I know you are expecting me to talk about my own divorce today, but I’m not. The first divorce I experienced, that of course being my parent’s divorce, was probably the most significant identity-shaper (according to spell check I just made that word up) for me as a budding teenager. That and the years leading up to the divorce. Now, please don’t mistake this entry as being a blame-your-parents-for-everything-that-went-wrong-in-your-life lament. I am a firm believer that you have the ability to heal from past hurts with the right guidance and that there is a time in your life when you have to take responsibility for your own decisions. BUT there is no denying that your family life as a child shapes what your expectations as an adult become, and creates habits with in yourself that are very difficult to change later on. Those expectations and habits can determine core personal traits from your self defense mechanisms to the way you relate to other humans. This is Psychology 101 or maybe it’s just common sense. Either way it’s sometimes essential to look back at the way you were raised and determine if there are areas you need to retrain yourself in. For me, there was a TON of retraining to do!
Back to my childhood…My parent’s divorce was not pretty (as all parties involved would agree). There were false accusations made, there was a custody WAR, there were children being kicked out of the house and then the cops called for breech of custody agreement when said children moved in with the other parent. It was BAD. And yet, all of that was better than it would have been had my parents stayed together. There was no love in our house for years before the divorce happened. No one was mistreated or physically hurt (unless we deserved the spanking we got…and if you are wondering, sticking a book down your pants to save you from the pain that naturally results from a good belting DOES NOT work! But I digress). In fact I know that my brothers and I were loved even if the way it was shown to us didn’t always make sense to me at the time. (My father was strict and over protective. My mother was free-spirited and mood enhanced. Love you both.) It was more or less a tolerance of each other in between the loud arguing and fighting, doors slamming, someone leaving the house for a walk and smoke or for a pedal-to-the-metal drive to cool off. I can’t remember seeing them work together toward a goal or being supportive of one another. The general state of my parent’s relationship seemed to be annoyance.
All this to say, I’m glad they got a divorce. They really didn’t belong together. Unfortunately it was not in time to stop some very bad habits and expectations from taking root in me. I didn’t grow up seeing two people relate to each other in a healthy, accepting, respectful, loving way. I saw intolerance, defensiveness, disrespect, anger. I became someone who had a hard time dealing with things not going my way. I became easily angered. I was not very accepting of the people I was in relationship with and in fact, I now believe I subconsciously tried to change them to what I thought they should be…just like me of course. I had unrealistic expectations that when I got married it would be different than my parents’ marriage and even worse that it would make me happy. Shockingly I was wrong on both counts (yes I have been wrong a time or two) and I didn’t realize it until oh about 7 years into the marriage!!
That’s when my retraining really started although I didn’t know it until about 3 years later. It was the first time my husband said he wanted to leave the marriage.
(Look for Part 2 next post.)