I’m not sure when you’re supposed to officially turn “adult.” If it was at 18, I missed the mark. Truth is I still feel like a kid (at times). I have a full-time job, my own apartment, pay for everything on my own – but when it comes to my parents getting divorced, I feel like a 7-year old stuck in a 25-year old’s body.
If anyone else out there is part of the A.C.O.D. (adult children of divorce), then I’m sure you feel the same way. In order to successfully join the club, you’ll need to realize some things:
1. You can’t personally fix your parent’s relationship
I was 17 when my parents first started World War III, and every day after I tirelessly tried to fix it. I was my parent’s unpaid, unnoticed therapist, and I had unknowingly thrown myself in the middle. But there will be a time when you realize you are no longer helpful. If they are going to get divorced, they are going to get divorced. It’s an unexplainable feeling when you stop seeing it as something you can fix, and start seeing it as something that needs to happen.
2. Don’t accept being thrown into the tug-of-war between mom & dad
It takes two people to create a human life – so how come when divorce happens, you’re being punished for even speaking to your dad, or your mom – whichever the case may be. They are both your parents, regardless of what they say about each other. The good (and bad thing) about being older is that you can choose to speak to both of them. Stand by your choices.
3. Seeing your parents as “human” for the first time is scary.
Your parents start to confide in you – being brutally honest about each other. And it’s frightening. You start to think, “Is this the same person who picked me up when I fell? The same person who made me dinner every night?” The answer is yes, only they see you as a friend more than their child, and you need to bring them back to reality.
4. Move past the things your parents say that hurt you – they don’t realize how much they hurt.
It’s hard to forget the things your parents say to you, especially when they’re hurtful. I close my eyes and still unfortunately remember them all. It will make you feel like a bad daughter, or son. Their words will make you feel defeated and weak. But you will overcome it – you will grow thicker skin and know that they are saying it from a place of hurt. And that they don’t actually mean it.
5. You become someone they start to lean on
I’ll never forget listening to my father on the phone talking to a counselor. The counselor said, “Who’s your support system?” And he looked at me and replied, “My daughter.” You depend on your parents to guide you, help you, and teach you for your entire life. Then in the blink of an eye, you’re the one taking care of them. You, in some weird unexpected way, become the parent. This is when you truly become the adult in this mess.
6. Finding out they actually don’t leave each other anymore is weird
I’d often hide away at my boyfriend’s house, and see his parents lying side by side on the couch – head on shoulder, hand in hand. It was strange to see love, to hear silence, to know peace again. But after a while, you stop hoping your parents will love each other again – and just wish that they find someone new to make them happy, and love them like they each deserve.
7. You’ll actually WANT them to get divorced, and that’s not a bad thing
When you first realizing your parents are splitting, you get the typical thoughts – I’ll never see them together making breakfast when I come downstairs in the morning. I’ll never spend another holiday with both my mom and dad sitting at the same table. My parents won’t be together for my wedding, and who knows if they’ll even be talking to each other by then. Needless to say, I never thought there would be a point in my life where I begged some higher power to please let the divorce be finalized, please let everything work out for the best, and to please just let my mother and father be genuinely happy in their new journey. WANTING them to get divorced makes you think you’re a bad person – don’t think that. It just means you are learning to accept, and move on.
8. If you have a sibling, they will keep you grounded
My sister is 2 years younger than me, and a million times stronger than me. She is the one telling me everything will be ok. Going into summer this year I texted her, “This is going to be yet another horrible few months.” And she answered back, “No way! It’s going to be great – I got accepted to graduate school, and you got promoted! We should be PROUD.” When you have someone strong like that in your life – who fully understands what you’re going through – keep them close. I look up to her more than she knows. She keeps me sane – and reminds me that divorce won’t take over our lives.
9. IMPORTANT: You are allowed to be upset/hurt/annoyed/bothered/depressed
The one thing that always got to me was when people would tell me, “You’re an adult. You’ll be fine.” I’ve heard this from friends, family members, even my own parents. But the truth is you’re not fine. You’re going through something, too. And you’re allowed to be upset and show your emotions. No one understands what you’re going through better than yourself. Do not let others dictate how you feel. Divorce hurts children at any age, regardless if they’re 5, or 35.
10. You love both of your parents, and they love you – no matter what
I will never say that my parents were perfect – no one’s are. But I will say that through everything my sister and I have been through with them, I do not for a single second wish they raised us differently. When things were good, they were great. You have to remember the good times, and know that this, too, shall pass. Learn to accept that it’s not your fault. Life goes on. Everything happens for a reason.