Things I Learned From My Parents’ Divorce

After almost two decades of dysfunction, alcohol abuse and awkward silences, my parents finally split up. The news of the divorce was music to my 17-year-old ears. The living situation at my house had been bitter and tense for as long as I could remember, and I thought the divorce would relieve the relentless pressure. It did, when all was said and done, but the divorce process is a rusty garbage disposal that shreds everything that gets caught in its blades. Despite the tumultuous experience, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot from my parents’ divorce, and they’re things I will never forget.

Marriage isn’t necessary.

If my parents had been in a relationship without ever getting married, their separation would have been much, much easier. They could have just walked away from each other and worked out the usual arrangements on their own instead of spending thousands of dollars on lawyers and other divorce-related expenses. At the end of the day, “marriage” is just a piece of paper, and that piece of paper doesn’t magically make things more stable or healthy when the relationship lacks those things in the first place.

Bad parents should never be tolerated.

I’ve never had any “normal” experiences with my dad. Even my earliest memories of him are tainted by his alcoholism, laziness, and general apathy towards being a father. He had no idea how to interact with me and my siblings and most of the time, he didn’t even try. Getting him to go outside to play catch with my younger brother was a monumental task that could only be achieved if all the planets aligned on a Saturday after the cable went out. Kids don’t deserve that. Although we all turned out okay, my siblings and I will feel the effects of our dad’s “parenting” for the rest of our lives. Bad parenting is the root of all evil, and everyone should have a “zero tolerance” policy towards it.

Red flags should never be ignored.

My mom is and will always be amazing, but there were a lot of things about my dad she looked past when she shouldn’t have. We should be grateful for red flags in relationships, because they’re like little foreshadowing flares. They’re a glimpse into the future of what life with your other half will be like. Ignoring bad signs is stupid and will only lead to trouble. It’s better to take action against those bad signs early on than to passively let your life fester into an infected, oozing wound. You can put a band-aid on that wound and try to ignore it, but it’s still there and the only way it’s going to go away is if you acknowledge it and take proper steps to heal it.

The timing will always be bad.

I think one of the biggest excuses people make for putting off a much needed divorce is that “the timing is bad.” There will never be an “ideal” time. When my parents got divorced, I was just about to start my senior year of high school, my sister was going to be a high school freshman and my brother going into his first year of middle school. It was a time of transition for all of us and the divorce definitely left a big pile of crap right in the middle of the floor, but it had to happen.

If you have a sense of humor, you’ll be fine.

Isn’t it hilarious that two people planned an expensive ceremony, invited all their family and friends (who spent a lot of their own money to attend), got up in front of all those people, swore to be together until they dropped dead, but then ended up divorced and consequently turned out to be huge liars? I pity people that can’t see the amusing things about divorce. Even if it seems overwhelming, it’s funny to sit back and take in the sheer, grandiose ridiculousness of it all. Humor is not only an excellent coping mechanism, it has outstanding healing properties as well.

It’s okay to feel guilty.

I felt tremendously guilty after my parents got divorced, but not because I blamed myself for their separation. Divorce is very expensive, and watching my mom limp forward financially during the process was really hard for me. After dividing all of her stuff in half and paying thousands of dollars in other fees, my mom still had to buy me food and clothes. I knew that was a parent’s job, but I still felt bad that I was costing my mom even more money. Feeling guilt for any reason during a divorce is totally normal, and kids shouldn’t be guilt-tripped for it.

Some people never learn from their mistakes.

In the years leading up to the divorce, my mom tried to get my dad to go to counseling several times. He refused, denied all of the problems he was causing, and only went with my mom once. During that one session, the therapist looked at my mom and said, “You will be okay.” She then looked at my dad and said, “You will lose everything.” She was right. My dad has had plenty of chances to stop being a jackass and fix things, but he has squandered them all and made the same mistakes countless times. Whether it’s out of stubbornness or a complete lack of self-awareness, I’ll never know. Some people are just lost causes.

Healing is possible.

You’ll likely feel the aftermath of the divorce for years, but despite the depressing nature of the situation, you will be able to move on eventually. Both parents and kids just need to handle the situation one day at a time and find healthy ways to cope, like exercise or blaring heavy metal on your iPod from dawn until dusk. Do what you gotta do.

Men get screwed in divorces.

My mom got full custody of me and my siblings, but that was for the best in our situation. Dads tend to get the short end of the stick in divorces, even if they’re good fathers and respectable human beings. The “deadbeat dad” theme is rampant in divorce courts and it’s often automatically assumed that the mother is the better parent. That isn’t always the case, and a lot of great dads are forced to move out of their homes and accept crappy custody agreements. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also have to worry about child support payments. It’s completely understandable why men can be hesitant or even scared to hell about marriage.

Forgive, but never forget.

Forgiveness can be beneficial for all parties involved, but no one should ever forget what happened during the divorce and why it happened. Forgetting puts you at risk for repeating the same mistakes in the future. Eventually, you’ll be able to recall the pain without emotionally reliving it. Remember and never repeat.

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