I am the child of divorce. Yes, that is actually a common phrase, a way to describe my upbringing, currently. Back when it was actually happening, circa 1975, the term was “broken home”. If your parents got divorced you then came from a broken home.
That seems so judgmental now, doesn’t it? Maybe it was broken to begin with and getting a divorce fixed it? Maybe it was never working? One thing can be said of being from a divorced family at that time, we were definitely trend setters. Truly. My family was the first that I knew of – and for that matter, that any of my friends or schoolmates knew of – to get divorced. My parents had boyfriends and girlfriends that I had to get used to, and possibly introduce to my friends and their parents in social situations.
It was odd, very different, and even exotic, back in 1975.
I remember watching a TV program called “Grace” in the mid-80’s. Grace was a divorced, single mother of three children trying to make a good, healthy life for herself and her kids. She left an abusive relationship to improve all of their lives. In one episode, a teacher is concerned about one of Grace’s children having problems at school, and attempts to blame it on the fact that he comes from a “broken home”. Grace’s response to that comment basically was “No, that’s where you’re wrong. They had a broken home, but I fixed it.” That sentence hit home for me, resonated with me, even as a kid . Nobody really understood what getting a divorce could be about back then, or what it meant to the people involved in it. They usually thought it was about two people not trying hard enough, or giving up. But it’s more than that for most couples and their families. That response still resonates with me today, as an adult finding my way through to the other side of this process, and trying to navigate it with my family. Trying to fix it, that’s all we’re doing. It’s no longer odd, different or even exotic these days. Sadly, it’s almost too common now.
Granted, our relationship was not an abusive one. Definitely not. Not in the common definition. There wasn’t any physical violence (like I witnessed growing up) or alcohol or substance abuse tearing a family apart. Nobody cheated. But our resentments and disappointments in our relationship slowly ate away at both of us over the years, creating a void that we couldn’t fill with each other. Making us slowly pull away. We weren’t good partners emotionally, and we probably weren’t the best parents sometimes because of it, too. How can you work well as a parenting team when you couldn’t talk about the problems you were having as a couple or work together to find solutions?
And that’s not saying that we didn’t try along the way. I truly believe that we both tried. Sometimes we tried excruciatingly hard. We had some really great days, weeks, months even. And then we had some not very good, too hard to look at, times that would last longer. We tried to make it work, but maybe not at the same time, always a bit off on our timing with each other you might say. I read “couples” help books, watched talk shows, googled possible reasons, brought up my feelings of unease and unhappiness when I just could’t stand it any longer. I told him that I didn’t feel important enough, interesting enough, he didn’t see me or hear me. I didn’t feel that I was enough for him.
He listened sometimes, he agreed sometimes, but nothing really changed overall.
During a recent conversation with a friend trying to help me sort through the beginning of this, she mentioned that maybe I was ready to accept divorce more easily than I cared to admit to myself since I have experience with it. I don’t see or feel the stigma of divorce, having lived through it as a child. I basically have always given myself permission, even before I got married. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe that’s why I invested twenty years of my life trying to figure it out and holding out hope that one day we would have the relationship that we both wanted and be happy with each other. Hoping that one day we would come out of our struggles stronger, more in love and glad that we stuck it out.
I wanted to beat the odds, I wanted to believe in happily ever after and growing old together. I wanted us to be “that couple”, the couple that was meant to be. The couple that fixed it and made it work.
But it was too broken.