I was familiar with divorce before I went through it myself. My paternal grandparents were divorced and, my mother had been divorced before marrying my father. My exposure to people who had been divorced didn’t prepare me for what divorce would be like for me though.
My grandparents had divorced before I was born but had a friendly relationship. I remember visiting my grandmother and my grandfather would sleep on the couch in her home while our family visited. I was never around my grandmother that he wasn’t part of the picture also.
When he became sick with Cancer she took him into her home and cared for him until the day he died. They weren’t good at marriage together but, they cared for and respected each other dearly, and witnessing that as a child was a valuable lesson in unconditional love for me.
My mother’s first marriage produced a child, my older brother. My mother’s first husband was a regular part of our lives during our growing up years. He was at every birthday party we celebrated for my brother. He never picked my brother up for visitation that he didn’t come in the house and talk with my mother and father.
I can’t say that my mother liked her first husband but, they both did what they thought was needed by my brother. My brother has many, many photos of him and his parents together because they made sure photos were taken of them and their son together when possible. They went beyond what most would expect from divorced parents to make sure that my brother felt loved and secure in his relationship with both parents.
My brother had sisters from both his parents’ subsequent marriages. I can remember playing with his other sisters at gatherings and thinking they were my sisters also. Bottom line, growing up, my exposure to divorce taught me that people get along if they put effort into getting along.
And then, my ex wanted a divorce. What followed his desire for a divorce shattered all I had learned about divorce as a child. Not all parents put their children first and, not all ex-spouses view showing respect to the other parent as necessary.
My ex taught me lessons I wish I’d never had to learn.
4 Things My Ex Taught Me About Divorce:
1. You never know someone until you’ve gone through a divorce with them.
Divorce brings out the ugly in some people. Even when they are getting what they want, they become angry and hold onto that anger. Coming to terms with someone who changes overnight, goes from someone who cared, to someone who couldn’t care less, is hard to process intellectually. Especially if you’ve been taught differently through experience.
When divorcing someone like my ex, divorce takes on a unique quality. One that isn’t healthy for anyone!
2. Not all people put their children’s best interests first.
Not putting my children first is a concept that is completely foreign to me. It was something my ex and I had done since the day they were born and something I assumed he would continue to do during and after our divorce.
I was wrong! His feelings and needs became his main concern, much to the detriment of his children. When children aren’t given a second thought during such a traumatic event, expect damage to be done to them. And, expect children to remember how the damage was done.
3. You can give someone something they ask for, and more, and they still won’t be happy.
During divorce, it doesn’t pay to roll over and play nice doggy if you are negotiating with an angry person. Regardless of how fair and amicable you attempt to be during and after divorce, if someone is hell-bent on being angry they will irrationally refuse to be rational. I could have refused child support, given my ex full custody of our children, and volunteered to hang myself and he wouldn’t have been happy with what I offered up.
Some people just don’t want to be happy.
4. High conflict divorce can teach children valuable lessons.
No child should have to experience seeming hate from one parent for the other. As children they deserve civility and to know, at the very least, their parents can get along for their sake. For years I worried how their father’s anger toward me and his dismissal of them would affect my children as they grew and formed romantic relationships of their own.
Although it is a lesson I wish they had not learned, it has been valuable in an unexpected way. Both of my children are grown now in committed relationships of their own. Their parent’s high conflict divorce taught them to take more seriously the meaning of “commitment.” I watch how they engage with their relationship partners and marvel at how willing they are to negotiate, compromise and set boundaries for the sake of the relationship.
They’ve seen the painful side of divorce which, I believe, will keep them from leaving a marriage without first leaving no stone unturned. They will work overtime at never doing to their children what was done to them and if they should ever divorce they will teach their children the same lessons about divorce that I learned as a child.
Lastly, our divorce taught our children to have no doubt about their value and worth as human beings. They worked hard to put behind them their father’s dismissal of them and, in doing so, learned to recognize others who don’t treat them as they deserve to be treated.
You can’t navigate a divorce without learning something about yourself and life. Life isn’t always fair and divorce is sometimes devastating. It’s always survivable though! My children and I can promise you that.