About 40 to 50% of married couples get divorced. In 2006, my parents joined that statistic.
There is no way to sugar coat it – divorce is horrible. But being only ten at the time, it was almost all I knew my whole life. It was never weird for me and honestly, it almost became casual to tell my friends I couldn’t be at the sleepover because I would be away at my dad’s house or to tell adults my mommy and daddy didn’t live together anymore. For nine years, I did not think twice about it; besides, it was all I knew and there was nothing I could do to change it.
Over the past year, though, as I graduated, it has become painfully apparent the effects of divorce. But, more so, it has become apparent that God uses our lowest moments and thoughts to teach us the most valuable lessons. Here is what I learned from being a child of divorce.
You develop an adult-like sense of responsibility at a young age.
Perhaps the most prevalent thing from my parents’ divorce is how quickly I had to grow up. Before I say this, you must know my parents are incredible parents, but that there are unreal challenges that come with living apart from the other parent of your child. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a tremendous responsibility for my baby sister. I’ve picked her up from my dad’s house countless times, I’ve made her doctor’s appointments as well as attended them, I’ve stayed home on Friday nights in order to avoid her being left home alone – all before I was 18 years old. Fortunately though, because of these things, I have a tremendous understanding of the “real world” and a great sense of responsibility that I would not have had any other way. I’ve never been afraid to take on life after living with my parents because they taught me, maybe faster than planned, that I am beyond capable of these things. Plus, I’ve known how to do my laundry since I was twelve.
You learn that relationships take effort.
Maybe this one is obvious, but I have undoubtedly learned that relationships take work. When you don’t live with one parent or only see them the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month and two weeks in the summer, it takes a lot of extra effort to have not only a relationship, but a close, parent-daughter relationship. This parallels into every relationship. Whether it’s with a parent, a love interest, or a best friend, you do not give up when it’s hard. Relationships are not 50-50, but both people choosing to give 110% every day.
You understand that communication is a crucial part of any relationship.
The importance of communication is unbelievably understated. In my personal experience, my parents cannot communicate with each other civilly and only sometimes can they share the same room. Because of this though, as the oldest child, I became the messenger and the mediator. Not only has my communication developed immensely, but I know that next to nothing can be done without it. Whether it’s coordinating summer dates or discussing paying tuition or expressing your feelings, communication is so crucial.
The importance of having patience cannot be stressed enough.
Getting mad is easy – too easy. But what I have learned to continually remind myself is that it does not solve anything nor is it the loving reaction people deserve. People say things they don’t mean when they are sad, hurt, scared, or stressed, and when they do it is easy to be hurt and to hurt them back. There’s an uncountable amount of times I could have become upset or yelled and screamed or frankly, just not put up with my parents’ comments against the other or the fighting but that’s not what I did. Because things like divorce aren’t easy for anyone and everyone deserves patience and understanding.
It is okay if you aren’t strong all the time.
If there’s one thing you’re told when your parents get divorced it’s that “This is not your fault.” But the second thing you’re told is “It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to feel this way.” This is easier said than done though, let me tell you. I found that it was almost easier to bottle it up and just get over it. For me personally, learning to grieve and be open with what I was feeling was the most important thing I’ve come to know. And boy, is it okay to cry! Let it out, I promise there is no better way to feel better about something. Sharing how you feel leads to healing and encourages community. You will come to learn that you’re never alone in your grieving.
Marriage is something that you must choose everyday.
Understanding of the importance of a man who chooses to pursue a relationship with me every day may be the most important thing I learned from my parents’ divorce. I also know that the man that marries me is going to have a big job understanding divorce is something I come from, and that I, therefore, will be all the more committed to a healthy and happy relationship.
I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone, but fortunately or unfortunately, divorce is part of my story. It’s made me who I am today. I can’t deny wondering and wishing my parents could have made it work, but I thank God everyday for the life I have and I wouldn’t have it any other way.