When I was nine years old, my life was perfect.
When I was ten years old, my parents divorced.
As far as I knew, my parents were happily married. Mom & Dad were married because they loved each other and that was never going to change. After all, they had three kids together – kids don’t happen when there isn’t love. My dad was on his second marriage, so my mom HAD to be the one…..right?!
I will never forget the night I found out they were going to get a divorce. I will never forget the sound of my dad saying the word “divorce”. It sounded like such a dirty word, like a word I should never repeat, like it had to be a big family secret. Divorce wasn’t supposed to happen to us, that was just in other families. I remember being scared and confused. I remember my friend’s mom hugging me and crying and telling me “it’s all going to be okay, they’ll work it out”, and my teacher squatting in front of my desk at school and telling me, “we are all here to talk to you, in privacy, just us, whenever you need”. Suddenly, I felt dirty. I felt like everyone looked at me like I was broken because I came from a broken home. That feeling didn’t go away for a long time.
When I was sixteen I started dating this boy. I consider him my first “real” relationship. Sure, I was just a junior, but he was a senior, and he was very…passionate. Everything he did, he did with a full heart. It was cute at first, until it came to the control issues and the abuse. I grew up swearing that I would never end a relationship unless it was so bad that cops should be involved. I swore I would never be like my parents. Sure, my boyfriend (we’ll call him Brad) and I were not married, but how could I explain why I ended it? I lived the last 6 years of my life trying to understand how someone can just stop loving someone in one day. He never physically hit me, so I didn’t think it was reason enough to leave. After five months of trying to get out, I was finally able to leave. Brad was the first man who made me understand divorce. If we had been married, I still would have left. My world was suddenly rocked.
For the first time in my life, I understood that a commitment can’t always be kept. Marriage is not something to take lightly, but sometimes people don’t turn out to be who you thought they were. Sometimes relationships take a turn for the worst. When I was nineteen, it happened again. Only this time, I ended up pregnant and engaged. I spent way too much time on a man that I did not love and that did not love or respect me — out of fear. I was scared to fail at another relationship. I was scared that one day my daughter would be looked at as broken, just the way I was. If I stayed, if I let that fear get to me, I don’t know if I would still be here. He was abusive and scary and controlling. He shut me out from my family, he isolated me from my friends, and he financially controlled everything about my life. The abuse was escalating and I knew divorce/separation was my only out.
Divorce is a taboo. Divorce is not something to celebrate (although I did make cupcakes and have a kitchen dance party to celebrate moving out of my ex’s), but it is not something to avoid like the plague when it happens to someone you love. It may break up a home, but it does not break a person. My parents’ divorce molded me into a stronger person and it laid the path for me to be who I am today.
I believe that people can fall in love more than once. Lets be real — we all have said “I Love You” to more people than we ever meant it to — but I do believe that you can mean it to more than one person. I love my husband with my whole heart and he is BY FAR the best man I have ever known. But he is not the first man I ever loved, and that’s OK. The first guy I ever loved was not the man for me. Sure, he was a nice guy and I enjoyed our time together, and when it ended I was such a mess that my stepdad had to bring me chocolate and tell me I was pretty far more than I want to admit to on a public forum. But I got over it and I moved on. Relationships aren’t always meant to be forever, but the ones that aren’t teach us to appreciate the ones that are, and now I know without a doubt that my husband is my forever.
My parents divorce did not break me. It inspired me. It made me a better mother, a better lover, a better daughter, a better sister. Because of their divorce, I was blessed with two wonderful step-siblings and a half-brother. Our family would not be complete without them.
I am happily married. But if it weren’t for my parents’ divorce, I probably wouldn’t be. If my parents stayed together, I never would have seen what true love looks like. They raised me with love and they were great parents, but I never saw them be affectionate, and I never saw them be truly happy — until they both remarried. My dad married my stepmom and I finally saw him be happy and silly and have fun. I was also blessed with my stepbrother and stepsister. My mom married a man who I swore I would never like — (until said breakup earlier, and he brought me chocolate and told me I’m pretty.)
In all seriousness, my stepfather taught me how to love and how to trust and how to be a parent on the really hard days. My parents had to love me, I was their daughter, but my stepfather chose to. He didn’t get to ease into things, he was tossed into it when I was at my worst state and he had to manage. My stepfather took me in when I was lost and scared and had a baby and nowhere to turn to. He has never turned his back on me, and if it weren’t for divorce, I would have never had him (or my baby brother).
I don’t wish divorce upon anyone, but I also don’t want anyone to ever feel stuck or broken because of the fear that comes along with that dirty word. Divorce is not a bad thing, divorce is not the end. You only get a rainbow after the rain — and sometimes that rain is divorce.