I was thirteen when my parents separated. After the Big D hit our home, there were many occasions when I overheard my mother discuss the event at a high level as she informed people who asked, “What’s new?”
I don’t remember how she introduced the topic. I don’t remember how she explained what happened. What I do remember is the way she ended those conversations. Instead of making a snide better-off-without-him comment, my mom would tell people, “I will always love him because he is the father of my children.”
As the years passed, I witnessed my parents’ respect for each other. They didn’t fight or employ put-downs in front of me. I never felt the need to repress or rewrite the happy parts of my family history. I wasn’t pressured to remain silent about the non-present parent of any given moment. To the best of my knowledge, my parents’ new partners weren’t threatened by the way things were. Mom and Dad acted with such dignity that my sister and I remained largely oblivious to their internal struggles.
As a young woman with a growing awareness of romantic entanglements, I learned a lot from my parents’ example. To me, my mom’s words weren’t literally about children but rather a metaphor to illustrate the fact that positive things come from all relationships, and it’s best to recognize the benefits as you part ways and move on.
As a result of my upbringing, I never indulged the ultra-crazy urges that followed painful breakups (mildly-crazy, perhaps; but not ultra-crazy). I live by the notion that I am who I am due to the influence of everyone I’ve ever met, and especially those I’ve loved. Because I think I’m pretty awesome, I owe a debt of gratitude to each one of my exes.
Naturally, I require my friends, family and partners to follow my lead. I don’t tolerate outright trash-talking or revenge-plotting. In romantic relationships, such behavior is a deal-breaker. The way I see it, when you insult my ex, you insult me: the choices I’ve made and the experiences that shaped my personality.
Someday I might have children of my own. In the event that I don’t live happily ever after with their father, I want to model the lessons that I learned as a child of divorced parents: Let go of the bad, appreciate the good and proceed with loving kindness and gratitude for the people who shape us and the experiences that make us.