I also loved the reminder that it's not all about us when it comes to our kids. They need to feel free to live their own lives without our "baggage" packed on them.
    I thought this was so honest and authentic! Beautiful!

  13. Powerful post - thank you. This is my favorite quote: If there is a lot of anger, it means there is a lot of love. Hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. That is how I know my parents loved each other. Because there was never indifference. No, not ever.

  14. Wow very well written and full of truth! My mom went through some very similar things. Thanks for putting your story out there. <3

    For Love of Cupcakes

  15. This is SUCH a great post. It reminds me of some of the darker, crappy moments of my childhood as I watched my parent's marriage fall apart - even if they never divorced. I can remember all the times of my mom pouring her heart out to me about how unhappy she was with my dad, about how difficult of a person my dad was to live with - and as someone who was JUST like my dad it left me with a lot of insecurities moving into my adult life. I've tried to learn from her mistakes as my own marriage has gone through its ups and downs. Thanks for the great reminder!!

  16. Wow, what excellent thoughts. Several years ago my husband and I separated. We vowed we would not talk badly about each other to the children, and I still went over to have dinner with my husband and children several times a week when he had them. Over time we wondered exactly what had gone wrong in the first place. Had I unleashed my anger and told my girls what was really wrong with our marriage, we would have never been able to repair that- for us OR our girls. This is a great reminder that our kids are the most important part of our marriages, and no matter what happens they deserve to have the greatness of both parents.

  17. I'm pretty sure that once you started writing, your past took you somewhere unexpected. Those emotions are good and freeing and sometimes, you don't even realize how much you've held inside. That kid, the one who lived through all of that business, is still in there and today you let her be heard. Sometimes, a kid just needs to be heard. Hugs, little Dwija. Thrown objects and yelling was never fun, was it? Even if the things being thrown weren't flying in your direction.

  18. This should be required reading for people with children who get divorced. You explained it all eloquently, and I wish I could go back and hug your little self who had to go through all of this.

  19. This is amazing. What a beautiful post. So true.
    I actually wrote sth about marriage yesterday.

  20. Excellent, excellent post. My parents are still married, but it has always been a very rocky marriage. Ever since I was little I have been forced to listen as each complains about the other, dissecting each other's fault with excruciating detail. I always hated how whenever we did something wrong the reaction was "you're just like your mother/father." It still infuriates me that they can't see how horrible it is to be told that being like you parent is a bad thing.

    I'm not saying divorce is always the answer. In fact, despite everything, I am so glad my parents are still together. I'm proud of them for holding firm to the vows they made before God and continually trying to make it better even though it's a big struggle. As you said, lots of hate can mean lots of love and even as a child I recognized that they had that. I just wish they realized how to manage that hate better around us.

  21. That was very well put, Dweej. My parents divorced when I was an adult, but the feeling that you just want to love your parents never goes away, and even now it's hard to listen to my mom rip my dad apart. That picture is precious, your daughters look a lot like you did when you were teeny!

  22. So very hard. My parents put us kids in the middle, trying to play us off each other and it was so very stressful.

  23. Well said, Dwija. My parents separated briefly and then got back together, but no one said much of anything. That was odd, but maybe it was on purpose and a good thing.

  24. So true. We make it a point to work on our marriage because of our child!

  25. Man oh man. This is a good reminder for me. My husband and his first wife divorced *very* acrimoniously when his daughters were 4 and 5. We have worked very hard over the past 7 years to mend our relationship with her and her new husband and to never, ever, EVER say anything bad about her in front of the girls and in fact to seek out positive things to say about her. Sometimes it can be really hard, because there will always be pain there... but the past can't be undone, can it? Anyway, I appreciate your perspective because I tend to see things only from my limited "evil stepmom" vantage point.

    I don't think that I have ever commented before, but I am enjoying this series very much.

  26. I so enjoyed reading all parts of your memoir. The line "If you take the good away from the other parent, you take away a piece of your child." is so brilliant and so true. Actually there's a lot said here that is brilliant and true. Well said. All of it.

  27. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This goes for extended family members as well - I remember times when staying at my paternal grandparents' house was so difficult because it was one long extended hate-fest toward my mother.

  28. I think people forget, or want to pretend they forget, that relationships are REAL. A child's relationship with their mother or father is a REAL thing. Not some imaginary social myth. They imagine they can erase that relationship with their words, but all they're doing is negating the child's sense of self.

  29. I've come back to re-read this before commenting because it hit home with me...hard.

    "A child is a real person who does not WANT to be the object of all your affections"...or abuse.

    I remember praying for my offending parent to leave. When I was old enough to understand what divorce was..I prayed for that even more. What I recall was that none of the fights, or things thrown, were based on affection, just the intense hatred two people had for each other and shared with their only child.

    It may have been grossly mis-directed, Dweej but you had a great deal of love around you throughout the parental wars you experienced. I feel that speaks volumes about the person, the parent, you are at this moment and always will be.

  30. So touching. I am a product of and once produced a divorce. My eldest son was never the pawn as his Dad died when he was very young. I made it a point to always tell him the wonderful things about his Dad. When he wanted the truth I tried to convey domestic violence and infedelity with compassion for the sadness and private pain his Dad must have experienced knowing what he delivered to me. After all once upon a time I fell in love with him. I couldn't stop loving him, I just couldn't live with part of him. I just was not about to spue the ugliness my Dad gave us about my Mom. She never bad mouthed my Dad, not once. But then she never bad mouthed a single person. It just wasn't in her.

    Thanks for sharing your jouney. Blessings!

  31. @patty- That is absolutely true. There was, and still is, a lot of love for me. Even if it manifested itself in ways that were hurtful to other people. I didn't like to be the cause of so much pain...from one to the other, but is what it was. A lesson I'm glad to have learned at such a young age. I can't imagine surviving what you did- my experience in comparison was pretty...nice. You are a strong woman, Patty.

    @suzi- Living in the midst of another person's sins is a terrible, terrible thing. I'm so sorry you had to endure that, Suzi. And I know it must have been very difficult to share the truth with compassion, especially when you were hurt so terribly. Hugs to you!

  32. Absolutely amazing post. Loved all three of them. Thank you sharing this part of your heart. Like I keep saying, it isn't always easy, but we love ya no matter what. I think this advice might really help a lot of people. I hope it does at least

  33. I'm really enjoying your memoir pieces. Keep 'em coming! I hope you're finding some comfort in the retelling of these memories too. Definitely not easy stuff for a little kid to deal with!

  34. Dweej, You put it so much better than I could've...So often when I read blog/FB posts about someone's kids I wish I could say what you said:'What people forget is that kids' lives are not ABOUT their parents. I know it kinda sucks to hear that."

    I think all parents know that fact in theory but, in reality, tend to see themselves & their own success/failure in life thru their kids. As you said, this puts an unbearable pressure on the kid(s) and it sets the parents up for inevitable heartache because, sooner or later, the independent people that you've born & raised will tell you that they are now Independent People. If you yourself haven't faced that fact until that moment, instead of being prepared, you will be crushed & blame the Independent Person whom you raised to be independent. Does that make sense??

  35. Totally makes sense! Thank you for your thoughtful comment, ThereseRita :)

  36. thank you for the wisdom in this post as I am navigating a huge ugly custody battle and divorce. There were words I needed to hear. I appreciate you telling your story and Im listening!

  37. I really loved this and plan to share it with others. My parents divorced when I was 5. I am so lucky that they never spoke badly about one another in front of me. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Exactly. My parents divorced two years ago when I was 21 (!) and the stories some of my relatives tried to tell me ("since I'm an adult and should know the background") hurt so much... I've been trying to find words to explain why I shouldn't be hearing any of those stories and this article gave them to me. Thank you :)

  39. Wow. what a post. my heart breaks for the little girl in the photograph. On the other hand, what strength you have. you are a fascinating person. I enjoy reading your blog.

  40. How did I JUST find this post? Dwija - you are such a wonderful writer. Please, please, please write a book!


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