Divorce runs in my family, just like the way wide hips and large-sized feet do. It’s the “gene” I spent years hoping I didn’t have. Kind of like one my grandma passed down — a patch of unruly gray hair right at the hairline. I winced several months ago when I looked in the mirror and observed one platinum blond hair resisting the urge to lie down in a neatly coiffed bun.
Several weeks ago, I shared my determination not to become a statistic when it comes to the second divorce rate. Despite what the odds say, I’m striving for a lifetime kind of love with my Mr. When I read a recent YourTango article by Terry Gaspard that noted the impact on children of divorce, I was reminded that the choices our parents make have an ability to impact us for a lifetime. The article noted that children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves. Once again, I must defy statistics.
The funny thing is these were the same declarations I made as a child — far less complex but essentially the same. See, my parents divorced when I was a little girl. I was determined not to allow it to become my story.
Then I got married. And the voice of that small child emerged — the one who set out to be the game changer. The one who would defy what felt like “genetics.” Torn even before, I hesitantly walked down the aisle, I wondered how I would change the cycle when this felt so wrong. Still, I told myself that I had to be different. I had to break the cycle. Even when I knew that I needed to leave, I was laden with the notion that I had failed. Now I was just like everyone else in my family. I was no longer different. Suddenly, I was just like my mom.
I was just like my mom because I was choosing me. I was choosing my babies.
I was just like my mom because at some point I was willing to let go of my fear of repeating history.
I was just like her because I realized what could happen if I stayed was scarier.
I was just like every family member who walked. I did what I thought was best. Something tells me they did too. And maybe, just maybe being like my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles wasn’t such a bad thing. Sure, divorce isn’t ideal, but it trumps staying in an unhealthy relationship for the sake of saying you’re married.
Divorce can be painful for children, particularly if they are old enough to be aware of what’s happening. For me, as fun as two Christmases were, it couldn’t make up for the feeling of always being in the middle. Grappling with my desire to make both of my parents happy. Struggling with my inability to turn my cheek to the pain that had infused my family. But what happened when my parents were together hurt far worse, the good times being unable to compensate for the bad.
My parents’ divorce and the perceived demise of marriages all around me wasn’t enough to prevent me from heading in their same direction. For some it is. But it was enough to remind me that there is a way out. And sometimes situations warrant finding a way out. It was enough to help me see that there was life after divorce. That my divorce would just be a dot in my timeline. It was enough to help me understand that if something isn’t right, you gotta let it go. I deserved a chance. My child deserved a chance.
Looking back, it is evident that my parents’ divorce had a profound impact on me. It fueled a desire to be different. It taught me to value marriage. My own divorce didn’t suggest that I didn’t value marriage. However, it was a clear indicator that I valued myself and my baby. It also helped me to see that life goes on. The marriages that ended in my family, along with my own, are reminders of how blessed I am to have gotten my second chance. I realize the work it takes. And I wouldn’t have dared enter into another marriage unless I was willing to do the work.
Even more, divorce has provided me with an extra set of lenses. I see love and relationships differently. As the article notes:
My eyes are wide open. But so is my heart. Perhaps a history of divorce taught me to be more cautious. But it also taught me that life is too short. Time is precious and everyone deserves a shot at true love and real happiness, me included.
Should you find yourself in the midst of a situation (marriage) you feel you ought not be in, reach back into that gene pool, revisit history and look within. Perhaps you will have inherited the strength of those that walked the same path before you. Perhaps, like them, you will be courageous enough to walk. Brave enough to stand. Driven enough to move forward. Able to realize that the underlying story isn’t as important as the overall one.
I haven’t pulled out that scraggly gray hair yet. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Whether I trim it or color it, the root still exists, making it a part of who I am.
Photo Source: fractured- fairytales via Flickr