Learning To Deserve Love As A Child Of Divorce
I was in middle school when the papers were signed. I pictured those signatures like they had been written in blood, with words that might as well have read, “No more Baker family.” Mom and Dad were not a unit anymore; now they were Mom, and then Dad. At 11 years old, I thought their divorce would end after the night we all cried in the living room. I thought they would tell us it was over, and then it would be over. But the next day when I woke — crusty-eyed and small — it was all still happening. It was then that I learned that Divorce exists with a capital D, and it’s a word that constantly transcends a single label — especially, as I found, for the child.
I believe that with the right work and commitment to healing, adults can separate in such a way that allows their whole family to find peace. My family and I are still on this journey: We typically haven’t felt familial since the divorce. It always seems more difficult to connect, and everyone has wavering opinions of each other. We never say it out loud, but I know we are always thinking about how we each cope with our own neuroses. A sort of inherent judgment has come from the simple act of shifting our family dynamic into something individualized and less wholesome.
I’m not anti-divorce and I don’t blame my parents for terminating their marriage. It was necessary, but I didn’t realize just how crucial it was until years later.
I’m not anti-divorce and I don’t blame my parents for terminating their marriage. It was necessary, but I didn’t realize just how crucial it was until years later. In the thick of the experience, all I knew was that I was young and there was a knot the size of a melon in my stomach all the time. I knew I wanted to blossom right away, convinced that if I grew up, the pain of being a child of divorce would evaporate. It was nobody’s direct fault, but it hurt more than I thought anything could hurt. I felt disavowed and costly. I felt impossibly in the way.
I undeniably grew up faster than I should have because of their divorce. I was fortunate enough to not have to worry about eating or having a roof over my head. The payments were made and I got to live a good high school life. But my god, I felt like a business deal. My emotional health was threatened with every “don’t tell your dad about your sister’s boyfriend right now” lie and “tell your mother I’ll mail the check this weekend” text. My worth felt entirely dependent on my ability to carry out tasks for my parents that made me feel gross and unwanted…